Published: October 8, 2002
By Laura Beach
HARTFORD, CONN. — They say it is a sign of wisdom to be at home in one’s own skin. While many a show these days is grappling with its identity, is not one of them. Hartford, as it has long been called, seems to have resolved once and for all the question of what it is and who it is for. Never mind the glitz and glory; Hartford is about pre-1850 American furniture and appropriate accessories. It is “brown furniture” and proud of it.
Having settled comfortably into the Connecticut Expo Center, its post-9/11 home, the relaxed show does not get a lot of people, but they are the right people. When opened on Saturday, September 21, shoppers arrived in a languid trickle. The same visitors could be seen leaving with parcels several hours later.
“We had a smaller gate than usual. Was I disappointed? No, because dealers had good shows,” said Linda Turner, whose good nature and empathy for exhibitors is much appreciated. One of the fortunate ones was Joan Brownstein. “It was a great show, actually,” the Ithaca, N.Y., dealer said afterward. “I sold ten things, including a Chippendale mahogany desk with bracket base and a block-and-shell carved drawer; a wonderful watercolor; and another one of a little girl seated in a Windsor chair. It was from the Garbisch collection and is illustrated in Santore’s book.”
Hartford conflicted this year with the one-day Wilton DAR Marketplace on Sunday, September 22. Unable to get the late September/early October dates that are traditional for her show, Turner was offered dates in November or September 21-22. “The majority of my dealers wanted the early dates, so that’s what we went with,” she explained. Four exhibitors were forced to choose between Hartford or Wilton. While the impact on attendance is not calculable, Turner felt it was slight. She had several calls from out-of-state collectors who were delighted that they would be able to attend both shows in one weekend.
Furniture led the way in this edition of , followed by fine and folk art. Nathan Liverant and Son of Colchester, Conn., brought a Connecticut icon, a full-length bronze, $40,000, of the patriot Nathan Hale as sculpted by Frederick William MacMonnies. The full-sized version of MacMonnies’ Hale (Liverant’s smaller version stands around three feet tall) is one of the artists best-known and most-admired works, standing in City Hall Park in New York. MacMonnies, who rendered Hale in a French manner with elegant clothes and a Gallic profile, was born in New York in 1863 and became a studio assistant to Augustus Saint Gaudens. His “Hale,” created in 1891, won him a silver medal at the Paris Salon.
Maritime art specialist Louis Dianni, who divides his time between Fishkill, N.Y., and Sunrise, Fla., anchored his stand with a luminist view of Liverpool harbor. “Young Brander,” $57,500, painted with exacting detail by Duncan McFarlane, shows the vessel from three views. “It is actually a narrative on how a vessel was brought into harbor,” Dianni explained. Peabody Essex Museum owns a nearly identical view of the American clipper ship Chariot of Fame.
Another interesting ship’s picture, quite different than the Young Brander, was on offer at Janice F. Strauss American Antiques, South Salem, N.Y. Rendered in gouache with such skill that the sails billowed off the page was a USS Lancaster, $8,950, a warship of the Mediterranean fleet, shown in Naples harbor. Carved by John Bellamy, the gilded eagle figurehead on its prow is now in the collection of the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Va.
“The Lancaster was built in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1857,” Ted Strauss explained. “We took this picture into Mystic Seaport and the curator recognized the ship instantly.” Another highlight in the Strauss booth was a Hepplewhite oval-top Pembroke table of beautifully figured mahogany with line, sunburst and bellflower inlays, $25,000.
Ithaca, N.Y., dealer Joan Brownstein juxtaposed figures of Hope and Liberty on her outer wall. “Hope,” a small figured that was probably carved of cypress wood, possibly in Louisiana, was $6,200. By the sculpture’s side was a painting on velvet, $12,500, inscribed “Goddess of Youth Giving Support to the Bald Eagle.” The work in velvet is based on Edward Savage’s painting and engraving of the same subject.
The same inscription could be found on a silk on silk and watercolor on silk embroidery in Stephen and Carol Huber’s stand. Made at the Misses Pattens’ School in Hartford by Susan Jenckes Winsor, circa 1805, the needlework, priced $58,000, recently came out of the Geoffrey Paul collection, purchased by the Hubers from their client Geoffrey Paul. “It’s an important work,” said Carol Huber, “because we have Miss Patten’s letter to Susan identifying the painter of the face.” The Old Saybrook, Conn., dealers paired the piece with “The Hermit,” $45,000, an allegorical embroidery from the Lydia Royce School in Hartford.
Among other textiles was a vibrant hooked rug in the tumbling block pattern, $2,850 at Jason Dixon Antiques and Folk Art, Lancaster, Penn., and a log cabin quilt of circa 1870-80 at Susan Stella, Manchester, Mass. Incorporating an arresting array of fabrics, including paisleys, it was $795.
A carved pine pilot house eagle with a 54-inch wing span presided at Jim Dickerson Antiques, Charlotte, Vt. Don and Kay Buck of Chester, N.Y., surmounted a Vermont tall chest of drawers of 1785, $32,000, with a 28-inch-long running stag weathervane, probably by Fiske, $33,000. Folk art sales included a large hat box illustrated with a view of Wesleyan University in Middleton, Conn, retailed by Michael Newsom and Betty Berdan of Hallowell, Maine.
