Published: January 28, 2003
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — Louisine Havemeyer and her daughter Electra Webb were born collectors. At the family’s home in Manhattan and Electra’s Vermont retreat, now the Shelburne Museum, these gifted aesthetes between them gathered a diverse assortment of beautiful objects: Degas dancers, landscapes by Monet and Manet, antique Dutch delft, Chelsea porcelain, furniture by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Samuel Colman, weathervanes, scrimshaw, even a version of Edward Hicks “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians,” acquired by Webb from Edith Halpert in 1953 for $5,000.
Webb, who died in 1960, did not live to see selections from her 140,000-piece collection exhibited at the 2003 Winter Antiques Show as part of this year’s loan exhibition, “American Dreams, American Visions.” Still, one imagines that she would have enjoyed perusing the 70 plush stands filled with art and antiques that, while of varied origin, style and date, made a common claim to excellence.
The Winter Antiques Show opened for ten days on January 16 at the Seventh Regiment Armory, the show’s home for most of the last 49 years. After being in temporary quarters at the Hilton last year, management, customers and exhibitors, who hail from the United States and Europe, seemed happy to be back.
“There’s no place like the Armory,” said Massachusetts dealer Robert Wilkins, who shook hands with New York Governor George Pataki and thanked him for coming. Wilkins’ partner Suzanne Courcier showed Soon Yi Previn a crib quilt. Previn’s husband, filmmaker Woody Allen, winced at the price.
“I can’t say that people are rushing in and grabbing everything they see,” said Olde Hope’s Pat Bell, who, like many exhibitors, remembers the more robust 1990s.
‘There’s a hesitation,” agreed London dealer Roger Keverne. “People look, walk around for a half hour, then come back and buy.”
“The first weekend was an exercise in crowd control,” said Elle Shushan, a dealer in portrait miniatures who struggled to attend to shoppers in her jewel box of a display.
Overall, the fair was expected to raise a million for its charity sponsor, East Side House Settlement.
New discoveries and wonderful rarities were the theme of nearly every exhibit.
“This is the Rosetta stone of Badger paintings,” said Leigh Keno, barely able to contain his excrdf_Descriptionent about the signed painting by Daniel Badger, the younger brother of Boston painter Joseph Badger, that hung on his back wall above a Boston dressing table, $175,000, and two rare roundabout chairs, one from Newport, circa 1760-65, $390,000; the other from Boston, circa 1740, $210,000.
Until the appearance of Keno’s canvas it was not conclusive that a group of pictures found in the South were by Daniel Badger, who is now known to have advertised as a sign painter in Charleston, S.C., in 1735. Keno’s picture, circa 1750-55, recently turned up at a New England auction, where it was cataloged as English. The alert buyer recognized the piece, which depicts an unidentified boy in blue with his pet squirrel, as American. The buyer brought it to Keno. The Badger painting, $280,000, and a Boston slab table from the Copeland collection, $300,000, were among the New York dealer’s many opening sales.
Guy Bush of Washington, D.C., sold an eastern Massachusetts Chippendale serpentine front tiger-maple bureau notable for its bold figuring, small size and original brasses. Other highlights included a Philadelphia Chippendale chest of drawers that descended in the Logan family, $210,000; a French gilt Washington mantel clock, $150,000; and a bonnet-top high chest of drawers, circa 1750-70, made for Boston merchant John Rowe, $375,000.
“We’ve sold a Dunlap five-drawer chest; a ball and claw foot desk; a Rhode Island server; a nice candlestand; several paintings, including an early Cahoon; a weathervane; and lots of Nantucket baskets,” said Wayne Pratt. Still on offer were Rufus Porter painted plaster murals, $275,000, taken from a Maine home; and an inlaid Massachusetts Federal cherry sideboard, price “in the six figures.” Attributed to Nathan Lombard, the sideboard is illustrated in American Furniture 1998 in an article on Lombard furniture by Brock Jobe and Clark Pearce. .
