On Thursday afternoon, April 29, things were moving along very smoothly both inside and outside of the large white tent that housed the annual Antique Garden Furniture Show & Sale at the New York Botanical Garden. A number of the exhibitors were still at work, pushing an urn more to the right, making sure there were no leaks in the fountain, arranging plants, or moving cast stone figures about so that all of the Four Seasons were pointed in the same direction.
“Look at my exhibitors, it’s like a summer picnic,” show manager Catherine Sweeney Singer said as she stepped out of the tent to find a number of exhibitors taking in the warm sun while enjoying food and drink. The Botanical Garden put on a nice spread for the dealers, offering a number of wraps, some fresh fruit and cold water to wash it all down. “The veggie wrap is really good,” Mary Sams advised, as the person she was talking to scooped up the tuna variety.
After moving the table of sandwiches out of the sun, Catherine turned her attention back to the show, commenting, “Most of the dealers are in fine shape, things look great and all will be ready when the first guests, the ones who bought the highest priced ticket, arrive.” The preview opened at 5 pm and it quickly became obvious that the well-heeled patrons were there not only to support the Botanical Garden, but also to enhance their own home. A shower of red sold tags appeared quickly and seemed to be evenly spread throughout the tent.
A tall cast stone garden figure and an oblong urn were dotted in the booth of Judith and James Milne of New York City, a pair of lamps and a set of four chairs with swan necks were quickly removed from the booth of Brennan & Mouilleseaux of Norfolk, Conn., a pair of life-size cast-iron geese with rough surface were tagged by Joan Evans of Lambertville, N.J., and it appeared as if measle-fever had struck The Sugarplum, Wilmont, N.H. Bob Withington of York, Maine, said “We had the best show in the last ten years, and we did it in just the preview and Friday.”
“Most every dealer reported good sales, some exceptional,” Catherine Singer said, reinforcing the activity on the floor the first two days of the show. “We were very happy with the preview, over 800 advance tickets were sold and there were more sales at the door, and Friday the attendance was fine,” Catherine said. She did mention that the overall attendance was down from last year due to the poor showing on both Saturday and Sunday. The Botanical Garden recorded an attendance of 5,300 visitors on Saturday, but only a small number of that gate found its way into the show. “That surprised us,” Catherine said, “as a combination ticket was sold on Saturday and Sunday for only $10.”
The garden ornament enthusiast who did not make it to the show missed a fine time. “Looks better than ever” was the comment heard frequently during preview, not only by those attending, but also by the exhibitors who have been with the show for a number of years. Management changed the floor plan so that portions of about nine booths were in view as one entered the show, making a warm and interesting welcome. If there is a drawback to this new plan, it could be that first sight offers too many choices with too many things to see at one time. Most visitors behaved as one would expect. They paused at the entrance, gave a quick look about, and then headed off in the direction that drew their attention. And there was so much to see, admire and buy.
David Brooker Fine Art of Woodbury, Conn., was the only exhibitor who did not need some sort of a dolly to bring his inventory into the tent. His small booth was hung with paintings, many relating to the garden, and one that was certain to attract attention. It was of large size and was the only work hung on the back wall, an oil on canvas in the manner of Bogdani, Italian, circa 1680, depicting a parrot, pheasants, swans and other birds in a landscape with water and a house.
Blanchard, Ltd, of London, was the only exhibitor from “across the pond” and offered a large collection of interesting shells, while a reclining greyhound in cast iron, about four feet long, original painted surface, late Nineteenth Century, rested on a marble-top table with decorative iron base. Around the corner Jeffrey Henkel of Pennington, N.J., offered the largest dog in the show, a cast zinc work by Fiske, late Nineteenth Century, black painted, on an erusticated base. “The show was very good for me, helped by the sale of my dog,” Jeffery said.
An American cast-iron bench in the rustic pattern was at the front of the booth of Gardenalia, Falls Village, Conn., and against the back wall, on pedestal, was a zinc figure of a woman sowing seeds, French, circa 1885.
The combination of form and a moss-covered surface drew people to a large pair of happy lions in the booth of Fleur of Mount Kisco, N.Y. The pair dated from the early Nineteenth Century and was of French origin. An American rooster weathervane, with green patina, was also French, mid-Eighteenth Century.
Seven green-painted peas in a large pod, along with a big lady bug that was shown on the top of a cast-iron gazebo, were in the booth of Greg Randall, R.T. Facts of Kent, Conn. “They were used on a movie set,” Greg said, and the pea found a buyer as the preview opened.
“This show has always been good for us,” Ann Rowe of The Sugarplum, Wilmont, N.H., said while adding another sold sign to her large inventory. The front of the booth presented a pair of cast stone horses, reclining position, English, circa 1930, while in the left corner the Four Seasons stood, on pedestals, English, circa 1930. Arranged about the booth was a collection of two dozen urns and baskets of various shapes and sizes.
Judith and James Milne positioned a pair of cast-iron deco garden urns, on stone bases, French, circa 1910, on either side of a Nineteenth Century carved stone lady “Bountiful,” standing on the original base and plinth. It was of American origin and once stood on an estate in Maine. This setting was among the views upon entering the show and the lady found a new home during preview. The jug at the back of the booth was the perfect spot for a large fountain, in working order, and several weathervanes were offered including a turn-of-the-century lightning rod variety, zinc, in the form of a boxer.
The booth of Brennan & Mouilleseaux, Norfolk, Conn., was still receiving a final once-over as the early patrons arrived for the preview, but that did not keep visitors out of the booth. In short order a pair of lamps, a large mirror with a thermometer in the top, and a set of four chairs with swan-neck arms, were all placed against an outside wall, decorated with red sold tags. A sold tag stood out against the green painted side of a classic French zinc and tin Directoire style bath tub dating from the mid-Nineteenth Century, and against the back wall hung a cast-iron American gate with a raised bust decorating the center. It dated circa 1860 and was from New York or Philadelphia.
An English garden scene was the backdrop for the display of Barbara Israel Garden Antiques, Katonah, N.Y., complete with a small pond to the left. A carved limestone seat with molded arms, back rest with inset panel, fluted apron under the seat, weathered surface, was against the back of the booth. The bench was of English origin and dated circa 1920. A stone wellhead from France (Provence), Eighteenth Century, measured 381/2 inches in diameter and 35 inches high.
It would not look like the booth of Michael Trapp of West Cornwall, Conn., if there were not a large table taking up the major portion of his booth. This year he offered a three-pedestal French limestone example, 11 feet 3 inches long, and about 4 feet wide. “It is my back-breaker this year,” Michael said of the table. A highlight of his booth was a pair of outstanding arched windows, Nineteenth Century, ten feet tall and seven feet wide, that retained the original glass and were taken from one of the buildings on the Vassar College campus.
A terra-cotta figure of a young gentleman, Continental, Nineteenth Century, 53 inches tall, stood on a 33-inch-high pedestal at one of the booth belonging to Treillage, Ltd, New York City. The figure, with curled hair, wore a vest, had rosettes on his coat, and sported bows on his shoes. A pair of cast stone reclining dog, 49 inches long and dating from the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, were at the front of the booth, while a pair of carved wooden mushrooms, circa 1900, Indonesia, measured 45 and 29 inches tall.
“The weathered surface is wonderful,” Debbie Withington of York, Maine, said of a carved wooden face of “Wind,” Italian, Eighteenth Century. With husband Bob they experienced a “great show,” selling all manner of things including a large marble urn and a patio set of furniture by Salterini, circa 1950. Among the containers in the booth was a pair of terra-cotta pots with grape design, circa 1920.
The Elemental Garden of Woodbury, Conn., displayed the largest fountain in the show, an Italian example, circa 1900, measuring close to seven feet tall. It was of Carrara marble with rising baluster pedestal and came from a garden setting in the Mayfair section of London. A marble statue of Polyhymnia, The Muse of Sacred Poetry, was from Northern Europe and dated circa 1590-1640. It was carved in the style of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Albrecht Dürer.
Soap tubs, often used as planters and possibly as ice containers for drinks at a picnic, were plentiful in the booth of Mark Morris Home & Garden Collection, Dayton, Ohio. While the galvanized type has been around for some time, these were much better looking in copper with two iron handles. A pair of statues in cast stone, circa 1945, young boys with bow and arrows, was offered, as was an interesting cast-iron water pump, French, late Nineteenth Century, with the original blue painted surface.
Linda and Howard Stein of Solebury, Penn., showed a pair of wicker settees, red decoration, along with a matching table. The set was French, circa 1920, and retained a Parisian label. Also of French origin was a pair of bronze seagulls, circa 1900, and a zinc finial, flame top with swags, circa 1880.
Joseph Stannard Antiques, Norfolk, Conn., displayed a pair of French Napoleon III marble urns, late Nineteenth Century, on top of a pair of wooden columns, American, also from the late Nineteenth Century. Eagles in the booth, all cast iron, included a pair from the Eagle Oil Company and one standing on a large iron ball, the logo of the Kace Co, manufacturer of heavy equipment.
Four saddle stones that had been together in an English garden for more than 50 years were among the first things sold from the booth of Eleanor and David Billet of New York City at the preview party. Also with a red ticket was a fossil, European, that looked somewhat like a snail. A French bank of drawers, painted, circa 1860, had seven small drawers across and 12 deep, while a pair of composition stone faces, English, circa 1880, male and female, measured 18 inches tall.
Dawn Hill Antiques of New Preston, Conn., showed an iron coal Brookdale bench in the nasturtium pattern, English, circa 1866. This bench was found in the back of a truck in the north of England and three different coats of paint, all different colors, had to be removed.
Joan Evans of Lambertville, N.J., was having a very active preview, selling a large collection of coral, an iron console table with deco fragments and a large pair of lamps. And that was just part of the preview.
“We closed each day at 5 pm,” Catherine Sweeney Singer said, “but we did not throw people out right away. Some stayed on Friday as late as 6:15.” She also said a good measure of sales was the activity of the on-site shipper. “He was busy all of the time, especially on the weekend delivering things that had been bought on Thursday and Friday,” she said.
Catherine Singer and some of the staff at the Botanical Garden are always looking for ways to better the show. “We have a few ideas in the hopper, but time will tell if they can be worked out,” Catherine said.
Guess we will just have to wait and see how they will make a wonderful show even better.