Published: November 17, 2004
Leaner but definitely not meaner and decidedly lush, the 45th Ellis Antiques Show, November 3-7, brought together a diverse array of dealers offering an exquisite range of fine furniture and objects. Reduced space in the venerable Park Plaza Castle (due to the presence of a new restaurant on the premises) only allowed for 37 dealers this year rather than the previous complement of 45. Still there was room for two new dealers and overall the show had enormous visual appeal, was focused and seamless.
The preview party was a decorous event as dealers, collectors and committee people greeted one another and enjoyed superb food and the oyster bar. Lectures and events throughout the weekend were aimed at new collectors as well as the more seasoned ones. The highlight was John Wilmerding’s talk on “Collecting American Art: A Personal History,” which was a big hit. A designers evening on Saturday filled the house with area decorators who discussed the antique pieces on view in various booths.
Back for her 45th year, the elegant Elinor Gordon gave pride of place to a very handsome lotus bowl with reserves of famille rose. She said it was a recent acquisition and she was justifiably pleased with it. Gordon’s eyes twinkled as she recounted the story of a collector of lotus bowls in an earlier era: England’s Queen Mary. It seems her majesty was fond of shopping but was inclined to simply help herself to anything that captured her interest. Tradesmen dreaded her arrival. Friends who entertained the queen in their homes removed objects of interest while she visited lest they be disappeared to the palace.
Gordon also showed an extensive array of Fitzhugh green and some exceptional armorial pieces. Her booth was as filled with interested collectors as it was with old friends dropping by to catch up with her.
Gordon and Good & Hutchinson have both participated in the show for all of its 45 years. Vose Galleries, a mere 44 in comparison. They were all back in full force.
Good & Hutchinson brought along a fine circa 1650 walnut chest with bun feet. A number of pieces in their booth wore sold stickers early in the show: an oak sideboard, a Chippendale chest and several paintings. They also showed a circa 1750 English oak slant lid desk, an array of porcelain and a handsome export punch bowl
The Sheffield, Mass., dealers also offered a circa 1770 American Chippendale chair, an American Federal mirror with rope twist and an imposing pair of French library steps. Antique Loo chips scattered across a nearby table were for sale – three for $10.
Vose Galleries, the country’s oldest family-owned art gallery, made do with limited space in which they hung the stunning James E. Buttersworth marine painting “Off Barbados,” Boston artist Josiah Wolcott’s “Lawn Looking West,” Harris Woods’ 1883 view of West Roxbury, Mass., two circa 1804-1809 portraits by itinerant painter William Jennys, John Vanderlyn’s circa 1826 “Niagara and the Rapids” and Eastman Johnson’s charming “Boy Eating Apple.”
Carswell Rush Berlin offered a most unusual Classical corner sideboard that was attributed to Boston makers Thomas Emmons and George Archibald. The piece was made with exceptionally lustrous woods and had impressive brass mounts. Another Boston piece, a beautifully proportioned figured and bird’s-eye maple sofa was made between 1815 and 1825
An extravagant Classical rosewood games table had bronze mounts, brass, ebony and satinwood inlay and striking carved giltwood dolphin feet was also displayed by the New York City dealer. Similar to an example at Winterthur, the table was attributed to Duncan Phyfe. There was a fine complement of Boston pieces including an 1815 set of eight carved Boston mahogany dining chairs, along with a mirror, a commode and a rare set of very high bedsteps.
G.K.S. Bush filled a booth with elegant Boston pieces such as the circa 1760 Boston Queen Anne walnut bonnet top highboy with fan carving and the pristine circa 1770 Boston Chippendale block front chest-on-chest with elaborate and original brasses. A Queen Anne japanned tea table drew a lot of eyes as did a portrait of a child in a red dress and a set of six limewood figures. A small circa 1810 Salem server by William Hooker boasted a remarkable sunburst inlay
Stephen Score showed an impressive green-painted elephant weathervane that he hoped to sell to a politically minded collector. He joked that he’d considered tripling the price in view of the late election. He also had a large French bootmaker’s trade sign, a yellow on black paint decorated chest, a Samuel Gragg bentwood side chair in original paint and a highly colorful ten-pin bowling set in the form of army cadets that was made in Brooklyn, N.Y., circa 1940. He described it best himself as “a booth full of whimsy.” A striking Baltimore quilt with a large central star and baskets of flowers set off the folk pieces.