“It’s killer, the best,” Albert Sack, the dean of American furniture dealers, said as he stood transfixed before a marble-top Chippendale table, $345,000, offered by dealer Virginia dealer Sumpter Priddy. Other treasures included an inlaid Federal Shenandoah Valley chest of drawers, $95,000, and a portrait of George Catlin dressed as a Sioux Warrior, $395,000.
“Given economic and political circumstances, I didn’t know what to expect, but we’ve done very well,” said Robert Wilkins, whose sales of Shaker furniture included a monumental architectural cupboard chest, $125,000, from Hancock, Mass., and a cherry sewing cabinet. Courcier & Wilkins also wrote slips for a decorated box, game boards and a stump work tablecloth.
“If I’m right, the date of this table is 1815, which means that Duncan Phyfe was copying Charles-Honore Lannuier, not the other way around,” Carswell Rush Berlin said of a regal looking eagle-carved New York games table, $350,000. The piece is from a highly distinctive group of griffin and eagle-base tables that were formerly attributed to Lannuier. Berlin believes that the group of tables derives from an ancient example at the Vatican Museum, rendered and published by Charles Heathcote Tatham in 1799. Other Nineteenth Century eagle and griffin tables of Berlin’s type are at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Winterthur and Yale.
Hirschl & Adler’s booth was dominated by a large marble-topped gueridon. The table, one of two known with Lannuier’s label, was $2 million.
“The show has been extremely good for us. We’ve sold both big and small pieces: secretaries, sideboards and quite a bit of period decoration,” said Gary Young, a popular Maryland dealer in English furniture who is always a bellwether for the fair.
Clinton Howell, a New York dealer in English furniture who was invited into the fair when Richard Green Gallery of London abruptly withdrew a week before opening, featured a pair of bow front console tables, $875,000, by John Linnell. Their elaborate marquetry surfaces reveal the French training of some of Linnell’s staff, Howell said.
Mallett at Bourdon House of London’s flamboyant display included a pair of Russian metal console tables in the Gothic style, circa 1840, $240,000; and an Anglo Indian carved ivory settee and two chairs. Mallett at Bourdon House is opening a shop this spring in New York, at 929 Madison Avenue.
The Schwarz Gallery of Philadelphia sold paintings by five members of the Peale family, the Philadelphia dynasty that is a Schwarz specialty. A pair of Charles Peale Polk portraits were claimed on opening night. Sill lifes by James Peale, Mary Jane Peale and Sarah Miriam Peale followed. Also in the booth was a $1.5 million “Peaceable Kingdom” by Pennsylvania folk Edward Hicks. “It’s very early, painted between 1822 and 26, and in almost pristine condition. It came out of the Hicks family,” said Robert Schwarz, Jr.
“This show is a phenomenon all its own,” said Elle Shushan, who sold most of her American portrait miniatures, including a pair of likenesses of Mr and Mrs William Brown by Elkanah Tisdale of Lebanon, Conn. “They came out of the Erskine Hewitt sale in 1938 and had been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1936,” the New York dealer noted.
New Haven, Conn., and New York City dealer Thomas Colville parted with 14 paintings, most of them American. The sold works included a Leon Kroll, $250,000, plus pieces by Gifford, Chalfant, Carlson and Hart. “All of the pictures are going to people who really love art, who aren’t decorating and who aren’t investing. About two-thirds of the buyers are regular clients,” Colville said.
“Penelope still sits by her loom. With the Pugin bench and the William Morris curtain, she’s grabbed a lot of attention,” Max Donnelly of the Fine Arts Society said of “Penelope,” a luscious pre-Raphaelite painting by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, still for sales at show’s end for $900,000. The London dealers sold a Charles Rennie Mackintosh coat stand to a new client and an important picture by bird painter by Henry Stacy Marks.
China Trade pictures specialist Martyn Gregory made a splash with “A Panoramic View of the Waterfront at Canton,” circa 1845, $280,000. The 78-inch-long canvas, which still bears a fragment of Youqua’s label, giving his studio address at 34 Old Street in Canton, shows the city’s entire frontage, from the Western suburbs on the left to the French folly fort on the extreme right.
