Published: October 31, 2006
It was a fresh pair of eyes that perused the booths at the fall Rhinebeck Antiques Fair, which opened to the public October 7 and 8. As a staff writer at Antiques and The Arts Weekly, I have reviewed plenty of antiques shows over the years — both large and small, near and far, high-end, middle market and flea market. But somehow, when it came to covering the Rhinebeck Antiques Show, prior obligations, other shows, or luck played a part in the assignment going to other staffers or contributors. At long last, I discovered what I have been missing. Rhinebeck is unquestionably one of the most enjoyable antiques shows I have ever had the pleasure of covering.
Let’s start with the size of the show — about 200 dealers for a two-day show. This is a generous show without tipping the balance into mind-boggling vastness. The Duchess County Fairgrounds are set up perfectly for an antiques show. Showgoers can keep dry inside the four cavernous buildings — although this year the weather was crisp and clear — that are set up with about 50 dealers each.
Next, there is the effervescent, palpable esprit de corps of the dealers and the show management. It’s contagious. It’s no wonder that Rhinebeck fair management is very careful about who is invited to replace a dealer retiring from the business. It’s no wonder that there are several cheerful, knowledgeable, active octogenarians who relish the recurring Rhinebecks and have no plans to retire.
Finally, there is the famous Rhinebeck eclecticism. The antiquarian who goes to Rhinebeck can expect good finds — but they’ll never know exactly what to expect. The show is an overall kaleidoscope of good stuff. There is an emphasis on American painted country furniture and folk art, but there is also a smattering of Federal furniture, retro items from the 50s and 60s, and pockets of specialty dealers with wares that set them apart from the crowd. Throughout the show it was apparent that dealers saved up singular pieces just for Rhinebeck.
Audrey and Jerry Paden, Schoharie, N.Y., displayed a circa 1920s-30s fireman’s fair game of chance where one would roll balls up to holes into which the balls would settle. Each hole was linked electrically so the weight of the ball triggered a light bulb behind various playing cards — Kings and Queens and such. It was priced at just $1,350.
Martin Birnbaum’s booth (Catskill, N.Y.) featured chalk and crayon drawings by self-taught artists and Asian antiques. Mason Antiques, West Cornwall, Conn., offered a wonderful recamier with a carved eagle. On the walls were several works of abstract art. They offered a signed and dated custom-built bird’s-eye maple table that had legs of tiger maple. It was dated 1939 and carried a price of $1,900.
Mark Moody’s booth (Shohola, Penn.) displayed a Nineteenth Century bird’s-eye maple and cherry desk on ogee bracket feet from either Pennsylvania or New York. The top and frame were maple and the drawer fronts were cherry. For fishing enthusiasts, Moody displayed a large framed Angler’s Guide map of the United States, sponsored by Perfection Beer, $295. A game wheel on its original yellow stand was from the 1920s and priced at $495. A Parcheesi board and stand, Nineteenth Century, was priced at $1,500. Steer andirons with a matching tool set were $395. A late Nineteenth Century folk-carved walnut hall tree featured fleur de lis and tulip decoration was $975.
Sold separately, but displayed as etageres at the booth of John and Robin Sittig (Shawnee-on-the-Delaware, Penn.) were 12-inch, 9 ½-inch and 8-inch clear glass cake plates. They also offered a Victorian honeycomb flint compote, a small ribbed flint compote, an assortment of cup plates including an opalescent cup plate with a heart motif priced at $95 and other glass.
The fall show reliably offered Halloweenia. Kelter-Malce Antiques, New York City, had a good selection. They also offered six lab stools with black adjustable metal bases and blond wood on top. Lucinda Seward Pittsford, Vt., offered a hand painted on wood cutout of a black cat on a red stand that used to be a store display for $875. She hung a gorgeous carved marble oval wedding frame that had motifs of eternal love and fidelity — clasped hands and ivy. It was about 14 inches tall and was marked $2,750.
American Whimsy, Hewlett Harbor, N.Y., displayed Bakelite pins, bright red horse-head pins, dolls, pincushions, a popsicle-stick lodge structure that had marvelous detail and care, fruit banks, small works of art and rag balls. Frederic Thaler, Cornwall Bridge, Conn., brought a circa 1835 country dressing table stripped to its original surface at $2,200 and four fancy chairs painted with fruit and floral motifs for $1,250 for the set. A small Windsor chair in worn blue/teal paint was $575. Thaler’s booth was dominated by an array of appealing oil paintings of country scenes and landscapes by listed American artists including E.L. Bryant, H. W. Ranger, and Chauncey Ryder.
Anita Taub, New York City, waits until show time to unpack her sparkling jewels for security reasons, but was good enough to unpack some recent acquisitions on Friday afternoon. Since she only buys directly from estates, her jewelry has not passed through auction houses nor through the hands of other dealers. New in her collection were several pieces featuring diamonds and rubies. One ring had an impossible-to-ignore blue topaz surrounded by diamonds with tiny dangling pink sapphires hanging off the edges.
Philip Liverant, Colchester, Conn., brought a supply of jokes and some beautiful early American glass. There were New England chestnut bottles in olive green, a pair of Sandwich clam broth opalescent candle sticks, blue and white china, flow blue, a small bronze sculpture of an elk, and four candlestands. Southbury Fine Art, Southbury, Conn., brought a tall case clock with moon phases and Arabic numerals, and many paintings by Connecticut artists including Carl Blender’s portrait of a young lady that was complemented by Modernist sculptures.
Marc Witus, Gladstone, N.J., displayed nine fabulous hand blown flint glass bride’s banks. A yellow with black mid-Nineteenth Century game board was priced at $1,850. Large cases of smalls were enticing enough to linger over. There was an early Nineteenth Century Scottish presentation drinking horn with silver mounts, a bronze portrait bust and a remarkable French gilded metal foliate framed mirror that featured oak leaves and acorns on one side and other leaves on the other. It was priced at $14,500. A handsome bronze whippet was $2,450.
Poverty Hollow Enterprises, Redding Ridge and Stamford, Conn., displayed a curvilinear wrought iron window guard from a Manhattan brownstone turned upside down with an added glass top. Altogether the piece was repurposed for a decorative entry table. Dealer Bob Baker’s “narcissistic” Staffordshire spaniel faced its reflection in the mirror over the mantel. Baker also offered a large painted cast iron garden urn, a fine brass fire screen and andirons, several sets of etageres, a sideboard with legs in old green paint, a French sideboard, a stunning set of French china marked Rouen with a geometric pattern. On the floor was a stone frog in old green paint.
Jane Wargo, Wallingford, Conn., hung some country trade signs — Honey for Sale, Sweet Corn, and Strawberries for Sale. An American burl wood bowl was marked $1,875. A circa 1800 New England (probably New Hampshire) corner cupboard was $4,950. The cupboard had rosehead nails and was scraped down to its original sage green color. A carved white dove was a lovely folk piece. Wargo displayed a basswood trencher in blue-gray paint, a chest paint decorated in wine red and black ragged stripes, a gilded eagle on a sphere and a dated Colonial green doll house.
Antiques II, Bedford, N.Y., presented 14 pieces of Western illustrations from the 1950s and 1960s. Artists included Sam Cherry, Rodewald, Earl MacPherson. Dealer Alan Bernhard said, “This is all collectible Western illustration art. All cover art. We even have some of the original publications that match up with the art.” Continuing their theme was a French “cowboy” chair in naturally distressed old leather with a fringe on the bottom.
Pottles & Pannikins, Windsor, Conn., like many dealers during set up, had already consummated some dealer sales including a pair of portraits, a lantern and a weathervane. They displayed early cast iron included toasting forks, skewers, a salamander spade, trivets, meat and fowl roasters, and a decorative stove plate by Thomas Pots Furnace dated 1758, marked at $1,100. A Nineteenth Century pierced tin lantern was $425, an early whale oil lamp with a double burner was $850 and a huge three-prong fireplace log fork with a brass ball finial was $365. A brass miner’s lamp was marked E. Thomas & Williams Ltd. It was $350.
Dave and Bonnie Ferriss, Cambridge, N.Y., had a menagerie of animals: pelicans, parrots, chickens and a black cat with an arched back. They had a great toy biplane on wheels in old blue, red and yellow paint. A trade sign proclaimed Wilton Fresh Eggs and a beautiful Victorian frame in their booth had Virginia creeper vines painted with care around new mirror glass. Architectural elements included Nineteenth Century carved corbels from New York City.
J.D. Querry, Martinsburg, Penn., brought a gorgeous array of mocha ware. Finnegan offered a great pair of 12-foot louvered arched doors with cast iron hardware. Joseph Collins, Cobalt, Conn., offered a large decorative arrow weathervane with curved iron swirls and a star-decorated back. Six chairs had strawberry plants painted on their backs and an old toy fire truck was ready to roll on to a new home. A J.L. Mott New York zinc rooster was $4,250. Antique microscopes and a sunumbra lamp also caught the eye.
Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., offered a massive butcher block, a large huggable “Eeyore” type leather donkey. A pair of tree-form plant holders that fixed to the wall and climbed six feet high were $3,200. Karen Wendhiser, Ellington, Conn., featured a Nineteenth Century Italian Renaissance carved mahogany chair with lions in the back, paw feet and lion-head arms. It was $1,350.
Mad River, North Granby, Conn., displayed a framed German christening gown of handmade lace that dated to 1880 and had been in the original family until Rhinebeck. It was priced at $475. An 1828 fire bucket marked D. Shelton was $825. D.&D. Antiques, Newtown, Conn., had hat holders of all styles — cast iron painted white, faux bamboo, steer horn, etc. A brushed metal three-tier server on wheels was $695.
Jill Wojtaszek, Port Jervis, N.Y., offered a leaded glass panel with brown, soft yellow and green glass, a black cat fire screen and a large building vent cover in Art Deco style taken from the old Civic Center in Philadelphia that was designed by Philip Johnson. Her chestnut bottles and other early glass were a nice contrast to the furniture.
Lana Smith, Louisville, Ky., had a great looking hooked rug of a farmhouse, circa 1930 that was $1,600. A weathered wood owl carving from eastern Kentucky was $700. A supersized feather duster was $200. Michelle Fox had a plenteous supply of vintage textiles. Valarie Gilliand, Morristown, N.J., gets the award for best polisher. Her polished brass — whether shoehorns, scales, ink wells, bookends, fireplace tools, toasting forks or letter openers — was all gleaming.
Bette and Melvyn Wolf, Flint, Mich., wrote the book on pewter, and stopped people in their tracks with their astounding early pewter collection. If a little pewter is good, a lot of pewter is even better. Worden Antiques, Burr Oak, Mich., had ironware including an iron cat in white paint. She had tramp art, hand carved wooden hearts and utilitarian items creatively displayed. A huge five-section hardware store bin had good design that the contemporary eye can appreciate.
Mimi Gunn, Chatham, N.J., brought cases of intriguing smalls, a Pacific Northwest painted chest for $1,500, a set of brass weights for $975. Lake Ridge Antiques, Telford, Penn., had a circa 1890 dry sink from Marietta, Ohio, that had its original liner, a bin, sliding shelf and was 47 ½ inches wide and 36 inches high. A dough box with a lid had its old red paint. A 13-foot 7-inch rag runner added color too.
Dark Moon Antiques, Johnsonburg, N.J., offered a French infantry flint musket of 1768 that had a US surcharge on the lock tail denoting American usage during the Revolutionary War. There were powder horns, a pre-Civil War militia drum, a pipe tomahawk (marked sold) and other militaria. Richard Kyllo, Saddle River, N.J., had a portrait of Andrew Haring dated 1836, a flax hatchel, a campaign lantern and an elaborate Nineteenth Century coat rack in green paint.
Sport & Spool, Goldsboro, N.C., had vintage collectibles for the sports enthusiast — old skis, boxing gloves, track and field. There were even studded log-rolling shoes with leather uppers. Old Village Antiques had a Symphonion music player, carnival glass, a brass samovar made into a lamp base, a good selection of mirrors, an unsigned Loetz vase in Art Nouveau design with bronze handles, a Horner Furniture, New York City, mahogany sideboard, and Rose Medallion plates of various sizes. “If I haven’t got it, you don’t need it,” said dealer Steve Gero.
Thistle, Barrington Ill., was all about texture and scale. Dealer Marilyn Draper Carr used elements in a subdued earth-tone palette to pull together an extraordinary booth. Using old found items and retasking them into art, her booth featured bed springs, corn husks, parts of buildings, an abacus, a jumble of wire, tortoise shell and soapstone buggy-warming stones.
