Published: November 8, 2011
When the Ellis Antiques Show announced the postponement of its 2009 event and then its cessation after 49 years as a major show on the antiques calendar, it signified the end of an era. Or so it seemed. For many, the Ellis was a Boston institution, a bastion of brown furniture (Nineteenth Century and earlier); later contemporary categories were not permitted. Many regretted the end of the show and were determined that it not disappear into the mists of time.
None were more determined than Tony Fusco and Bob Four, who got to work as soon as the news broke. The result is the Ellis Boston Antiques Show, a sparkling new event, replete with fine antique furniture (brown and otherwise), porcelain, silver, paintings †all the categories previously represented, but with a twist.
With the recent cancellation of the Peabody Essex Museum show, the new Ellis is the only game in town. Much attention is focused on the regeneration. Longtime Ellis supporter Mark Goldweitz described it as the “best Ellis I’ve ever seen.” An unidentified banker from Hampton, N.H., said he was considering “unretiring” so he could buy some of the beautiful things he saw. His summation, “Best show I’ve ever been to.”
The show continues to benefit the Ellis Memorial and Eldredge House, now celebrating its 125th anniversary, and this year showcased area preservation organizations. Museum curators were also out in force.
Presented October 20′3, the Ellis Boston Antiques Show, produced by Fusco and Four, who ran the Boston Antiques Show for 21 years, included 39 dealers this year, more than a third of whom had done the old Ellis. They were spread out around the Cyclorama of the Boston Center for the Arts, the original site of the former Ellis until it moved to the Park Plaza Castle some years back. The booths were spacious and there were no dark corners. Former Ellis committee members came and bought.
Enrique Goytizolo of Fairhaven, Mass., showed at the old Ellis for 27 seasons. This year, he filled one wall of his Georgian Manor Antiques booth with a large Indonesian painting of a jungle with birds that worked well with the Peruvian gilt mirrors, small and elegant boxes and furniture, glass and porcelain that he brought. Goytizolo had a rare Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century coconut shell carved as a powder flask and made with silvered metal mounts. Off in a corner of the booth was a sinuous Majorelle-style armchair from 1900 to 1910. He had sales during the preview and holds on a number of other pieces.
Boston dealer Stephen Score has a terrific eye. He showed an Eighteenth Century Venetian painted commode juxtaposed with the 1925 John Whorf watercolor “Bathers in the Light,” a large copper watering can, a 1945 view of Notre Dame de Paris and an English wooly, “The Sailor’s Farewell,” circa 1870. A springtime view of the Boston Public Garden down the block from Score’s gallery by G.E. Cook, who was active before 1920, sold. Score, who was a presence at the Ellis for many years, was rearranging a pair of French painted five-panel screens, circa 1840, after some sales had created a space in the booth. His observation, “All in all, a terrific revival.”
Essex, Mass., dealer in the eclectic Andrew Spindler remains the only person to have sold a 6-foot brown paper bag at the Ellis, a transaction at the 2008 event. This year he showed an 86¾-inch pair of modular stacking cherry cabinets (three each) with ebonized pulls. Two days after the show, they were on hold for a buyer who saw them there.
A group of ski posters was juxtaposed with a Black Forest walnut cuckoo clock carved with an eagle on the top, a robust cuckoo perched along the bottom amid acorns and oak leaves and the interior cuckoo. They all sold. Two sets of chairs included a pair of regency mahogany hall chairs with solid shield form backs and a set of eight Nineteenth Century Chinese carved hongmu wood dining chairs. A curvaceous Art Deco steel lounge chair also sold.
Arader Galleries was a traditional presence at old Ellis shows and the firm returned this year with a booth chock full of Boston views and maps and Havell Audubons that found a ready audience. The booth was consistently busy; a representative described the new Ellis as a “great show for us to do.”
Fiske and Freeman, now located in Ipswich, Mass., showed a wide selection of the Seventeenth and early Eighteenth Century objects for which they are noted. English oak coffers, chests and cupboards seemed a recreation of an early home. They included a James I overmantel carved with faces and robust baskets of fruit; a William and Mary yew wood chest, circa 1685; and an English oak food cupboard. An impressive meat cleaver was sold before other interested buyers could get to it, and a Seventeenth Century silver perpetual calendar attracted some notice.
Portsmouth, N.H., dealer Ed Weissman had a Dunlap flame birch and cherry one-drawer stand, circa 1790‱810, with octagonal legs; an English Hepplewhite D-shape sideboard, circa 1790; a German walnut games table with a drawer on opposite sides; and a Massachusetts cherry block front secretary from about 1770. Overlooking it all was John Whorf’s watercolor, “Reeling in The Big One.”
Alcocer Anticuarios, based in Madrid since 1930 and more recently a Boston branch, is run by fourth-generation sisters, Lola, Gema and Inma Alcocer, who brought dramatic Spanish and European furniture and paintings. Front and center was an impressive spiked leather trunk, and behind that a dazzling Eighteenth Century Spanish mahogany bureau with elaborate geometric marquetry and floral lemongrass inlay that was made in the atelier created by Charles IV.