Gerald Peters Gallery of Santa Fe and New York showed four Henry Inman portraits, $100,000 each, of Native Americans. The portraits are copies of the Charles Bird King paintings that were immortalized in McKinney & Hall’s series of prints. The original paintings were destroyed by fire.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Hyannis Port, Mass., dealer Janice Hyland said of Duncan McFarlane’s luminous painting, $185,000, of an American ship, “Young Brander,” shown in three views in Liverpool harbor.
“We sold three of our most expensive pieces — a race track tout, John Scholl’s ‘Celebration’ and a wonderful dog weathervane — plus a Shaker rocking chair, a great hooked rug and a carved figure of a cow,” said David Schorsch, one of several very successful folk art dealers in the show.
“This was our best preview since we joined the show seven years ago,” said Pat Bell of Olde Hope Antiques. The New Hope, Penn., dealers sold one of the best decorated cupboards they have owned, a New Jersey example in medium blue paint with dark blue feather graining; a Moses Eaton stenciled blanket chest; a dressing table; a huge Jewell eagle weathervane, $76,000; fraktur; baskets; stoneware; and a large sunflower quilt.
New Haven, Conn., dealers Fred and Kathryn Giampietro got off to a strong start, selling a Dentzel carousel horse, $55,000, then following with an overmantel carving, a decoy, and ship’s figurehead. A perfect Howard horse weathervane, one of only several known, was $285,000.
“We’re seeing more interest in silk embroideries,” said Old Saybrook, Conn., dealer Carol Huber, noting the increasingly sophisticated audience for early American needlework
“We’ve been well received,” said Robert Young, who returned for his second year. The London dealer in English and Continental folk art finds American buyers receptive to primitives, if not always acquainted with their European histories. “It’s all to do with surface, line and originality,” he said of folk art’s transatlantic appeal.
Don Ellis, the Ontario dealer in North American Indian art, sold a Haida portrait mast, a Ojibwa carved figure, and an Eastern Sioux cradle decoration to make it his best Winter Antiques Show in his ten years.
Spencer Throckmorton of New York unveiled a collection of Meso American sculptures. Two owl totems, among the earliest carved stone relics in the New World, dated to 2600 BC and cost $12,500 and $8,500, respectively. A Costa Rican volcanic stone carving of 600-1200 AD was $75,000.
William Guthman, a dealer in pre-1840 military Americana, featured a frontiersman’s tomahawk, $75,000, and a carved powder horn from the Siege of Lewisburg, $37,500.
“We got off to a slow start, but we’ve since sold a full suit of German armor, circa 1560, for a six-figure sum; several medieval swords; some daggers; and other pieces,” said Peter Finer, the Warwickshire dealer in arms and armor. Presiding over his stand was a medieval Neapolitan sepulchral marble, pale as a ghost, sculpted with the effigy of a knight from the Ferretti family of Ancona.
“It’s the only one I’ve offered because I haven’t seen another one to buy,” said Finer. Priced $450,000, the Fourteenth Century sculpture was on hold by show’s end.
“We’re selling everything,” said Chinese art dealer Roger Keverne, ticking off a list that included an Eighteenth Century Tang dynasty figure of an attendant in a green robe, a Tang horse, lacquer, jade, bronze, porcelain, a set of watercolors of fruits and a Ming pottery model of a group of tables.
Japanese art dealer Joan Mirviss featured an Eighteenth Century print of a woman in a striped kimono, $36,000, by Kitagawa Utamaro and a two-panel screen, “Swimming Ducks” of circa 1790, price on request.
“We have a big nibble,” Barbara Israel, a dealer in garden statuary, said of her magnificent “Diana,” $175,000, a white marble figure of 1890 inspired by the 1710 original in the Louvre. The Katonah, N.Y., dealer sold “Leda and The Swann,” $145,000, a bronze by English-born American sculptor Albert Stewart; a whimsical, life-sized figure of a tiger; a pair of marble benches; a composition stone figure of a boy in a hat playing a horn, 1900; and six urns.
This year’s Winter Antiques Show offered proof that beauty triumphs, no matter what the circumstances. “We’re slightly recession proof. We have serious collectors who will always find the means to buy,” observed Peter Finer. “People realize the great things aren’t going to come around again soon,” added Leigh Keno.
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