Published: October 17, 2006
Herman Weinblatt, father of folk art dealer Victor Weinblatt, died on October 9 at age 92. Herman wore several hats in the antiques business for more than 70 years. He practiced accounting for 69 years, retiring last year at age 91. The majority of his clients were prominent New York City designers and antiques dealers. In several cases, he was accountant to several generations of the same antiques firm. When many of his clients left the city for Hudson, N.Y., the one constant they kept was Hy (one of his many aliases).
He was born Kalman, and spoke only Yiddish until he entered first grade; his teacher took his mumbled pronunciation of Kalman and wrote it down as Herman. And as if Kalman, Herman and Hy were not enough names for any one man, his family nicknamed him Chauncy. Having run out of names by the time Victor came along, Victor was never given a middle name. To make up for this deficiency, Herman in recent years took to calling Victor “Curly.” To add insult to injury, Herman’s youthful John Forsythe looks caused many to mistake Herman for Victor’s brother. To assuage Victor’s ego, Herman promised to act his age and Victor considered substituting Nair for Herman’s shampoo bottle.
Airlifted off Nantucket to Boston’s Mass General in August in the midst of the Nantucket Historical Association show with a septic heart infection, Herman insisted that Victor finish the show. The show must go on was Herman’s rule, and personal responsibility and integrity, seasoned with a dose of biting wit, were his operating style.
Throughout the 1980s and well into the 1990s Herman was a fixture in Victor’s booth at the Fall Antiques Show at the Pier, at the NHA Nantucket Antiques Shows, at the early White Plains, N.Y., shows and at Jacqueline Sideli’s Ridgefield, Conn., shows. In a moment seemingly out of a Seinfeld episode, Herman once asked a prospective customer why, after she heaped praise on an object for half an hour, she was able to walk out of the booth empty-handed. In an effort to salvage his career, Victor raced after the woman to apologize. She scoffed at his concern, thought for a moment and promptly wrote a check for the object. To keep his father’s bluntness in check, Victor always kept a roll of flesh-colored duct tape at the ready near Herman’s chair.
In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, as soon as tax season was over, weekends were spent combing Connecticut, Vermont and Pennsylvania antiques shops and shows. Both Herman and his wife, Rose, were passionate about country furniture, clocks, teapots and Chinese Export porcelain. Some of his favorite pieces often were acquired in trade for his professional services. They both ended up loving the chase as much as the object. Often, all a friend had to do was admire a piece to have it arrive as his or her next birthday present. As prices escalated over the years, Victor enjoyed teasing the recipients about the unexpected worth of their boundless generosity.
On the night of his fatal fall, Herman was planning a trip the next morning to check out his son’s booth at Rhinebeck, N.Y., and to schmooze with dealer friends of several decades.
Herman never suffered fools gladly, and loved to deflate the overgrown egos of dealers in the trade. He hated hype almost as much as he mourned the loss of collegiality and the disappearance of the gentleman from the marketplace. A man with a great eye and an even greater heart, he loved the antiques business and life itself with a boundless enthusiasm.
At his 90th birthday party two years ago, he credited his longevity to two things — first, that he had reached a point in his life at which he could say anything and yet have everyone find it charming, and second, to his large and liberal nightly doses of Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
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