Published: December 31, 2002
By W.A. Demers, photos by R. Scudder Smith and W.A. Demers
WILTON, CONN – You have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Terri Tushingham.
The interior decorator left her home in Demarest, N.J., at 5:45 am on Sunday, December 8, in order to be among the first in line of early buyers at . The one-day show, hosted to benefit the John G. Corr Memorial Award fund, brought 135 dealers to the Wilton High School Field House with a holiday-themed array of country and period formal furniture from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, folk art, paintings, prints, ceramics, textiles, silver, jewelry, Americana, Oriental rugs and decorative accessories.
“It’s a great show, with a variety of things in good taste and a wide selection,” said Tushingham as she waited patiently at the entrance anticipating the 8 am start time for early buying. “The dealers are reputable, and I always find something interesting,” she said.
Holiday shoppers with an antiques bent have similarly counted on , pro-duced by Marilyn Gould, to find that certain something for themselves or loved ones for more than 30 years.
Elizabeth Robinson of Acorn Antiques, Westerly, R.I., who specializes in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century prints, pewter and Blue Willow, had decked her space with some seasonal trimmings, including an extra long wooden stocking stretcher used to display antique Christmas cards, a small iron star and a fanciful color print of angels intoning the Christmas carol, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which featured the sheet music on the reverse. Copper plate engravings from “Histoire Naturelle” by M. Le Comte de Buffon, dating from 1753 to 1788, showcased six different breeds, and represented a type of print that is always a favorite with of dog lovers in suburbia.
Kelly & Jenner from Sherman, Conn., displayed a primitive gentleman’s portrait attributed to Royal Brewster Smith from Portland, Maine, done in about 1830. An oil on canvas portrait, believed to be Lucinda Moody Hubbell of Bennington, Vt., dated from 1835, and two theorems, including a bright example from 1825 by a Deerfield Academy girl and a rare bird from 1830, graced the booth. A Connecticut blanket chest over two drawers from 1730 was in very good condition with just some minor touch ups.
Kate Alex of Warner, N.H., specializes in lighting, architectural and garden pieces and painted furniture from America and Europe. For the Wilton show she brought a pair of large Federal finials from Portsmouth, N.H., a pair of Art Deco alabaster torchieres and a pair of signed M.H. Jackson & Company andirons with a bronze hippocampi decoration. “I like metal,” exclaimed Alex, who also displayed a pair lamps that had formerly been iron fence posts and several French and Italian sconces. An Italian console and a pair of turn-of-the-century pine tables with a faux marble painted tops and Ionic columns lent a more formal air to the booth while a whimsical wooden “boop-boop-a-doop” girl ashtray holder sans ashtray and hands (“She quit smoking,” quipped Alex) blew kisses to passing shoppers from her heart-shaped lips.
For Bruce Emond of the Village Braider, Plymouth Mass., it was his best single day at Wilton, yielding 21 sales. “I guess it was my week to hit,” said Emond, referring to the seven of eight pieces of furniture that went out the door rather than back into his van at the end of the day. “There was just one rdf_Description left, and it was my least expensive,” he said.
Among the important sales by Jane W. Domenico, Jamesville, N.Y., was a quilt and a grouping of silhouettes that are included in Silhouettes in America, 1790-1840 by Blume Rifkin. Fashioned in 1821, the four silhouettes were conserved by C.R. Jones of Cooperstown, N.Y., said Domenico. With 2002 — and the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear — coming to an end, it was fitting that Domenico was offering a Schuco mohair teddy with swiveling head. He was kept company on the shelf by a Nineteenth Century sculptured horse dressed in crocheted hat and blanket. “Right before Christmas, I like to bring small rdf_Descriptions that people can buy to give as gifts,” said Domenico.
“Small” was the operative word at Margaret Ofslager’s booth as well. The Wiscasset, Maine, dealer whose Christmas greeting was spelled out by Disney dwarfs rather than elves was busily wrapping and invoicing for a host of buyers who themselves were busily plucking decorated medicine boxes, paper birds and wooden ornaments from a display tree. “They’re going fast,” said Ofslager. Early on Sunday she had already sold a nicely colored red Nineteenth Century sugar bucket and a green wicker basket. “I always have a good show,” said Ofslager.
“It’s because I find the kinds of things that people will buy — like this,” she added, pointing to the side of an antique wooden sleigh that when affixed to a wall made a great display for holiday greenery. Other folky rdf_Descriptions in her booth included a “Daisy” sled in old blue paint and a folk art whirligig of Maine origin.
Marion Robertshaw from Lahaska, Penn., exhibited a painting by Philadelphia portrait and landscape artist Robert Street (1796-1865), a painted child’s blanket chest, a Nineteenth Century red painted tilt-top chain table in immaculate condition from New England a circa 1920-30 woven Grenfell Mission mat depicting a Firehook polar bear on the Newfoundland coast. Professionally mounted and including a sewn Grenfell label on the back, the piece was priced at $3,750.