Mary Carden Quinn, Floral Park, N.Y., had a wonderful Nineteenth Century folk carved lamb lying on an open book with a nimbus behind it, $1,625. A red and black paint decorated one-drawer stand was $1,825. A hooked rug of flowers and scrolls was $695. There were braided rugs, eagle bookends, an early staved barrel in cranberry over blue paint, a New England sugar bucket with a lid and handle and a wooden grain shovel from Lancaster County, Penn.
Dennis Raleigh, Wiscasset, Maine, had a 12-panel crazy quilt done in wools, an Eighteenth Century fanback Windsor chair with black over red paint for $1,850, and an arrow weathervane with great verdigris, $2,450. A pair of merganser decoys from Nova Scotia, circa 1920s, had extraordinary form and color. Black Lab andirons were $2,450 and a carved American eagle with spread wings from the 1930s was $2,450.
Dolores Murphy, Clinton Corners, N.Y., had a New York classical sofa on brass paw-feet casters that was ready to be upholstered at $11,500. A 1780–1800 country six-drawer chest in cherry was $5,200. Brennan-Mouilleseaux, Northfield, Conn., featured an inlaid flame-grain birch Hepplewhite three-part dining room table from New Hampshire or Vermont, circa 1790 that was $7,600. Maps were a big thing at Maile Allen, Colonia, N.J. A map of the California peninsula from 1730 by Joannes Baptista Homann was $1,900.
Gloria Lonergan, Mendham, N.J. had an arrow back Windsor settee with red and black rosewood graining for $4,595. A gilded stag weathervane, late 1800s was 28½ inches long and $26,500. A footed chest in green paint from the Nineteenth Century was $2,695. Donna Kmetz, Douglas, Mass., had an oil painting by Morris Pancoast of a dock house in shimmering pastel colors.
One of the original Rhinebeck dealers, Corinne Burke, Ridgefield, Conn., had hooked rugs, bottles, bowls, cupboards and other country items. East Dennis Antiques, East Dennis, Mass., had a mid-Nineteenth Century cherry pie safe with the original tin panels and old surface, $1,900. Thomas Longacre, Marlborough, N.H., had signs reading “Turkey Shoot Sundays” and “Ox & Horse Shoeing by J.S. Tucker.” A Gold Smith Maid, signed 43-inch Harris & Co. weathervane was $7,500. A Federal cherry corner cupboard in original finish was $6,500. William & Teresa Kurau, Lampeter, Penn., had Flow Blue, jasperware, Sandwich glass, oil lamps, and a eagle fire screen cover.
Bob and Ellie Vermillion, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., brought a blue painted circa 1900 Indiana tramp art dresser, chopping knives, and tin molds. John Gould, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., had an assortment of frames and a Queen Anne chest on frame of cherry, Eighteenth Century, for $3,250. Robinson House Antiques, Westwood, Mass., hung some of Hiroshige’s woodblock prints of “100 Views of Edo.” Eleanor Lee, Woodstock, N.Y., offered massive ball andirons and a charming collection of six carved and painted Amish wagons. Maria Cosgrove, Penn Yan, N.Y., had circa 1890 stenciled air pump bellows, globes and a Nineteenth Century tool cupboard with tools.
After the show, dealer Claire Dounoucos, Delmar, N.Y. said, “I had some very good sales. I sold a large sailfish weathervane from the 1920s. It was a very unusual copper fish. A gentleman had had it in his collection for 30 years. It had a wonderful shape and was beautifully done but he had grandchildren and he didn’t want them to hurt themselves on it. It went immediately. A circa 1930s one-man band — a lovely old big piece — sold, too. I also sold a lot of unusual smalls. Rhinebeck, as usual, was very much alive. Rhinebeck has always been good for me and this time it was even better. I sold all day long on Saturday. Even Sunday was busy. The real enthusiasts come on Saturday.”
Barbara and Charles Adams, South Yarmouth, Mass., had a great selection of Bennington pottery. A Bennington flint enamel lion was very proud and full of character. Barbara said after the show, “Our sandpaper collection was well received and we sold six of them. Also we sold a very good cherry drawer stand with a tiger maple drawer.” They also sold blue sponge, silhouettes, stoneware and redware. Barbara said, “The show was very well attended both days . It is a fun show to do and a beautiful area to spend a few days.”
