Published: January 30, 2007
Spring arrived early in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 4, ushering in weather in the sixties and a new Congress. But if there was change in the air, it was confined to politics. At the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the Washington Antiques Show was busy upholding a tradition a half-century in the making.
The 52-year-old classic, which continued through Sunday, January 7, is one of a quadrumvirate of enduring charity shows that also includes the Winter Antiques Show in New York, the Ellis Memorial Antiques Show in Boston and the Philadelphia Antiques Show, all of which were founded within a few years of each other. The Washington Antiques Show benefits Thrift Shop Charities, which distributes funds to four other charitable concerns.
Followed by a bustling preview party and a dinner, an opening night champagne reception in the hotel’s Regency Ballroom whetted appetites with a raw bar and other delicacies chosen to complement this year’s loan exhibition, “Treasures of The Chesapeake.” Shoppers through the weekend included First Lady Laura Bush and Virginia Senator John Warner.
In addition to three opening night events, a “New Collectors’ Evening” on Saturday, January 6, featured cocktails and a talk on collecting in today’s market by Paul Greenhalgh, director and president of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
“Attendance more than doubled for the ‘New Collectors Evening.’ After the lecture, everyone went forth and shopped. The event was so successful that we closed a half hour late,” said show chairman Mary Calvert Conger Brown. An extensive committee oversees the Washington Antiques Show, which is managed by the Antiques Council.
“There was good energy on the floor, from preview to closing. The show is definitely on the uptick,” said John Suval, the Fredericksburg, Va., dealer who is the council’s liaison to the fair.
Organized by James Hunter Johnson, former curator of the DAR Museum in Washington, D.C., and director of The Lyceum in Alexandria, Va., and Christine Minter-Dowd, former director of the DAR Museum and former field researcher for the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, “Treasures of The Chesapeake” displayed fine and decorative arts from the Chesapeake’s port cities of Baltimore, Alexandria, Georgetown, Norfolk, and Richmond.
Among the three dozen objects lent for the occasion were gallon-size Baltimore oyster tins and a Crisfield, Md., pie safe with tins punched in the pattern of two-masted schooners, from the collection of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum; a circa 1850 Baltimore album quilt and an armchair made by William King of Georgetown, D.C., for the Monroe White House, both from the DAR Museum; and an elegant Norfolk, Va., neoclassical desk-and-bookcase attributed to the shop of James Woodward.
Accompanying the exhibition was a 237-page catalog with essays on Chesapeake decorative arts by Pete Lesher, Melissa McLoud, William Thompson, John O. Sands, Sally Gant, Camille Wells, Jennifer F. Goldsborough, Sumpter Priddy III and Michael A. Smolek.
Traditional in content and presentation, the Washington Antiques Show emphasizes American, English and European furniture; Asian art; silver; ceramics; paintings and works on paper; and miscellaneous categories such as toys.
The show’s ballroom setting is spacious and private. The hotel is convenient and comfortable for both visitors and exhibitors, many of whom take advantage of special room rates. One of the show’s corporate sponsors, Sherwin-Williams, provided paints from its Mount Vernon line for the booths. Many dealers prefer paper walls, but the paint backdrops were reasonably successful.
Elinor Gordon, a dealer in Chinese Export porcelain from Villanova, Penn., was honored for her participation in the show over the past 50 years.
In addition to Gordon and Suval, other Chinese porcelain exhibitors included Ita Howe of Bethlehem, Penn., with Ming and early Qing pieces, and James M. Labaugh, who also handles English and Continental ceramics.
A selection of Chinese and Japanese specialties were on offer at E&J Frankel, who featured a Chinese ancestor painting of a male mandarin, $7,500, and L’Asie Exotique, which paired Japanese takeda ningyo, or dolls, with woodblock prints of actors.
Helen Meserve and her husband, Hamilton, partners in Running Battle Antiques of Newagen, Maine, featured English oak furniture and China Trade and other marine paintings. One highlight was an 1844 view of the Baltimore ship USS Constellation off the port of Venice, dated 1844.
Annette and Victor Bashensky of Savenkov Gallery had one of the prettiest booths. They displayed European neoclassical and Biedermeier furniture and accessories against a backdrop of robin’s-egg blue. The Midlothian, Va., dealers, who also participate in the Ellis and Greenwich shows, buy throughout Europe. Their workshop is outside Prague. A circa 1820 Biedermeier yewwood center table was $18,000.
“We sold both Biedermeier and Austrian Empire furniture as well as smalls, including a rare early Nineteenth Century Russian gilt bronze inkwell,” Annette Bashensky reported afterwards.
The other two new dealers, Fletcher/Copenhaver Fine Art of Fredericksburg, Va., and Charles Edwin Puckett of Akron, Ohio, also sold well. Puckett and the Philadelphia Print Shop each brought a selection of Seventeenth through Nineteenth Century maps of Maryland and Virginia. At the Philadelphia Print Shop, local topographical views and political broadsides attracted notice.
Across the aisle, Maine dealer William Schwind acknowledged Washington’s historic association with France with a set of signed Old Paris dessert plates, $6,000, and miniature busts of Voltaire and Rousseau.
Traditional American furniture sells well in Washington.
“We sold three pieces of furniture: a Philadelphia four-drawer Chippendale chest, a two-part bow front corner cupboard, and a stand, plus lots of smalls,” said Ohio dealer Marilyn Kemble.
“This is always one of our best shows,” said Connecticut dealer Lee Haines, who parted with highboys this year and last.
“This was one of my best shows here in four or five years,” said Ronald Klinger of The Leather Bucket. The Philadelphia dealer sold a Pennsylvania corner cupboard and two hanging cupboards along with silver and porcelain.
English furniture is also a draw. Centreville, Md., dealer Gary Young, who does only two shows a year these days, anchored his handsome stand with an early George III mahogany bureau bookcase of circa 1765. With a broken arch pediment, glazed doors, finely fitted interior and original brasses, it was $89,000.
Kyser-Hollingsworth of Washington, D.C., mounted a set of 12 circa 1815 English mahogany dining chairs, $58,000, on its interior wall and a set of eight brass-inlaid Regency dining chairs, $38,000, on its exterior wall. American pieces included a Massachusetts sideboard, two demilune card tables from Maryland or Philadelphia, a low-country South Carolina mantelpiece, and a New York drop leaf breakfast table.
“This is a very important show for us. It’s really our best opportunity to meet local customers,” said Charles Hollingsworth. He added, “The traffic was very good this year. We were pleased more young collectors through the show this year.”
The 2008 Washington Antiques Show is scheduled for January 10–13. For information, www.washingtonantiques.com.
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