Published: July 6, 2004
Louisa, Va., antiques dealer Charles Edwin’s Dutch Nineteenth Century “barometer in a box” signaled “veranderlyk” (changeable) – and it was not a dry forecast for the “Vintage Vanderbilt” preview gala on Thursday, June 17, at Near & Far Aid Association’s 40th annual Southport-Westport Antiques Show. No problem, for an umbrella squad of 30 car-parkers had been deployed at the entrance of the show’s new venue – Greens Farm Academy, the former Bedford-Vanderbilt estate – to assist VIP arrivals, but many of the vintage automobiles went un-ogled beneath a huge canopy as guests quickly made their way inside. An owner of one of the classic vehicles said it was the first time his Bentley had been out in the rain.
Inside the Greens Farms complex, which the show committee had decorated with lattice, green and white striped fabric, fountains and palm trees in planters, 42 exhibitors displayed a wide range of antiques and fine art from around the world. The weather improved over the next few days – indeed, Saturday and Sunday seemed halcyon – but several dealers pointed out that attendance for the show was noticeably down. That may have been not so much due to the change in venue as a change in show dates – from April to June, a date change necessitated by the show’s move from the Hunt Club to the academy. But, apparently, the phrase “school’s out” meant that some of the dealers’ best customers were out of town, too.
Change can be good or bad – and sometimes both. For the Southport-Westport Show, it was a bit of yin and yang. The move may have put the event in an awkward season for an indoor show, but it also caused the show committee and Antiques Council to pare the number of participating dealers by nearly half – and this, as Martha Stewart might say, was a good thing. By winnowing the roster to 42 top-drawer dealers and bringing the show into a bright and attractive venue, show organizers probably pulled the event out of what had become a downward spiral over the past few years. Meanwhile, the show has lost none of its luster as one of three major fundraisers for Near & Far Aid, an all-volunteer organization serving Fairfield County’s residents in need. Last year, some $742,000 was raised among the three events to be distributed by Near & Far Aid to 90 agencies, the largest number of charities funded within a single fiscal cycle in the organization’s history.
“I really think people need to see this as a brand new show,” said Karen DeSaia of Oriental Rugs, Ltd, Old Lyme, Conn., who serves as liaison between the Antiques Council and the show committee. “It breaks my heart to see some dealers not do well. For other people, it worked better. The Hunt Club has been challenging for some time.”
“The committee did a stupendous job of advertising and working out all glitches with the new venue. However, the date change seemed to have a huge effect on attendance, and sales were off as a result,” said Judy King Watson, who with Ben Watson operates King-Thomasson, Asheville, N.C., specializing in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century English country furniture. “We sold a wonderful collection of botanical engravings and a couple of small pieces of furniture,” added Watson. “The show was beautiful, with a great dealer roster. The Antiques Council always does a splendid job, and this was no exception.”
Mo Wajselfish, whose Leatherwood Antiques of Sandwich, Mass., has been a show staple for many years, was one of the dealers reporting a “fair” show. His most significant sale, an important American sailors woolwork picture found in Maryland and depicting a setting sun and several ships along a coastline, went to a collector. He also sold examples of children’s pottery, Vienna bronzes, Black Forest and gilded carvings and a large George Jones majolica beehive. “Overall, attendance was not very good. We started quite well with good sales on Friday, and we sold the woolie. But Saturday we made no sales,” said Wajselfish, adding that he did make a few sales on Sunday to returning shoppers. “As one of the few dealers that have always done well at this show, it was disappointing to me, but I must add that the committee did far and beyond what is customary to make us feel comfortable.”
Another longtime exhibitor, Enrique Goytizolo of Georgian Manor Antiques, Fair Haven, Mass., also gave the show committee high marks for doing its utmost in publicizing the event, selecting a great roster of quality dealers and mounting a beautiful show. “I believe the show was very good, maybe the best show in four years,” said Goytizolo.
“While I didn’t have many sales, I had good sales, and I was very pleased.” Goytizolo said the committee selected the exhibitors very well. “And we saw lots of people that we haven’t seen in a long time. I think this new show has a very good potential,” he said.
Goytizolo sold a rare pair of Nineteenth Century French mirrors, circa 1840, which had a branchlike form and a grain painted table, among other rdf_Descriptions. A pair of very fine Peruvian Nineteenth Century giltwood and composition rectangular wall mirrors, circa 1890, drew designerly attention when they were tagged as “props” for the “Friday Night Spaces” event. The designers “borrowed” more than a half dozen other rdf_Descriptions from his booth. Goytizolo complained good-naturedly that he had little left in his booth to show on Friday night. One of the larger rdf_Descriptions he had left on display was an English Nineteenth Century mahogany writing desk “of ample size” (301/2 by 561/2 by 351/2 inches), circa 1860, that featured an inset of tooled leather for the writing surface. But an English George III mahogany serving table was “transformed” by Sharon Zambrelli and Leslie Model of Zambrelli Model Design into a dressing table, a centerpiece of their “Friday Night Spaces” vignette.
Among the rdf_Descriptions G. Sergeant sold was a rare regency caned reading chair with a swivel bookstand that attached to the arm. “As well, a client purchased a rare Chippendale period camel back sofa of unusual form that relates to a set of chairs from the Norman Adams collection. It is interesting to note that both of these rdf_Descriptions were of the highest quality and both rare in their form. We have many leads to follow upon and we look forward to next year’s show.”
For Christopher T. Rebollo, Mechanicsville, Penn., the show turned out “better than I thought it would,” and he characterized the attendance as “steady.” On display was an early Queen Anne Massachusetts highboy with burl and herringbone veneers from Boston or Salem, circa 1740; a Pennsylvania walnut corner cupboard; a rare set of six Connecticut cherry side chairs with old finish, circa 1800; and a mahogany lowboy attributed to David Evans, Philadelphia, circa 1770. A portrait of Sarah Wilson (1753-1800) of Germantown, Penn., by C.B.J. F. Saint-Memin, circa 1798, a pastel on pink paper in the original frame and measuring 151/2 by 201/2 inches, was also being offered. Among Rebollo’s sales was a Boston classical card table in mahogany, which he sold to a couple from Boston, and a child’s Windsor chair, circa 1810, that went home with an architect from New York.
Stephen and Alice Shapiro, known in the antiques community as SAJE Americana, displayed a country Connecticut highboy, circa 1770, with nice shell carving and a hidden shelf accessible through the top drawer. While many blanket chests of the time featured such hiding places for money, jewelry and important documents, Stephen Shapiro said he had not seen one like this before.
Also gracing SAJE Americana’s booth was a pressed brass Civil War eagle with original gilding, circa 1850, that was designed to lead parades; a sweet cherry four-drawer chest, circa 1800s, with a beautiful ogee bracket base; and a 7 by 6 foot hooked rug from the Waldoboro area, circa 1870, in great condition with florals, cartouches and scroll borders. A late Federal mirror signed Ruggles from New Haven, Conn., circa 1821, was rimmed with a gutsy frame with some retouching to the gilding. “I love this mirror,” said Shapiro.
George Subkoff of Westport is known for his collection of period American, English and Continental furniture and decorative art. But he also showed off his flair as a designer in the show’s “Friday Night Spaces” event. Hosted by Chris Madden, noted author, television personality and interior decorator, the evening featured a group of professional designers who within a 90-minute timeframe created themed vignettes using antiques borrowed from exhibitors’ booths. Subkoff borrowed his own Italian polychrome and gilt overmantel mirror from Lombardy, circa 1820, and combined it with other rdf_Descriptions, such as a pair of French Nineteenth Century marble pedestals, Chinese export figures, old Parisian urns, French regency giltwood wall brackets, Oriental rug, a pair of Italian gouache paintings of Naples’ Mount Vesuvius erupting and a French neoclassical mahogany settee with carved lion’s paw feet to create a “Grand Tour” vignette.
Attending the show for their third year, Kathleen and Roger Haller of Silver Plus, New York City, specialize in English Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century silver. Among the wide array of rdf_Descriptions on display was an Eighteenth Century coffeepot by William Grundy, London, 1770 with a fruitwood handle, three Martin and Hall dessert dishes, London, 1878 that were nicely decorated and a China Trade silver bowl, probably 1880s, with repousse birds, flowers and tree.
In fine art, the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Conn., brought American paintings evocative of summer time, among them a 29- by 36-inch oil on canvas scene by Charles Harold Davis (1857-1953) tiled “Clearing Off.” Signed lower left, the painting depicted a bucolic meadow with two cows grazing under skies of dissipating storm clouds. “Home Harbor,” an oil on canvas by Oscar Anderson (1873-1953), portrayed a lively colorful harbor scene with its 32- by 28-inch canvas. Of local interest, Frederick W. Kost’s (1861-1923) “Along the Westport River,” signed and dated 1882 by the landscape painter and impressionist, documented the river’s serene summer setting.
Gallery owner Jeff Cooley was very upbeat about the venue, the more manageably sized show and quality of dealers and merchandise. But, he added, “Show dates are, as I feared, disastrous. Everyone has too much to do at this time of year and the weather was too good. It’s a shame because everything else was so good. Didn’t seem that anyone was interested in art, which I can handle, but doesn’t make me happy.”
At Fletcher/Copenhaver Fine Art, Fredericksburg, Va., portraits of beautiful women and a sleeping child were among the highlights. Emile Levy’s (1826-1890) “La Belle Italienne” portrayed a languid Mediterranean beauty, was signed and dated 1873 and was shown in a period frame that was probably original to the painting. Another young woman, in fact, the artist’s wife, was the subject of “Jeune Femme au Collier (Young Woman with a Necklace)” by Henry de Waroquier (1881-1990). The painting was tagged for “Friday Night Spaces,” becoming the art focal point of an interior design by Matthew Tyrrell. French artist Alix Aymé’s (1894-1989) portrait, “A Sleeping Child,” an oil on silk laid down on paper, was only 53/4 by 61/2 inches (sheet size), but made a powerful visual statement. The piece had been wonderfully framed by a Parisian frame shop that Fletcher-Copenhaver had used to frame 16 works the gallery had acquired by the Marseilles-born artist.
“We made a few nice sales – an oil painting by [Jules] Chardigny, and five very handsome Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century French drawings – but it was not as busy as we expected after the excrdf_Descriptionent of the preview party,” said Joel Fletcher. “Traffic was slow for the next three days, perhaps because of the beautiful weather outside. We loved the facility and the hospitality we were given by the committee and we would certainly want to do it again.”
Hundreds of colorful majolica pieces could be appreciated at Charles L. Washburne Antiques, Chappaqua, N.Y., including a Minton revolving oyster server from 1856, a pair of George Jones warbler vases from 1870 and a Minton majolica ice stand from England. Washburne said he liked the new venue for the show, characterizing it as more “intimate and warm” than the Hunt Club.
In their second or third year at the show, jewelers Allan and Joyce Austin, Amherst, Mass., early on sold a beautiful rose diamond and ruby Victorian French bracelet. They also showed an Art Deco watch-pendant of platinum, diamonds and emeralds.
So what kinds of changes can people expect next year? Show co-chair Candace Raveis hinted that some of the events tangential to the antiques show, such as “Friday Night Spaces,” might be massaged and tweaked a bit based on feedback from this year’s event. “Every year we try to figure out what we can bring to improve the show,” she said. “But I don’t think there will be any big changes in the foreseeable future, given that the first year [at the new venue] was so successful.”
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