Published: July 20, 2004
Misty summer rain, not the blustery winds of previous years, greeted preview night VIPs (very important patrons) at the Litchfield County Antiques Show on June 25. The show’s new venue at the Kent School’s Spring Center, a spacious arched sports complex, offered up a few quirks on opening night, such as intermittent electrical power just as the early preview crowd arrived, but the outage served mostly to provide a more romantic mood for the first hour of the well-attended benefit opener.
The annual event, in its fifth year of raising funds for Greenwoods Counseling Services, Inc, which provides personalized and confidential counseling, support and guidance to people living and working in Litchfield County, also fell later in the calendar. Previous shows, conducted at the Goshen Fairgrounds, often were victim to sometimes chilly May weather, especially in the unheated buildings comprising the agricultural complex.
Antiques expert Peter Tillou this year again provided a lively narrative walk-through of dealers’ booths prior to the 6:30 pm preview. Tillou had cancelled a vacation trip in order to play host to the early preview attendees, but he seemed philosophical about the sacrificed time. “It’s the one thing I can do for the dealers and the charity,” he said, and he clearly enjoyed his role as tour guide for the deep-pockets set.
After a week in Southport-Westport and a week in Kent as liaison for both shows, Karen DiSaia of Oriental Rugs, Ltd, Old Lyme, Conn., was feeling mostly exhaustion. Overriding that, however, said DiSaia was “a sense of real satisfaction with the changes made for the Litchfield County Antiques Show.”
DiSaia explained that when the Antiques Council was brought in to develop this show, it was given a blank slate with which to work. “We knew that it would take a number of years to develop the show,” said DiSaia. “My work with Greenwoods has been a very positive experience, and they have worked to make the show itself the main event. This show was designed to be a low-stress summer show that is relatively inexpensive and easy for the dealers. It is a simple and effective formula.”
DiSaia observed that the people who came to the preview “were really interested in looking and talking to the dealers. One of the dealers said to me that it was the best preview they had been at in years. Peter Tillou’s tour of the show at 5:30 was, as usual, a great success. Several pieces were sold as a result of having Peter help people to see the beauty and special character of what they were looking at.”
DiSaia said she had two such sales during the preview. “Both were to fairly local people, one was going to a New York apartment. Over the course of the weekend, we had several people from many places, including Greenwich, Conn., and a mother and daughter who were traveling around and just stumbled upon the show and were thrilled with it.” Among the Oriental carpets displayed in DiSaia’s booth were a 1930s-vintage Heriz and a 1920s Mahal, each measuring approximately 7 by 10 feet, and a southern Persian Qasghai, circa 1900, decorated with people and animals and measuring 6 by 9 feet.
“Our Sunday attendance was light, but very focused,” said DiSaia. “Several sales were made in the late afternoon. While there were, as there are at all shows, dealers who did not do well, I believe there were more who did.”
Janet Kalba of Passports Garden Antiques, Salisbury, Conn., was clearly doing well during preview, grinning from ear to ear when she said, “I don’t have time to put sold stickers on the merchandise.” Garden furniture and accessories were winning the show’s popularity contest over formal and country furniture during preview – and once again being the only garden dealer at the show proved a windfall. As showgoers crowded into the corner booth filled with Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century gardenalia during preview, Kalba said she had already sold a planter, a cast-iron armillary, two cast-iron elements with an acorn motif and a pair of demilune window frames in original paint – and already planning to restock.
“As the sole garden antiques dealer, we were fortunate to benefit from being relatively affordably priced and offering pieces that would fit in any country home or garden,” said Elaine LaRoche of Passports. “We had to restock the booth twice, and that was a pleasant and unexpected surprise, given the reported state of shows this year.”
LaRoche said she found the Kent location to be “a great plus and really showcased the dealers better, and it was, of course, easy to move in and out. Many customers remarked at the high and fabulous quality of the show, and how for some it was ‘like visiting a museum,’ although there was some sticker shock. Nonetheless they felt the quality to be good.”
