Published: December 13, 2016
Review and Photos by Laura Beach
WILMINGTON, DEL. – Should it come as any surprise that two of the best shows for American furniture, decorative arts and folk art – the Delaware Antiques Show and the ADA Historic Deerfield Antiques Show – are affiliated with leading museums of the same? Probably not.
Happily for enthusiasts of traditional Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century American fine, decorative and folk art, the Delaware Antiques Show, at Wilmington’s Chase Center on the Riverfront November 11-13, is very much in the spirit of its charity organizer, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. A marketer might call this branding. Collectors just know it is worth making the trip. As Tom Savage, Winterthur’s director of museum affairs, put it, “We really have stuck to our core audience and Americana lovers know to come to us.”
Buyers travel distances to get to this destination event managed by Diana Bittel and orchestrated by a lively committee this year co-chaired by Dina du Pont, Margaretta Hershey and Kris Walker. High-style American furniture like the kind sold by the New York dealer Bernard & S. Dean Levy, Inc., always seems to do well here. Pressed for details, Frank Levy, a Winterthur Fellow whose great-grandfather sold to Winterthur Museum founder Henry Francis du Pont nearly a century ago, confessed that, for him, furniture sales were very, very good this year.
“We sold to eight different buyers, six of whom were new to us. All were under 60 and were from Pennsylvania or south,” said Levy, who counted among his customers buyers from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Indiana and Texas. Besides furniture, Levy sold an important 1853 oil on canvas view of the Philadelphia Waterworks by Nicolino Calyo, plus smalls.
The Delaware Antiques Show opened with a gala preview party on Thursday, November 10, benefiting educational programming at Winterthur. With passed hors d’oeuvres and serving stations heaped high with crab cakes, scallops and tiny chops, the festive evening attracted top collectors, sometimes with their agents in tow. Members of the museum’s Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle, formed in 1984, were out in force.
“Attendance was up opening night and through the run of the show. The dealers did a great job and most sold. Working with Winterthur is just such a pleasure. They get it. The committee is young, everyone is on the same page and exhibitors are treated really well,” said Bittel. Buyers here tend to be leisurely making their choices, resulting in steady sales through the weekend. “It really is a three-day show,” said Frank Levy.
There was some exhibitor turnover from a year ago, a suggestion that sales, while good for many, may not be ample for all. Two exhibitors, Jewett-Berdan and Berdan & Newsom, were unexpectedly absent for health reasons.
New exhibitors included Martyn Edgell, a specialist in antique English pottery from Cambridgeshire, UK, who brought an impressive selection of English and Dutch Delft, plus basalt, caneware, jasper, stoneware and creamware. He said his American and English clientele were similar in their tastes, with Americans perhaps more passionate about mochaware and children’s pottery. In January, Edgell will participate in the New York Ceramics and Glass Fair, his only other American show.
R.G.L. Antiques of Pittstown, N.J., made a colorful debut, filling brightly lit cases with early American glass in a range of hues and accenting his stand with a pair of large copper eagles with outspread wings. “We sold our beautiful set of five yellow painted and decorated York County, Penn., side chairs and some early blown glass,” reported Ralph Franzese.
New exhibitors David A. Schorsch and Eileen Smiles had the Pennsylvania market in mind when they brought a circa 1760 Philadelphia walnut Queen Anne armchair related to one in The New Fine Points of Furniture; an early sheet iron “William Penn” weathervane, probably from Philadelphia and dating to about 1750; and a pair of Eighteenth Century tulip-shaped iron hinges from the collection Richard Dietrich.
It was impossible to miss James William Lowery. The new exhibitor from Baldwinsville, N.Y., hung the visually arresting hooked rug “The Leopards” over a circa 1810 Boston sideboard by Thomas Seymour. The rug surfaced in Scriba, N.Y., and, according to the dealer, dates to about 1880. Two appealing primitive paintings – one depicting old Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass., and the other showing a country baptism – were by Albert Webster Davies (1889-1967), an artist represented in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.
From West Chester, Penn., H.L. Chalfant, whose booth faces a central court on the show’s main floor, attracts a devout following here. “It tends to be a good show for us and this year was even better,” said proprietor Skip Chalfant, who sold seven pieces of furniture, including a circa 1755 walnut Philadelphia Chippendale bonnet top, chest on chest signed George Claypoole; a Chester County, Penn., William and Mary spice box with line and berry inlay, circa 1740; a bonnet top Philadelphia brass dial clock by John Wood; a rare painted child’s blanket chest decorated by the “Squiggly Artist”; a couple of candlestands and a Queen Anne chair.
Chalfant offered a Chester County William and Mary Wainscot walnut armchair of about 1730-40. A second example of this rare Pennsylvania form was for sale at John Chaski Antiques, the latter inscribed with the date 1743. From Camden, Del., Chaski presented his chair with the 1932 oil on canvas painting “Pirates Burying Treasure Chest” by Anton Otto Fischer, an illustrator who studied with Brandywine School patriarch Howard Pyle.
The legacy of the Brandywine School looms large in these parts, making itself felt at both Somerville Manning Gallery of Greenville, Del., where a handsome selection of paintings by N.C. Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth and Gayle Porter Hoskins were on view. Schoonover Studios, Ltd, of Wilmington, Del., featured “Her Heart Suddenly Suffocated Her” by Frank E. Schoonover, published in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1920, and “The Husking Bee” by N.C. Wyeth, published in Woman’s Day in 1946.
