Published: April 4, 2023
By Laura Beach
PHILADELPHIA – When the Philadelphia Show previews on April 27, its attractions will include a special presentation by exhibitor Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques of Colchester, Conn. Making a persuasive argument for offering a large collection through the trade, rather than at auction, Liverant Antiques will array highlights from the holdings of longtime clients Susan and Frederick C. Copeland Jr.
The Copelands began their hunt more than 35 years ago, buying from Liverant Antiques and other top specialists. They gathered furniture, clocks, portraiture, landscape paintings, pewter and needlework, much of it made in Connecticut or neighboring Rhode Island in the Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries. The assemblage – including roughly 100 items mainly acquired from Liverant and currently for sale by the firm – reveals much about the couple, who lived and worked throughout the world but ultimately returned to New England, where they had deep roots.
Rick Copeland was 80 when he died in June 2022. Born in Ithaca, N.Y., he studied at Deerfield Academy, Bowdoin College and Columbia University before embarking on a career in banking and finance. His wife, the former Susan Jordan, survives him, as do the couple’s two children. Rick’s many philanthropic interests included the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Connecticut Landmarks; Susan dedicated herself to the Hartford Stage, a not-for-profit performing arts organization. The Copelands’ primary residence was a handsome white-clapboard house in Avon, Conn., furnished with fine antiques and meticulously landscaped by Rick and Susan, who were avid gardeners.
“I think we first met Rick at the Connecticut Antiques Show and later got to know him at our shop. We could talk for hours. He was knowledgeable about so many things. Learning about Rick and Susan’s preferences and collecting philosophy fostered a shared goal and mutual respect. Rick was always looking for the star. A piece had to have good design, wonderful color and surface, and great provenance or he would walk right by it,” says company principal Arthur Liverant.
“Everything Rick and Susan lived with was carefully chosen and well placed,” recalls Liverant associate Kevin Tulimieri. Passionate about history, Rick occasionally bought furniture too fragile for contemporary use, sometimes leaving it at Liverant Antiques for months or years. After Kevin discovered a rare William and Mary turned armchair with original leather upholstery in a Stonington, Conn., attic, Rick bought the circa 1730-60 relic and loaned it to Yale, where it joined the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650-1830.”
Among objects Liverant may bring to Philadelphia is a Queen Anne highboy with a large, circular fan carved into its skirt, an unusual feature seen on at least one other highboy, now in the collection of Yale University Art Gallery. “The piece is untouched, with incredible color,” says Liverant, who first admired the case piece in the Copeland’s home.
Also saved for Philadelphia are two Connecticut wool-on-linen bed rugs and a miniature portrait of William West of Chester County, Penn., by Connecticut painter John Trumbull, who presented the 1793 likeness to the painter Benjamin West, the sitter’s brother and Trumbull’s teacher, in 1794. The bed rugs – both featured in the 2022 exhibition, “New London County Quilts and Bed Covers, 1750-1825,” at the Florence Griswold Museum – include a dated 1782 blue and white example initialed “J.J,” possibly for Jerusha Foote Johnson of Colchester, and an 1804 ochre and cream rug attributed to Lucy Williams Lothrop of Lebanon.
More of the Copeland collection is in storage at the Liverant shop, open daily except Sunday. The wonders, some already spoken for, include tall case clocks by Thomas Harland, Barzillai Davison and Stephen Hasham, and a banjo clock, most likely by Aaron Willard, with a thermometer and Father Time glass tablet, the latter attributed to John Penniman.
A selection of portraits includes a full-size naïve painting on panel of a young woman, plus assorted miniatures on ivory, paper and in wax by Elizabeth Way Champlain, Isaac Sheffield and J.C. Rauschner. A second Trumbull miniature, already sold, depicts Mehitable Russell Wadsworth. A dressed miniature by Mary Way portrays a gentleman of the Hewitt family of North Stonington, Conn.
Other furniture highlights include a Chippendale mahogany serpentine-front chest of drawers attributed to Felix Huntington of Norwich, Conn.; a Chippendale cherry tilt-and-turn tea table attributed to Eliphalet Chapin of East Windsor, Conn.; a Federal cherry Pembroke table attributed to Daniel Clay of Greenfield, Mass.; and a set of four Queen Anne maple side chairs with a long history in the Welles family of Wethersfield, Conn. A small Chippendale cherry mirror bears the first-known label of L.C. Lyman of Middletown, Conn.
A few superstars have already gone to institutions. The Connecticut Historical Society acquired two paintings by itinerant artist Reuben Rowley (active circa 1825-36) – one a signed and dated 1829 portrait of John S. Peters, Connecticut’s 26th governor; the other a landscape view of Hebron Center, Peters’ birthplace – along with the extensive archives that came with the paintings.
For Liverant Antiques, reacquiring the Copeland collection has been a satisfying reminder of their working partnership with two thoughtful, discerning enthusiasts as well as an aide-mémoire of many exciting discoveries made over the past three decades.
The Philadelphia Show previews at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Thursday, April 27, and continues through April 30. Go to www.thephiladelphiashow.com for details.
Liverant Antiques is at 168 South Main Street in Colchester, Conn. For more information, www.liverantantiques.com or 860-537-2409.
The Way Auctions Used To Be: Steenburgh’s Sale On ‘The Field’
May 30, 2023
Same Place, New Faces At Threadbare Show
May 23, 2023
Brimfield Begets More Brimfield
May 23, 2023
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm