Published: January 20, 2004
The Peabody-Essex Museum Antiques Show
The Peabody Essex Museum’s 31st annual antiques show made a splendid return to the museum this year after a three-year stint at Salem State College during construction of the museum’s new wing and atrium. Thirty-three dealers exhibited fine American, English and continental antiques and accessories in artfully arranged booths up and down around the museum. Dealers set up in the spectacular new atrium, the gallery and studio area and the venerable East India Hall.
Northeast Auctions sponsored the elegant preview party for which The Catered Affair, Boston’s preeminent caterer and a museum supporter, provided excellent sustenance. Northeast Auctions’ associate Albert Sack presented a lecture, “Albert Sack Tells All,” and Chris Jussel, former Antiques Roadshow host and Northeast associate, covered “Antiquarian on the Road.”
The museum remained open during the preview and the rest of the show, allowing visitors to inspect the museum’s dazzling new addition and to compare wares for sale with those on view. Proceeds of the preview party and general show admission benefited the museum’s educational programs.
Show manager since the beginning, Christine Crossman Vining works hard each year to produce a quality show and she commands a loyal dealer following. The show is elegant. Since setup was on Thanksgiving Day, there remained the problem of securing the booths the next day while the museum was open to visitors. The solution? Shrink-wrap. Not antique, but certainly novel. The effect was of an avenue of prettily wrapped gift boxes just waiting for the right hand to open them. Early visitors to the museum’s new atrium saw rows of booths filled with enticing antiques all behind transparent but very secure shrink-wrap. At least three museum visitors spotted objects of desire behind the wrap and came back during the show to buy them.
This year she prevailed upon on her brother, Carl Crossman of Northeast Auctions, to give a dinner at his New Hampshire home for the dealers the night before the preview. Thanksgiving dinner for 60? A snap. From all reports, the evening was a great success.
Jeremy Taylor of the Taylor Gallery, London, brought coals to Newcastle. He offered a handsome array of China Trade paintings of which the museum has a prodigious collection. Two in particular he bought last spring at Skinner and restored to stunning condition. The pictures, which simply glow, descended in the family of Salem China Trade Captain Nathaniel Kinsman, who was also a highly successful merchant in Macao. One is a highly detailed, circa 1810-20, view of the hongs at Canton; the other is a mid-Nineteenth Century depiction of ships at anchor in Hong Kong Harbor.
Taylor is himself a former China trader; he said it is still in his blood. He called the hongs at Canton “the best China Trade picture I’ve ever seen.” He also offered the circa 1850 “A Clipper Ship, Flying the House Flag of Dent and Co, off the Coast of China” and the oil on canvas “Portrait of a Tanka Girl” in the original China Trade wood and gilt frame.
Taylor, who was new to the show this year, did his own setup. He borrowed a brass bellman’s trolley from the Hawthorne Hotel where he was staying and wheeled some $300,000 in paintings up Essex Street to the museum.
Sheila and Roy Mennell of The Bradford Trust in Harwichport, Mass., brought Cape Cod paintings, an arena that is one of their specialties. The Mennells brought along paintings by some of their favorite artists such as Charles D. Cahoon, whose work they collect themselves, and John Whorf. Roy Mennell reported good buying as early as the preview party and said that in general 2003 was one of their best years yet. They bought several pictures at the Boston International Fine Art Show several weeks earlier and they offered them in Salem.
Dealer Richard Vandall of American Decorative Arts of Canaan, N.H., specializes in farm Staffordshire and Shaker. Vandall said he has done the Peabody Essex Museum show more times than he can remember and called show manager Vining, “The reason I do the show.” He referred to himself as “one of Christine’s army” of show regulars.
Maxine and Berthold Schweizer, who run Maxine Antiques of North Amherst, Mass., brought along a very popular selection of fine antique jewelry that attracted lively interest. Schweizer herself wore a delicate necklace of yards of diamonds and pearls that was simply smashing against her black dress.
Kittery, Maine, ceramics dealer Sarah M. Coito specializes in Seventeenth to Twentieth Century ceramics. Early in the preview she had already sold a Chinese yellow monkey.
Also new this year were Helen and Hamilton Meserve of Running Battle Antiques in Millbrook, N.Y. They showed a very delicately executed Nineteenth Century China Trade watercolor of a dog painted in the manner of Guiseppe Castiglione, who was known in the imperial Chinese court as Lang-Shih-ning. They also showed English artist John Lynn’s “East Indiaman Madagascar off Berry Head.”
Despite being crammed into what Vining said was “the tiniest booth in the show,” the Meserves had one of the most attractive and did very well.
The Boston Art Club displayed works by late and live member, including Agnes M. Richmond’s “Sewing,” a summerlike portrait of a woman painted in blues and purples in about 1908, and a fine J.J. Enneking work.
Clock dealer Charles Edwin of Louisa, Va., was also new this year. He offered one of the showpieces of the sale: an imposing George II long-case clock with a brass and silvered dial made by Marmaduke Storr in London in about 1745. The clock is quite unusual for its japanning against a green ground and the inclusion of four ships and Middle Eastern scenes in the panels. Washington, D.C., designer C. Dudley Brown bought it years ago with his 14th birthday money.
Rug dealers Landry & Arcari of Boston and Salem offered heaps of jewel-like rugs that patrons seemed to really like. Buyers were observed wrestling with prime choices.
Book dealers Fran and Rick Russack from Danville, N.H., sell books about antiques, and they brought along a full selection. Vining said they visited the museum several days before the show to check out the selection of books in the museum’s gift shop so they would not compete with the museum’s offerings.
Hanes & Ruskin of Old Lyme, Conn., offered some nice American and English ceramics and American country pieces, including a circa 1780 slant lid desk in cherry wood with a lively tiger maple interior and replaced brasses.
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