An exhibition, “Antiques That Speak,” currently on view at Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) through January, features many of the society’s most important acquisitions over the last two decades.
Included is William M. Davis’ (1829‱920) view of the Baptist church in Port Jefferson; Robert Feke’s (1707‱752) portrait of his niece, Levinah “Phiany” Cock of Oyster Bay; and Orlando Hand Bears’ (1811‱851) portrait of Sarah Ann Eldredge of Sag Harbor. Eldredge (1806‱878) was 29 when she sat for the portrait by Bears, the Sag Harbor folk painter. The wife of a Sag Harbor cooper, she had at least nine children, and at the time of her death, at the age of 71, had outlived all of her offspring and her husband, Daniel Bellows.
Also displayed are eight watercolors by Edward Lange (1845‱912), the Elwood artist who, during his years of activity in the 1870s and 1880s, recorded a remarkable portrait of Long Island’s landscape, as are a pair of slippers still bearing their London label and a fan and purse of Mary Gardiner (1740‱772), the daughter of John Gardiner, the Fifth Proprietor of Gardiner’s Island.
A silk embroidered needlework made by Sarah Smith (1795‱879) of Smithtown, N.Y., in 1819, depicts two standing classical figures on either side of an oval medallion showing a man and a boy in a landscape all below an eagle and chenille embroidered foliage. The embroidery loom accompanying it also descended in the Smith family and is believed to be the loom on which Smith embroidered the picture.
A New York tea table that descended in the family of Declaration of Independence signer William Floyd of Mastic (1734‱821) is on exhibit, and high chests attributed to Caleb Cooper (1745‱834) of Southampton and William Stoddard (1690‱758) of Oyster Bay are among the Eighteenth Century decorative arts highlights.
Nineteen Century treasures include the Tiffany presentation sword of Obadiah Jackson Downing (1835‱925), a dashing Civil War cavalry officer from Mineola. Downing, who fought in 130 battles and skirmishes, was at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, where he witnessed Lincoln’s assassination and helped carry the dying president from the building, the scene depicted in Carl Bersch’s 1865 painting, “Borne By Loving Hands,” which has been loaned to the exhibit by Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site.
The exhibition also reflects the sea change in the range of what the society has collected since the opening of its gallery for changing exhibitions in Cold Spring Harbor in 1990. Previously, the focus had been on the furnishing needs of the society’s Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century historic house museums, but has now broadened to include late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century objects and ephemera. Emphasis is placed on acquisitions that can tell more than one story and speak to the society’s longstanding interests in the decorative arts, architecture, planning and design, transportation and recreation.
The SPLIA Gallery is at the corner of Route 25A and Shore Road (across from the fire house). For information, 631-692-4664 or www.splia.org .