Dixon-Hall Fine Art of Phoenixville, Penn., showcased Modernist painting and sculpture, hanging Peter Miller’s “Harem Girl” over the slinky “Stripey,” a reductivist bronze figure a cat by Gerd Utescher. The more traditional Schwarz Gallery of Philadelphia offered “The Unconverted,” exhibited by the American painter Francis David Millet at the 1900 Paris Exposition. Also at Schwarz, the talent of Samuel F.B. Morse was on full view in two small, exquisitely painted 1829 portraits of Dr Thomas and Mrs Mary Fuller.
One great rarity was a diminutive William and Mary ball-footed desk and bookcase with a double-domed top, probably from Massachusetts or possibly New Hampshire, for sale at Peter Eaton Antiques. The Newburyport, Mass., dealer discovered the secretary desk in a repair shop in 1990, promptly sold it and had just gotten it back. Eaton sold the big refectory table in the center of his booth, plus a ladder back armchair, a Pilgrim Century desk box, a good candlestand, a schoolgirl-decorated tea caddy, an important early New England chair and accessories. Eaton’s take on the show? “Classic, traditional New England furniture is always what has sold here. In recent years, I’ve been selling earlier furniture here, as well.”
Another dealer in New England furniture, Nathan Liverant and Son of Connecticut, reportedly sold a highboy to a Midwest collector and had interest in a choice Chippendale cherry blockfront chest of drawers attributed to Samuel Loomis III of Colchester, Conn., 1760-85.
Both specialists in American needlework were pleased with results. “We sold to a lot of new people and reconnected with a major collector who has become active again,” said Carol Huber. A highlight of the Huber display was a lyrical scenic silk embroidery by Maria Blakiston of Philadelphia, dated 1793.
M. Finkel & Daughter of Philadelphia wrote up an exquisite 1817 sampler by Harriet Hayden of Fitzwilliam, N.H. The embroidery – from a small group of samplers known for their incorporation of metallic elements, ladies with painted, paper faces and, in this case, pin-pricked sheep – graces the cover the Philadelphia dealer’s latest catalog.
“Delaware was better than last year for us. Among the 17 items we sold, the most exciting were a set of six Nineteenth Century shorebird decoys, a rare Grenfell geometric mat and a signed totem pole,” said Ron Bassin of A Bird in Hand Antiques, Florham Park, N.J.
*A 1780-1810 Winchester, Va., sofa at Sumpter Priddy III. “There are five known and I’ve handled all of them. I sold this one 30 years ago,” said the Alexandria, Va., dealer. The sofa was with storied Richmond, Va., dealer J.K. Beard in the 1930s and has subsequently been in several prominent Southern collections.
*A Classical mahogany lighthouse clock made by Simon Willard and Son, circa 1823-25, at Gary R. Sullivan Antiques. “What is really cool is that it still has its original alarm mechanism with porcelain disk,” said the Canton, Mass., dealer. Also with Sullivan, a musical tall clock, a new discovery, by Daniel Burnap of East Windsor, Conn., in a case attributed to the shop of Eliphalet Chapin or Simeon Loomis.
*A gilt-bronze Washington mantel clock with works by Jean-Baptiste Dubuc, Paris, circa 1815, at Bernard and S. Dean Levy Galleries.
*A circa 1725 William and Mary desk with a profusion of secret drawers, Rhode Island, possibly Newport, at Mark and Marjorie Allen, New Hampton, N.H. Mark Allen said he had his best Delaware Show in a decade.
*A Philadelphia Rococo high chest of drawers, circa 1760-70, probably from the shop of Benjamin Randloph, with carving by an as yet to be identified carver dubbed “Spike” or the “Spikey Leaf Carver” by Alan Miller and Luke Beckerdite, at Christopher T. Rebollo Antiques, Mechanicsville, Penn.
*A circa 1740-60 splay-leg oak and pine tavern table from southeastern Pennsylvania, exhibited in “Paint, Pattern and People” in 2012, at James and Nancy Glazer, Bailey Island, Maine.
*A pair of circa 1834-40 Classical side chairs attributed to Richard Parkes of Philadelphia and a Valley of Virginia sideboard at Christopher H. Jones, Alexandria, Va.
*A small, kidney-shaped, four-legged sideboard attributed to George Whitlock of Wilmington, Del., at James M. Kilvington, Dover, Del.
*A Nineteenth Century American trade sign, inscribed “C.B. Maynard Grocer” and decorated with a still life of a scale, barrels and bags of grain, probably Massachusetts, at Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Rockingham, Vt.
*A blanc-de-chine porcelain tree with figures, ex collection of J.T. Dorrance, late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century, at Ralph M. Chait Galleries, which has moved to 16 East 52nd Street in New York City.
*A selection of Chinese export porcelain for the Philadelphia, Boston, Salem and Rhode Island markets at Polly Latham Asian Art, Boston and Sandwich, Mass.
*A Philadelphia walnut dressing table, circa 1760-70; a Winchester, Va., tall case clock; and a signed Simon Willard Jr astronomical regulator clock, at Kelly Kinzle, New Oxford, Penn.
*A Navajo transitional sampler rug and a collection of colorful Nez Perce bags, at Marcy Burns American Indian Art, New York City.
Bittel’s next event, which she manages with Karen and Ralph DiSaia, is the Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show. It opens at the Navy Yard on Thursday evening, April 20.
The Delaware Antiques Show returns to the Chase Center at the Riverfront November 10-12. For information, www.winterthur.org/das or 800-448-3883.
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