Cunha-St John, Essex Mass., displayed an English George II mahogany lazy Susan, circa 1800, with revolving piecrust top raised on tripod feet with ball and claw feet. An English Queen Anne oval swing leg dining table of plum pudding mahogany, circa 1730, stood on mahogany legs with pad feet.
Other rdf_Descriptions included a set of four Old Sheffield silver plate candlesticks of clustered column form with Corinthian capitals on square stepped bases. The set was made by England’s Thomas Law, circa 1775. An English mahogany Hepplewhite secretary with line inlay, circa 1790, featured a double-door glazed bookcase over a base with three graduated drawers below a double false drawer pullout secretary with a fitted interior raised on splay feet. And brightening up the dark décor in a yummy pink fabric was a generously proportioned American Sheraton mahogany wing chair on turned and fluted legs, Boston, circa 1800. Artwork included a painting by Agnes Richmond (1820-1964) depicting women sewing that had been exhibited at the National Academy in 1908.
Terry and Angela Brinton from Racine, Wis., crafted an eye-catching display anchored by an Art Deco bedroom set comprising a full-sized bed, two armoires and dressing table (disassembled for use as bedside stands), labeled and dated 1922. Another sizable piece was a cabinetmaker’s workbench made of chestnut and pine from the late Nineteenth Century. An early/mid-Twentieth Century taxi fare meter was mounted as lamp, and an oil on canvas harbor scene by Louis Wohner (born 1888) was offered.
“We thought the new venue was terrific – easy access, great floor plan, good ventilation, and, it seemed, good local traffic,” said Angela Brinton. “The preview attendance was very good; we felt, though, as is often the case, the party was largely social in nature. Traffic on Saturday and, especially, Sunday was light. We missed seeing customers from the northwest corner – Lakeville, Salisbury, Sharon – and we’d hoped for a bigger New York City showing. The ‘nyahnyah’ in me wants to shout ‘Do you people know you missed a spectacular looking, professionally staged, well-balanced and expertly vetted show?!? Pay Attention! You’ve missed a wonderful learning and buying opportunity!'”
In the end, however, the Brintons reported having a good show, thanks to selling the cabinetmaker’s workbench, two local wall maps, a painting, some books and lamps.
A tiger maple tall chest, probably Rhode Island, with chestnut secondary woods, in the booth of David Morey, Thomaston, Maine, was paired with an oil on canvas portrait of a black barber, 22 by 18 inches, attributed to John Blennerhassett Martin, Virginia, 1797-1857. Morey also showed a New England Queen Anne maple drop leaf table, possibly Rhode Island, circa 1750-60, and a sausage turned Cromwellian back stool with Russian leather cover, English or American, circa 1660-80. An extremely rare paneled oak chest of drawers, Essex County, Mass., circa 1670-90, had restored feet and top, and a New England pine blanket chest, circa 1780-1800, featured waist molding and bootjack ends.
Brian Cullity attended the show from Sagamore, Mass. Among the rdf_Descriptions on view in his booth were a maple ball foot chest of Rhode Island origin; a rare pair of miniature andirons; a cherry chest-on-chest from the Rhode Island region, circa 1780-1800, with minor patches to molding and lips, 38 inches wide by 70 inches tall; a shield back side chair, New York City, circa 1790; and a pewter cupboard of yellow pine and poplar from Pennsylvania, circa 1740-1780, with great wrought iron hinges. Cullity also specializes in redware, and one of the highlights was a Southern redware covered jar, probably of Moravian, North Carolina origin, with two-color slip decoration and original lid, 1790-1820.
His first time at Litchfield, John Hunt Marshall, Westhampton, Mass., brought an early Nineteenth Century two-piece cupboard from Pennsylvania, and a slant front desk from southeastern Massachusetts, circa 1780-1800, with varnish over original red paint. A large eagle weathervane, circa 1860, also commanded attention, as did an American inlaid portable writing desk, circa 1820, and what was probably an advertisement from the Picayune’s “Society Bee,” New Orleans, circa 1890. Nineteenth Century letters spelled out the word “RUDE,” in his space, and a pair of Eighteenth Century architectural fans from coastal Maine decorated the wall. A wrought iron hitching post was sold at preview.
Bradley Kyser and Charles Hollingsworth of Kyser-Hollingsworth, Washington, D.C., anchored their room setting around a Federal mahogany sofa, probably Maryland, circa 1800, measuring 6 feet 6 inches, whose shaped lines of its back and bow front seat gave it a graceful, fluid quality. A Nineteenth Century English papier mache tray on stand was black with gold decoration in Japanese style. A pair of Sheraton fancy chairs, probably New England, circa 1820, featured a crest of stylized floral cartouche above three horizontal rod slats. Their rush seats were probably original, and the chairs were supported by turned legs joined by stretchers. Also shown was a Federal tilt-top candlestand, possibly Philadelphia, circa 1810. An oil on canvas painting by John Williamson (1826-1885), depicting a scene near Hurley, N.Y., 1868, and measuring 17 by 23 inches was displayed above a painted yellow pine mantel from low country, South Carolina, circa 1800.
“I had a very good selling show,” recalled Jesse Goldberg, Artemis Gallery, North Salem, N.Y. “Because the show was moved into the summer, I brought more country Federal, including figured maple, cherry and original paint. I wound up selling an important textile and early Nineteenth Century watercolors, ceramics and glass. But I was pleasantly surprised that I sold an important mahogany Hepplewhite wing chair, and had strong interest in other formal Federal pieces like a Baltimore chest with dazzling veneers and several card tables. I was impressed with the number of knowledgeable collectors who attended and I am anticipating follow-up visits to our gallery in North Salem, which is only 45 minutes away.”
Taylor Williams, Chicago, had a large display of canary lustre, also called cadmium yellow, which he said began to be produced in 1780. Most of the examples in Williams’ booth were made between 1800 and 1820, primarily in England and France, the French examples coming from a pottery founded by two English potters. It was the first time Williams had exhibited at Litchfield, and he was upbeat about it, saying, “I think that it was a very pretty summer show – great quality, a very good mix of dealers, both formal and country antiques. We did very good business. We sold some good American furniture, sold several pieces from our display case of canary lustre and French Creil – where we had well over a 100 pieces on display – sold some works of art, and sold some interesting porcelain as well. We even bought something on the floor of the show from a major dealer and sold it over the telephone to a client in Chicago, which is really great.”
A New England country settee, circa 1800-40, with chamfered legs and reupholstered in striated coarse-woven homespun linen, was featured at Colette Donovan’s, Merrimacport, Mass. She also brought a crewel coverlet worked in a pierced homespun linen foundation from New England or England. Found in a New Hampshire homestead, the circa 1812-15 piece was by an unknown maker who had populated its central design with a lady in a garden, path to cottage, hen and rooster.
Donovan also had baskets, including a huge oak splint rib type basket from the Appalachian area, which was in excellent condition despite its obvious heavy use. A braided cornhusk gathering basket from the mid to late Nineteenth Century, probably Iroquois, New York State, was a rare survivor, and a bee skep of unusual form with ash splint handle, was possibly from New Hampshire, late Nineteenth Century.
Washington, Conn., resident Tom Daniels remarked as he was leaving Friday night’s preview that the Spring Center made for “a very nice venue” and, in contrast to previous years, “the prices are not ludicrous.” And to the Antiques Council’s DiSaia, that indeed sounds like a formula for a successful show.
“The new venue is very successful, both for layout and in terms of traffic,” said DiSaia. “The traffic was very similar to past years.” And while there may not have been a huge number of people attending the show, she said, those who did come were really interested and shopped the show. “I think that the reputation of the show will grow and with it the attendance in coming years,” said DiSaia.
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