The Pricketts had a dandy 1775 Boston Chippendale figured mahogany reverse serpentine secretarial desk with a bookcase with scalloped doors and elaborate dentil work, with a center gilded eagle. They also offered a circa 1792-1799 mahogany serpentine front sideboard attributed to William Whitehead. The piece was made in gorgeous woods and had an amazing fan inlay and lily-of-the-valley inlay. A Queen Anne walnut corner chair made in Boston in about 1760 had dainty cabriole legs. The folky side of the booth was home to an 1815 Pennsylvania blanket chest from Lehigh County and attributed to the Leiby school. It was painted dramatically in salmon with bold black swirls. Craig Prickett noted that he was pleased to be back in Boston for the Ellis.
Stephen and Carol Huber’s extraordinary needlework included “Maria,” based on Laurence Sterne’s story of a woman who, when jilted by her lover, went wandering in a wood and was abandoned by her dog for a goat. Pretty sad story but a wonderful piece. It was worked at Susanna Rowson’s school in Boston in 1800.
A mourning picture in memory of Captain Thomas Chandler and Captain James Peterson was worked in 1826 by Matilda Chadwick of Duxbury, Mass. Fanny Wyman’s 1799 sampler was for sale along with an exceptionally early (1758) silk coat of arms for the Bolles family of Boston. Of particular interest was a pair of samplers wrought by Deborah Robbins in 1750 and her daughter Deborah Day in 1777. For anyone who wanted to sit to examine the needlework there was a fine unusual rocking reading chair that Carol Huber had just acquired.
Jeffrey Tillou’s booth was replete with stars. There was the painting of the American clipper Dreadnought that was built in 1853 at Currier and Townsend in Newburyport and wrecked in 1869 off Tiera de Fuego. Tillou also offered a circa 1770-1780 Chippendale carved high chest of drawers in figured maple from the Dunlap school with interesting cast brasses and a Massachusetts Chippendale cherry secretary with scalloped doors above the desk. The eye catcher was the dazzling early Eighteenth Century English coverlet with flame stitching and embroidered baskets.
The Philadelphia Print shop displayed the standout map of the British and French Dominions in North America. The large map was mounted on a roller and showed the demarcations between the English and the French in the French and Indian War. It was printed by Andrew Miller of London.
James M. Labaugh offered a nice New England chest of drawers, a selection of Staffordshire figures and an elegantly colorful pair of garden barrels decorated with pink peonies.
Kyser and Hollingsworth had four fancy painted Boston or New York Sheraton chairs with chinoiserie scenes on the tablet of the upper rail. A circa 1800 tabernacle mirror with allegorical figures drew a lot of attention. They also offered a circa 1790 George III Hepplewhite cylinder desk with elaborate stringing and an inlaid writing surface flanked by panels.
An array of tea caddies and a plenitude of other stylish boxes in tortoise shell, ivory and porcelain were seen in the stand of Sallea Antiques. A selection of mother-of-pearl boxes, also seen there, was an interesting display of line and form.
Martyn Gregory was on hand from London with a booth full of fine China Trade paintings. Pride of place went to a large circa 1790 view of the hongs at Canton. Another gem was the 1900 panoramic view of Honk Kong, a picture of particular interest for the eclipse of sail-powered vessels for steam-driven ones and burgeoning development and the increasing height of the buildings around the harbor. Four gouaches depicting the various stages in the production of silk and a pair of scenes of imperial receptions drew high interest.
Like many dealers who brought Boston pieces to the show, Martyn Gregory had a fine 1860 China Trade portrait of the American vessel Almatia off Hong Kong. The ship was built in Boston for the Mediterranean trade but was later sent to China.
Boston’s Euro Exports displayed some highly desirable Biedermeier pieces including an impressive Austrian circa 1825 center table. An Austrian pair of cherry cabinets for sale was made in about 1830 with mahogany inlay string banding and a set of six walnut dining chairs had ebonized detailing.
R.M. Worth had a 1750 portrait of an English gentleman in a blue coat with a sumptuous white and gold vest, a 1790 New York Hepplewhite mahogany sideboard, a fancy Chippendale games table and eight New York Sheraton fancy chairs made between 1800 and 1820.
Alfred Bullard showed a small George III mahogany chest-on-chest that retained the original brass bail handles and escutcheons. There was also an interesting Charles X mahogany secretary a abattant that was made in France in around 1825 to 1830.