There were two settles, a rare form, on the floor of this year’s Fall Hartford Antiques show. One belonged to Newburyport, Mass., dealer Peter Eaton, the other to Elliott and Grace Snyder. The Snyders’ settle was an Eighteenth Century example in old brown paint with a curved seat and back, $6,500. The South Egremont, Mass., dealers also featured an unusual pair of Rhode Island bow back Windsor side chairs with pipestem turned spindles and old finish, $6,800.
Eaton’s settle, $18,500, came out of a North Shore, Mass., house, where it had been since 1981. It sported charming lollipop-top sides and interesting spliced construction along the back. Hartford remains a very good show for Eaton, who carries unusual examples of early New England furniture, much of it very reasonably priced. Rarities in Eaton’s stand included an anachronistic North Carolina case piece, $7,500, made in the early Nineteenth Century but ornamented with the kind of applied, split spindles that one more often sees on New England furniture of the Seventeenth Century. A transitional side chair from eastern Connecticut, circa 1780, with great duck feet was $4,200.
“The last one of these I had I bought from John Walton,” said Eaton, referring to the late Jewett City, Conn., dealer. “Altogether, there are only about six pieces from this group known.” Also in Eaton’s booth was a cherry gate leg table, $30,000. “It’s all original, even its hinges and rosehead nails,” said the dealer.
Along with MacMonnies “Nathan Hale,” Nathan Liverant and Son featured a Queen Anne cherry flattop highboy whose distinctive abstract fan and sunburst carvings, and the blocked shell on its bottom drawer, relate it to others made in Connecticut’s Housatonic River Valley. The circa 1750-80 piece was $52,500. “There is a very similar one in the Barbour Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society,” said Kevin Tulimieri of Liverant firm.
Across the aisle at Jeffrey Tillou Antique, Litchfield, Conn., was an unusual Connecticut Chippendale serpentine front chest with five drawers of graduated sizes and cabriole blocked feet, $11,500. A Hepplewhite serpentine front New York sideboard was $19,500.
A porringer-top tea table from Newport, R.I., and a rare, early Massachusetts Queen Anne flattop highboy were $38,000 each at Samuel Herrup Antiques, Sheffield, Mass. Probably made in the upper Connecticut River Valley region, the highboy is similar in format to Boston japanned examples of the same period.
More flattop highboys — three in all — lined Morgan MacWhinnie’s back wall. The most dramatic of the trio was a fan carved Queen Anne example of vivid tiger maple, circa 1760, $22,000. Nearby was a cherry serpentine chest of drawers with an ogee bracket base, circa 1790, $21,500. A New Hampshire serpentine front chest of birch with bail handles and an old, shellacked surface could be had from David Good and Sam Forsythe for $33,000. The Ohio dealers also offered a rare Pennsylvania redware poodle, $27,000.
Stephen Garner of Yarmouth Port, Mass., brought a gleaming tiger maple Chippendale Massachusetts slant front desk, $18,000. It boasted great color and original brasses. Meanwhile, at Brian Cullity, Sagamore, Mass., a Rhode Island slant front desk with a blocked and shell carved interior was $24,000.
David C. Morey of Thomaston, Maine, was asking $2,750 for a banister back armchair made in the Merrimack River Valley, and $14,500 for a tiger maple tea table from Rhode Island.
New Jersey Hackensack cupboards with matchstick inlays do not turn up often, but Daniel and Karen Olson, Newburgh, N.Y., had one. They were asking $17,500 for the circa 1800 piece.
Notable painted furniture included a set of six salmon-colored side chairs with painted and stenciled gilt decoration, $5,500. “We’re attributing them to a Philadelphia chair maker,” said Doug Constant. The Long Island dealer also featured an early Queen Anne highboy from Newburyport, $26,500. A set of six fanback Windsor side chairs in green paint, circa 1780-1810, hugged the middle of Ed Weissman’s booth. The Portsmouth, N.H., antiquarian was asking $17,400 for the set made around 1780-1810.
Kirt Crump of Madison, Conn., featured an elegant Peregrine White bonnet-top tall-case clock with an engraved, silvered brass dial, 1790, $55,000, and a Connecticut-made pillar and scroll shelf clock, 1829, $4,800. The labeled piece bore both the name of its maker, Samuel Terry, and its retailer, Butler & Clement of Nova Scotia.
J. Namnoun, the Oriental rug dealer whose expansive showrooms are just a block up from the Expo Center, shared his largesse with other exhibitors, providing handsome carpets for many booths and aisles. Three huge floor coverings — a Heriz, a Serapi and a Bakshaish — swathed the back wall of his stand. A brilliant Heriz, unusual for its small, rectangular size, dominated a side wall.
With heightened security measures still in effect at the Armory, is likely to return to the Connecticut Expo center next year. Dates for the fair are not yet known, said Turner, who plans to poll her exhibitors. Meanwhile, Turner was off to Vermont for her Hildene Antiques Show, Forbes & Turner’s last event of the year. She returns to the Connecticut Expo Center March 22-23 for the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm