Published: August 15, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Laura Beach
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – One thinks of the lion as the symbol of Venice, but it was another city by the sea – Newport – that felt positively leonine on the evening of July 27, when the Newport Antiques show opened for its four-day run at St George’s School, a few minutes from Newport’s historic core.
There were standing lions, their countenance fierce, with verdigris surface at Village Braider Antiques; zinc lions stamped with the mark of their maker, J.W. Fiske, at Diana H. Bittel Antiques; a French faience lion in a creamy tin glaze and two carved stone lions at Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge; and gilded lions peeking out from under a wine table at Drinkwater Antiques.
The 11th Newport Antiques Show offered this and more, a regal sampling for a summer resort that lives large. High style prevails in this corner of Aquidneck Island, where leisure and luxury form a bond. As if to make the point, the show has grown to include four jewelry specialists – Reh Fine Jewelry, Three Golden Apples, Sue Brown and David Rovinsky – as well as Only Authentics, purveyors of vintage Chanel handbags, Hermes scarves and other luxury goods.
Chaired by Anne Hamilton and managed by Diana Bittel with facilities manager Ralph DiSaia, the Newport Antiques Show does everything with panache. Exhibitors were treated to a preshow evening at the Portsmouth, R.I., home of benefactors. Thursday’s preview party was crowded, festive and, as always, beautifully catered. Mrs Robert H. Charles and Mrs John R. Donnell served as honorary chairs of the fair, which benefits the Newport Historical Society – organizer of the special exhibit “Mapping the Newport Experience: A History of the City’s Urban Development” – and the Boys and Girls Club of Newport County. This year’s presenting sponsors were Shelley and Nicholas Schorsch, Elizabeth and William Kahane, and Shirley and Michael Weil.
“Newport is a lovely summer show, but it is much more than that,” said Diana Bittel, who sold her zinc lions and her iron gazebo, the latter on its way to San Francisco, plus a sailor’s valentine, tea caddy and assorted decorative pieces. “Many, though not all, exhibitors did well. It was a great party on Thursday and a lot of people came back on Sunday and bought.”
Fine arts form an important part of the fair, whose center court is anchored by paintings specialists William Vareika Fine Arts and the Cooley Gallery. Vareika, a local dealer with a gallery on Bellevue Avenue, displayed a quintessential Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) oil painting of a hummingbird and orchids on a wall devoted to floral still lifes. Another wall featured paintings by William Trost Richards (1833-1905), who died in Newport in 1905 and is a Vareika specialty.
Across the way at the booth of Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., a luminous coastal sunset by marine painter and yacht designer Warren Sheppard (1858-1937) shared space with works by Harriet Lumis, Kenyon Cox, Emil Carlsen and William S. Robinson. Cooley devoted an outside wall to tranquil shoreline views by Lisa Barsumian, a contemporary artist based in Jamestown, R.I.
High-key, neorealist canvases by Anthony Mastromatteo, Kari Tirrell and Cesar Santander stopped traffic at Rehs Galleries of New York City, which, in a nod to tradition, also hung a contemporary marine painting by John Stobart (b. 1929), a master of the genre.
Acknowledging Newport’s seafaring tradition, marine arts and antiques were plentiful. Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas hung a ship’s portrait by Elisha Taylor Baker (1827-1890) over a Chippendale blockfront mahogany chest of drawers from Marblehead, Mass., circa 1750.
Litchfield, Conn., dealer Jeffrey Tillou likewise combined fine American furniture and paintings, among them a reverse painting on glass by the Belgian painter Weyts of the ship G.B. Hazeltine passing Flushing in 1868.
Belgian painting is a major specialty of European art expert Kelleher Fine Arts. The dealers from Turlock, Calif., and Washington, DC, included distinctive port views by Gustave Camus and Octave Pirlet in their assortment.
Port ‘N Starboard Gallery’s centerpiece was “Ship Spiridion,” an oval painting by William Gay Yorke of 1860. Nearby, a small Grenfell hooked mat depicting a puffin joined a winsome sculpture of a mermaid on a dolphin carved by R.J. Innis.
“We do porches and verandas, 1890s to 1930s,” said Michael Donovan of Antique American Wicker, directing a visitor to a charming portable bar, circa 1920, fashioned as a large pond yacht. It retained its extensive tea, coffee and cocktail service.
Bucks County, Penn., dealer Roger D. Winter arrayed examples of English oak and mahogany furniture, brass and sporting art suitable for the country life. “I exhibit in Houston, Charleston, Nashville – places where traditional style is still appreciated,” said Winter, who maintains an active schedule as a show dealer.
For more English furniture and accessories, buyers had only to look to Georgian Manor, Jayne Thompson, William Cook and Gary Sergeant Antiques. Sergeant, a Woodbury, Conn., dealer, boasted a circa 1770-75 Chippendale sofa similar to one at Saltram House in Plympton, England, and an exceptional George IV games table credited to the Gillows workshop. “House Boats” by Ernest Lawson hung over Sergeant’s campaign chest of drawers.
Naples, Fla., dealer Ed Weissman unveiled an unusual pair of Newport or Caribbean wine or dessert stands on tripod bases with dolphin Queen Anne feet.
“This is a very interesting painting,” the Americanist James M. Kilvington, Dover, Del., said of his portrait of a Talbot County, Md., gentleman by Charles Peale Polk (1767-1822). A portrait of the sitter’s wife by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) resides at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, he said.
“An example hasn’t come on the market since the 1920s,” Arader Galleries’ Lori Cohen, one of several dealers in works on paper, said of her rare map of Newport with part of Middletown by Charles E. Hammett Jr, published in 1860.
“The drawing is fine and elegant and the color is exquisite – salmony pink and green,” Oriental rugs specialist Karen DiSaia said of the arresting Mahal weaving, more than 10 by 14 feet in size, on her back wall.
A.J. Warren of Maria and Peter Warren Antiques, Sandy Hook, Conn., shared with us her favorite piece, a mid-Eighteenth Century agateware sauceboat with a fox handle and paw and mask feet. New exhibitor Jesse Davis of London added French majolica and French and Portuguese Palissy ware to the fair’s interesting mix.
“No one likes a braggart,” said garden antiques dealer Bruce Emond, confessing that, after making a half dozen sales on opening night, he was on his way to having a very good show.
Garden antiques are indeed popular features here, no where more so than at Francis Purcell, whose display was dominated by a nearly 8-foot-tall cast-iron fountain in fine condition.
Even the ultimate New England oil lamp was there for the taking, offered by Old Lyme, Conn., dealers Hanes & Ruskin. The pristine piece of about 1850 combined a Bennington flint-enamel pottery base with a Sandwich glass font.
The 2017 Newport Antiques Show honored Dorrance Hamilton, a central figure in the show’s founding and a great lady, much missed, of Newport and Philadelphia.
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