G. Sergeant showed the impressive late Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Century Flemish or Italian painting of wild and domestic animals, “Animal Kingdom.” There was also a fine 1770 Italian painted and gilt console table, a 1795 pair of Consulat Egyptian styled fauteuils with Egyptian figural hand supports. Each was newly covered in jazzy faux lynx.
Taylor B. Williams exhibited the antique English enamels of every variety for which he is justifiably well-known. The little treasures have intrigued the former actor and detective since he first encountered a collection of them some 40 years ago. Williams also exhibited a vibrantly colorful case of canary ware and rounded out his offerings with a Massachusetts cherry bow front desk on French bracket feet. He also had a New England (probably Massachusetts) Federal mahogany games table and a George III mahogany linen press of substantial proportions that was made between 1780 and 1820 by Graham and Lynch.
Charles L. Washburne filled his space with colorful English majolica. The most compelling piece was the fanciful Minton ice stand with stags’ heads around the column supporting the top and fox heads along the base alternating with panels of swags. A George Jones bowl in the form of half an orange supported by Mr Punch and his nose attracted lively attention. The Chappaqua, N.Y., dealer also presented a candy dish in camel form – the noble beast wore turquoise panniers with lavender interiors.
Mr and Mrs Jerome Blum brought a table with three plates a lolling chair, mocha ware, creamware and redware jugs. The Leather Bucket exhibited several cases of gleaming flatware and some admirable Victorian silver including a fine coffee and tea service.
Philip Suval presented a rare trio of Chinese export plates and an array of Staffordshire among other exceptional porcelain pieces and Peter Pap’s booth was a study in the burnished hues of finely woven antique rugs.
William Vareika exhibited William Trost Richards’ “After a Stormy Day,” an apt choice for the Newport gallery: a Newport artist and a Newport scene. Vareika brought a fine Boston picture as well: Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of his friend Allen Crocker, a Boston lawyer and merchant. The gallery also showed an 1856 Hudson River view by Johann H. Carmiencke that attracted a lot of interest. Business was brisk and Bill Vareika reported after the show, “I just love doing the Ellis!”
Pennsylvania dealer Diana Bittel offered a wall full of enticing sailors’ woolworks and sailors’ valentines. She also showed “Ship in Distress,” a detailed portrait of a ship’s sinking by Liverpool artist Joseph Heard. The picture was presented to the captain’s widow after the event. A pair of sewer tile garden lions on view live much of the time in Bittel’s own garden but she was willing to part with them. She also offered a handsome circa 1790 Pennsylvania high chest with clean quarter columns and Greek key molding.
The Edith Weber booth presented a concentrated selection of gleaming antiques and vintage jewelry including a nice pair of gold and diamond earrings with coach covers. Weber also offered a selection of pieces by Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany and David Webb.
An interesting Eighteenth Century white pine fireplace bench in black paint prevailed in the Irvin and Dolores Boyd booth where a Pennsylvania Queen Anne walnut chest-on-frame that showgoers found of interest. A tavern table was sure to be snapped up before the end of the weekend. The Boyd’s booth was dominated by a nice black-painted settle, a tavern table and a Queen Anne chair and a Queen Anne chest-on-frame.
Ralph M. Chait had an impressive Buddha figure and a handsome screen. A plum flask had particularly appealing proportions and color as did a cloisonné covered vase with peonies. Two cinnabar lacquer panels were of great interest.
New this year was Birdie Fortescue from London whose booth was understatedly elegant in tones of cream and beige. She had a set of madura vases and a 1930s Art Deco French rosewood extending table.
A Fifteenth or Sixteenth Century Chinese scroll dominated Michael Dunn’s booth. It depicted Buddha surrounded by four Bodhisattvas. There was also a pair of Sixteenth Century Ming column bases and a handsome red lacquer cabinet decorated with symbols of abundance. A China Trade desk made around 1800 for the English or French market was constructed of huang huali wood. A terrific circa 1500 Shanxi province juniper wood game table had an incised stone surface for Chinese chess. Dunn also showed an enviable Ming period garden table from the Shandong province.
Show manager Josh Wainwright reported a good gate, good results and some strong sales across the board.
Proceeds of the antiques show benefited two Boston institutions: the Ellis Memorial & Eldredge House and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.
For further information about the Ellis show, call Josh Wainwright at Keeling Wainwright Associates, 301-263-0783.
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