An Eighteenth Century Spanish Italian vargueno was ablaze with bone an ebony inlay. Draped across various objects were brilliantly colored Manila shawls, so-called because the Spanish acquired exotic objects like silk in the Philippines and sent them back to Seville where they were adopted eagerly by the women of Spain.
Vose Galleries of Boston filled the walls of its booth with Nineteenth and Twentieth Century pictures, such as Alvan Fisher’s 1828 “Under the Bridge” that he painted just after he returned from Europe. It had some strong institutional interest.
Vose also showed Aldro T. Hibbard’s “Edge of Town, Jeffersonville, Vermont,” and his “Late Sugaring near Jeffersonville, Vermont.” A nice watercolor harbor view, “Freighters, Boston” by Aiden Lassell Ripley, circa 1952, was of interest. One good sale made the event well worthwhile. Vose, established in 1841 in Providence, R.I., has been a family-run gallery since the beginning.
Bill and Marcia Vose had been easing themselves into retirement, but with the September arrival of the seventh generation in the form of grandson Jake and, two weeks later, granddaughter Olivia to their twin daughters Carey and Beth, the grandparents are back at work full time.
New to the Ellis was Bell-Time Clocks of Andover, Mass., which did a land office business, selling eight clocks, including a Terry pillar-and-scroll example five minutes before the show closed on Sunday. Two tall case clocks held down the corners of the booth. One, an English example by John Wainwright of Nottingham, circa 1800, sold early in the show. The other was a handsome example with chinoiserie decoration on the green painted case made around 1760 by London maker Joseph Harding. Proprietor Bob Frishman also showed a wood front banjo clock, circa 1850, made in North Attleborough, Mass., and a Theodore Timby patented solar time piece from about 1865 carried a tag revealing that Timby was the designer of the Monitor’ s revolving turret.
Two late Eighteenth Century Neapolitan carved wood figures, one of Pan and the other of Orpheus that stood 84 inches tall, guarded the edges of the booth of Knollwood Antiques of New York City †until they sold, that is. The infinite variety of other objects included a stylish contemporary parson’s table by Silas Seandell of Brooklyn, N.Y., with bright copper overlay beneath a heavy coat of acrylic that was sold.
Richard LaVigne said he had sold one-third of the smalls he brought, a Chesterfield sofa and a Yarmouth camphorwood trunk. An Eighteenth Century Italian ceiling panel depicting Vesuvius before the eruption in the year 79 AD was refitted as a wall hanging, and there was a pair of blackamoors from the 1930s, resin lamps made to resemble coral.
LaVigne brought objects ranging in price from $55,000 to $60 and sold at both ends of the spectrum. Of the show, he said, “Beyond our wildest expectations.”
Sudbury, Mass., dealer Keith Funston was new to the Ellis, and his booth attracted much interest. He specializes in wunderkammern, and his offerings manifest his myriad interests. Three Seventeenth Century santos and a putti lamp sat atop a Seventeenth Century Flemish table cabinet of ebony, rosewood and tortoiseshell with ormolu mounts.
A scrimshaw walrus tusk and a pair of two swordfish bills, boxes of rocks, a Nineteenth Century French gilt shadow box clock and an English Queen Anne Chippendale corner chair played off one another. Among a group of four tilt top tables was a hexagonal example with baby block marquetry. There was also a coin collector’s cabinet in mahogany with a blond interior with inlay of Third Century BC Greek warriors.
Vareika Fine Art of Newport, R.I., featured a pastel portrait of George Washington by James Sharples, circa 1796. Although Sharples painted a number of portraits of the first president, Bill Vareika noted that the president’s stepson had said that this particular likeness, one of a few executed outdoors, depicted the subject most accurately, complete with his strabismus, of all the images made. Washington was pictured in uniform. The picture was on view with a marble bust of Washington by Thomas Crawford. The gallery also showed an oil on canvas portrait of Sir Robert Kingsmill, circa 1785, by Gilbert Stuart.
Other portraits included one of Colonel William Taylor, a Boston merchant, and captain of the Ancient and Honorables by English artist Joseph Blackburn; a portrait of Anne Jones of Bermuda, also by Blackburn; and an image of George Washington by Jane Stuart made after one by her father. Vareika also had a John Singleton Copley pastel portrait of Lady Temple, Elizabeth Bowdoin and the 1894 “Isle of Skye” by William Trost Richards.
Roberto Freitas showed a Pennsylvania Windsor three-seat bench, circa 1830‴0, with fine original paint. There was also a Chippendale cherry chest of drawers bearing the stamp of A.D. Allen of Windham, Conn., circa 1790‱800, and a paint decorated dressing table in yellow with spattery green surfaces, metallic stenciling and the original bold brass knobs. Freitas experiences strong interest in his objects and had sales early in the opening.
The new Ellis Boston Antiques Show was well received on the part of dealers and buyers and excitement is already building for next year’s event.
For information, www.ellisboston.com or 617-363-0405.
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