Bev and Doug Norwood of The Norwoods’ Spirit of America, Timonium, Md., have been in the antiques business for 30 years. “This October’s show was our best ever at Rhinebeck. It is gratifying to have a number of knowledgeable, advanced and engaging collectors who return show upon show, year after year. We also enjoy meeting individuals who are first-time visitors to Rhinebeck or who express interest in beginning their pursuit of fine early Americana.” They sold four well-rendered early Nineteenth Century schoolgirl works, including a poignant watercolor memorial on paper by a young academy-schooled Massachusetts girl in memory of her infant sister; two first-quarter Nineteenth Century New England samplers; four portrait miniatures, including a delightful set of twins; five vibrant, paint decorated keeping and trinket boxes; a commanding trade sign; a fanciful hooked rug, several paintings and other smalls.
Tim and Charline Chambers of Missouri Plain Folk drove at least 1,000 miles over two days from Sikeston, Mo., to get to Rhinebeck. They do about 14 or 15 shows a year. “We may have sold more game boards this year than at any single Rhinebeck and we have done this show for ten years,” said Tim Chambers, who is author of a book on the topic. “The great thing about Rhinebeck is the age of the crowd. It’s a great group of younger buyers. Perpetually young. It was also the largest crowd in years. When the show opened they were there with gusto. It was just phenomenal for us. It was after 3 o’clock before I got my booth put back together.”
Tim used to work in the retail clothing business so he is used to change. He credits Bill Walter, Jimi Barton and now Bruce Garrett for creating an atmosphere where dealers can express themselves. He notes that trends in the business are an important source of renewal. “The show became more Americana for a while. Now it’s switched back more to decorator. Hem lines go up and hem lines go down. Why is it any different in our business? Hey look, they are still wearing skirts.” He continued, “You can’t put Rhinebeck in a niche or a pigeon hole. That would be the kiss of death. You never know what you are going to find — from period to 1950s.”
Louis Dianni, Fishkill, N.Y., does about a dozen shows a year and specializes in marine art. “We sold a rare dated example of an early American watercolor titled in the legend below, ‘Ship Cheesman of New York’ dated January, 1802. The title line’s calligraphy was done by Michele Felice Corne. Also a large oil on canvas by Robert Back of the clipper ship ‘Young America waiting for wind and tide off Sandy Hook, NJ’ titled verso by the artist. An equally rare portrait of the Larchmont Yacht club’s schooner yacht Elsana by Connecticut ship portrait painter Thomas Petersen signed and inscribed New London [Conn.]. This was only the second I have seen in my career by this talented artist.”
They also sold a small oil on board of the Black Ball line’s ship Isaac Webb by Antonio Jacobsen and a large and rare portrait dating to circa 1878 of the Waldoboro, Maine-built ship Isaac Reed by Chinese artist Pun Woo signed and inscribed painter, Hong Kong, with the original Chinese dust cover boards. Dianni recounts, “Small items sold well and our best ship in a bottle and bookends found new homes. You could say American was definitely in and people seemed eager and willing to part with money for top quality items.”
Show promoter Bruce Garrett was happy with the steady crowd on both days and bigger than normal crowd on Sunday. “It was a real nice show. The year on the whole was very successful; we lucked out with our 30th anniversary year.”
Garrett also observed, “The designers are back. They came on both days and were buying like crazy. There were designers out of Boston — huge buyers that kept our shipper as busy as she wanted to be. There were some from New York City.” This year all of those designers could finally make cellphone calls from the show floor because of the recently installed nearby cellphone tower.
Garrett likened the three Rhinebeck shows to the seasons in which they take place. “The spring show is very gardeny with concrete garden stuff and blossoming, fresh, new-to-market antiques for the start of the new season. All the iron is out.” Of the one-day summer show he said, “The show is very whimsical. All the booths are white and the dealers colorize it. Rhinebeck is a very touristy town and summer people are looking for something to do. They want to carry things out with them.” And for the Columbus Day weekend show he said, “In the fall there is a squirrel mentality. People are stocking up. It’s close to the last hurrah before everything quiets down again.”
The Rhinebeck show will return Memorial Day weekend in 2007. For information, 845-876-1989 or www.RhinebeckAntiquesFair.com.
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