Published: August 16, 2011
When one thinks of Nantucket, quaint villages overflowing with storybook-style weathered houses, cobblestone streets, whaling ships, fine eateries and glitzy shops quickly come to mind. But that is not all that is on the mind of the islanders these days, or the locals that summer there, or the weekend tourists either; antiques are also moving toward the forefront of the Nantucket lifestyle and experience. This is due, in part at least, to an invigorated Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) and, more recently, its collaboration with the Antiques Council in presenting the annual Nantucket August Antiques Show.
The theme for this year’s show, August 5‷, was “Moving antiques into the 21st Century,” stated the 2011 show chairperson and NHA supporter Sara Boyce. “While most people look back at history when they talk about antiques, we are bringing antiques forward, into the modern day,” she said. Pairing the show with a more contemporary element, the show committee expended an enormous amount of energy promoting and following through with a focus on young collectors.
NHA has become much more visible in the past few years and its recently renovated facilities just off Main Street have become a major attraction. A fundraiser for NHA, the Nantucket show came to life this year as it had yet to in the past †from the stately structure that was erected at Bartlett’s Farm (a historical entity in its own right), to the impressive displays of antiques, to the lively parties and capacity crowds of enthusiastic shoppers in attendance †NHA and the council hit on a winning formula for this 34th edition of the show.
The facility that housed the show was a “tent”; it was hard to call the massive structure a tent, however, as it was as untentlike as anything that most people have ever seen before. It was, in fact, a massive open space, housed in an aluminum-beamed, framed and trussed building that most closely resembled a warehouse or barn. The only thing tenty about it was the white, double-walled plastic-tarped walls and ceiling. This tent even had a raised wooden floor, carpeted of course, a precautionary measure in the event of the rain that eventually came on the final day.
The layout of the show was also different from most antiques shows, with a quadrant of booths at the entrance and another quadrant at the rear, leaving the central portion of the show a wide-open expanse. It was this negative-space area, however, that would continually throw a positive spin on the show †energizing it from start to finish. From the impromptu lively dance floor that suddenly appeared on preview night (to the delight of more than 500 patrons) to the packed reception party the following evening, to the well-attended young collectors’ cocktail party the next night and finishing up with a dinner party that catered to more than 250 museum sponsors, NHA got the crowds out in grand style.
The show was stately at the same time, an excellent presentation of quality merchandise that ranged from stellar paintings to select silver to quirky folk art.
As patrons entered the show, three very different booths unfolded before their eyes. Manhattan dealer Ralph Chait was directly in front of them with a selection of prime Orientalia; Jeff Cooley of The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., was just to the right with classical American portraits and landscapes; and Woodbury, Conn., dealer David Brooker was to the left with a selection of English and European paintings.
At Chait’s stand, a rare Kangxi period figural piece of Chinese porcelain depicting a mountainside with pagodas and figures, $55,000, stood at the forefront, flanked by an impressive pair of green glazed porcelain eagles.
English equestrian pictures and early Venetian scenes dominated one entire wall at Brooker’s, while Cooley offered a Frank Duveneck portrait of a young girl titled “At Home,” along with an intriguing Chauncey Foster Ryder picture titled “Summer in Paris.”
Local Nantucket dealers displaying at the show included Forager House, Sylvia Antiques and Nina Hellman Antiques. Forager House offered a rare map of Nantucket drawn by William Coffin and published in 1835, a weathervane of a sailor with spyglass that retained a great old paint, several half hull models and a oil on canvas with silk and velvet appliqués depicting an America’s Cup race between The Volunteer and The Thistle .
Hellman offered a wonderful whalebone swift, numerous scrimshawed teeth, busks and coggles, as well as Nantucket baskets and purses. Sylvia’s stylish booth featured a host of fashionable items, including a Sheraton mahogany and bird’s-eye maple sideboard, a sailor-engraved whale tooth depicting a figure of Lady Liberty and an eagle, as well as another tooth attributed to the “banknote engraver.”
Another dealer with an impressive selection of artwork was Vose Galleries, Boston, which was showing Abbot Fuller Graves’ impressive oil “Cottage on the Cape,” Willard Metcalf’s “Breath of Spring” and Alfred Bricher’s “Morning †Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts,” all three of which were marked “price on request.”
Essex, Mass., dealer Cunha-St John Antiques reported strong sales at the show. Campaign desks, cabinets and chests were featured along with sculptural architectural figures. Aside from serving up select merchandise at the show, Alan Cunha served a delicious fare at his downtown restaurant and inn, Le Languedoc.
At Phillip Suval, Inc, Fredericksburg, Va., dealer John Suval was busy showing clients a pair of Chinese Export rabbits, circa 1800, in an unusual white glaze. “Animal forms in Chinese Export are quite rare,” stated the dealer. Of a uncommon tureen in a mandarin color, decorated with boar’s head handles and a floral finial, Suval commented, “It just doesn’t get any better.”
Handmade Christmas cards were popular at Carlson & Stevenson, Manchester, Vt., especially an elephant that was decorated with a “welcome” blanket over its back. Each of the ornaments retained the original string hole from which a thread suspended it from the tree. Other examples included a girl on horseback and a horse-drawn sleigh with driver.
Manhattan silver dealer Spencer Marks Ltd was on hand with an amazing assortment of silver that included such coveted makers as Tiffany, Arthur Stone, Paul Storr and Charles Ashbee. While Ashbee was an English designer, one piece that had sold from the booth was an Ashbee-designed loop-handled silver condiment dish that was made by the American firm Marcus & Co, circa 1905. With an amethyst mount in the handle, the dealer commented that it was going into Yale’s collection.
Shorebirds, stoneware and weathervanes were featured at A Bird in Hand, Florham Park, N.J. Included in the mix was a large cow weathervane in a pleasing green patina, and also a Nantucket-made golden plover decoy retaining the original paint and bill.
While Moderne items were offered in the booth of Wells and Company, Binghamton, N.Y., it was a selection of Ralph Cahoon paintings that was attracting the major attention. Four impressive paintings were offered, with “Boston Tea Party,” depicting Indians and mermaids raiding a tea-laden ship, priced at $98,000, while “Palm Beach Bridge Club,” $85,000, depicted a haughty group of mermaids playing cards around a beachside table.
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