Paul and Susan Kleinwald of Great Barrington, Mass., displayed an Edwardian inlaid and painted satinwood Pembrook table, circa 1880, a George III oak provincial lowboy from the second half of the Nineteenth Century, a tiger maple server, probably from the mid-Atlantic states, circa 1830, and a tiger maple Hepplewhite chest, circa 1820. An American still life oil on paper on canvas, circa 1880, with some restoration, was also offered.
For Thomas Longacre, Marlborough, N.H., “the attendance was what we usually see at the Wilton shows” despite what seemed like a slow gate early on. “There were sales at all price levels in all categories, many sales were concluded rapidly and others with thoughtful deliberation,” said Longacre. He remarked that a couple came into the booth to look at a pair of George Washington figural andirons.
“They seemed very pleased because the andirons were identical to a pair that they tried to buy on eBay and were not successful. My price was less than what they had bid online. It was fun for both of us.” Longacre summed up with the observation that the Wilton show continues to draw some of the top dealers in the country who have very high standards and require the best material they can find. “The Wilton shows continue to be a good source of material for the dealer, collector and the average buyer,” he said.
Douglas Stock of Wellesley, Mass., had turned three walls of booth space into a warm and colorful oriental rug bazaar. Two standout rdf_Descriptions were a Khamseh measuring 5.6 by 9.7 feet from about 1900 featuring a large sky blue center and a camel-hued runner from northwest Persia — either the Bakshaish or Serab region, according to Stock — measuring 3.3 by 10.6 feet and from about 1810. Stock, who said he has been coming to the Wilton holiday show for seven years, thought the crowd seemed larger and more enthusiastic than in the last two or three years. “I sold a nice, small rug to a young couple from Massachusetts who are just learning about rugs. That was encouraging,” said Stock. “With Wilton, we often establish long-term clients, who may not purchase for some time to come, but eventually might.”
Henry T. Callan, East Sandwich, Mass., featured all American samplers ranging from 1775 to 1824 that were wrought in silk floss on linen and had been mounted on acid-free board. A particularly interesting grouping represented the various states of New England, and each had been worked by a schoolgirl instructed in needlework by a teacher attempting to impart the virtues of patience and accomplishment along with actual needle skills.
“Each sampler is unique,” said Callan, “with a line of verse, something inspiring, perhaps from the Bible.” What is especially impressive about these delicately stitched textiles, said Callan, is the early mastery shown by the artists. “Here’s one that was done by a girl in the third grade,” said Callan, pointing to a well-executed craft displayed in his booth. With the upsurge in both interest and prices in schoolgirl samplers, Callan said the main things to look for are no holes, no stains and the quality of stitching. He had already sold his second best sampler during the show set-up.
Other sales included a dozen Chinese export porcelains, including Canton and Fitzhugh in blue and green, an Eighteenth Century Chinese export cup and saucer, an early Nineteenth Century silhouette, three antique tall glass champagne flutes and a Staffordshire alphabet plate with a Benjamin Franklin motto and a scene in the center.
Continually busy at this year’s show, John Gould of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., sold a generous 435/8 inch-wide cherry drop leaf table, made in 1880, that extended to 111/2 feet with nine leaves in. “The table went the way all good antiques should go – into someone’s home,” said Gould, He also displayed a stack of eight figural maple boxes, an early looking glass, a large cherry and tiger maple two-drawer dresser with a shelf, made in 1830-1840, and a winter scene by a well-listed artist, Maginko. “I sold a lot of frames, and bought some nice things for myself,” said Gould.
For the eclectic shopper, Michael Friedman of Black Rock, Conn., displayed a lot of different rdf_Descriptions from French country to American and rustic Adirondack and folk art. A Nineteenth Century harvest table, a nice sized Black Forest corner cupboard, circa 1836, and a gaggle of Nineteenth Century French puppet heads were among his wares. Friedman noted that early buyers were more active than usual.
“People seemed eager to find something,” he said. “There was an energy on the floor which is sometimes lacking at certain shows. Smalls were, of course, selling very well, as is always the case with a December show – lots of Christmas gifts. But I was also selling furniture, and others around me seemed to be selling a nice mixture of rdf_Descriptions as well.”
Friedman reported that his strongest sales were in Adirondack and rustic rdf_Descriptions and French redware pottery. “This show was filled with really wonderful rdf_Descriptions, especially Americana and folk art. There were many top dealers represented in all categories, and, as usual, Marilyn Gould presented a first-rate show,” said Friedman.
A one-day show compresses the buyer’s decisionmaking process, and this was evident at Windle’s Antiques, Wilmington, Del., according to Herb Windle. “One piece that we sold had three people who were looking at it and considering it. While the buyers were writing a check, two others returned and were not too happy that they had not bought when they were there before.” The Windles had brought a rare Chester County, Penn., skewer with a fish at the head inlaid with copper from about 1700, an Irish mahogany tilt-top tea table with rat’s claw feet, circa 1840, a rare kettle lamp with drum-shaped font suspended at two pivot points on a center stem on a tripod base.
An oil on canvas, “Ships Outside the Harbour” by Vilhelm Bille (1864-1908) depicted two ships and two sailboats outside the harbor was similar to one sold at auction in 1999 for more than $5,600. While Windle said that some of the dealer talk was that sales were not at the norm for the show, “I still feel that this is one of the best and well-rounded shows in New England. There is quality merchandise for everyone’s taste.”
Competing customers for a brightly decorated Lewis feed bag from Baraboo at the booth of Howard Graff (Colt Barn Antiques, Townshend, Vt.) echoed the Windles’ exper-ience. “A lady told me she wanted to buy the sign and asked me to put a ‘sold’ ticket on it, but another gentleman said he just had to have it and would pay double her price for it,” recalled Graff. He said the woman passed up the opportunity to double her money. “It was a very good show. I was busy selling right up until 5 pm,” said Graff.
Ryan Cooper of Yarmouth-port, Mass., struck a patriotic theme with a rare 26-star American flag from 1837-1845, one of the earliest printed on cotton. A figurehead of a woman, circa 1840, carved in pine and weathered with traces of paint was until the 1970s a fixture at the Union Oyster House in Boston. A Sixteenth Century royal yacht chip-carved box, possibly made by a sailor or officer aboard the British Royal Charles II yacht, features intricate chip carving designs on all exposed sides and a period watercolor of the yacht on the inside lid.
Another intriguing box was offered at Gold Goat Antiques, Rhinebeck, N.Y. This was an early vivid red and black stenciled box, American late Nineteenth Century that was covered in naturalist and animal stencils.
Other treasures awaiting shoppers included a brightly colored, nearly psychedelic hooked rug from the early Twentieth Century depicting a pair of deer, a carved and painted Nineteenth Century pink fish weathervane and a collection of carved cane tops from the late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century that Gold Goat co-owner Avram Finkelstein speculated may have actually been chess figures. “You can easily imagine the industrialist figures as kings and there’s a bishop,” said Finkelstein.
Nearby a globe collection with examples from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries presented the many depictions of terra firma, from geographical to political representations. There was even a square “globe.”
Among its eclectic mix of treasures, Red Griffin Antiques, Georgetown, Conn., displayed a collection of antique and historic firearms tagged with a sign proclaim-ing that the rdf_Descriptions required “no license forms or documents.” “I put the sign there because there is a significant, prevalent antigun attitude,” said Red Griffin’s owner. “At one show, a woman got very upset when her husband immediately went to the firearms display. These are historic pieces, however, and the Kentucky rifles, for example, are artistic and complementary to artwork.”
Red Griffin also displayed Victorian portrait miniatures, Eighteenth Century shoe buckles in silver and brass and Scottish jewelry. Faced with reports of low attendance and lackluster buying at other shows, Red Griffin did not have high expectations for Wilton’s event. “Amazingly, it was one of the most successful shows we’ve done,” he said. “Across the board – furniture, firearms, jewelry and pocket watches. Our selection really appeals to gift-giving.”
Leatherwood Antiques, Sandwich, Mass., sold a large terra-cotta cat family sculpture that a customer had seen on its website, as well as several Vienna bronzes, including a large one of rabbits, and several children’s christening plates and cups, which are always popular.
Children’s pottery is an especially good category to have at a holiday show, according to owner Mo Wajselfish. That is because many of the rdf_Descriptions have been “prepersonalized,” such as the diminutive cup for “Hellen,” the small pitcher for “Willm” or the tidbit-sized plate inscribed with “A present for Charles.” Wajselfish and John Young also brought an early inlay with hearts and doves, an early English piece from about 1750, a selection of wooly pictures and Black Forest carvings. Among the latter was a fanciful bear barometer made in Switzerland in the late Nineteenth Century, a trio of bear musicians as wall hooks and a French carved rabbit soldier. A Swiss circa 1880 child’s-size bear bench had a grown-up price tag of $26,000.
“We sold some expensive objects; however, there was a lot of deliberating among the customers,” said Wajselfish. “As for easy sales, these came from dealers who knew what they wanted and a few collectors in this category.”
Paul and Karen Wendhiser, Ellington, Conn., who specialize in rdf_Descriptions for the hearth and home, had an early cast-iron herb grinder from the Nineteenth Century, a hooked rug of a white cat surrounded by hearts and Nineteenth Century samplers, fireplace andirons, brass candlesticks, baskets and wooden boxes.
After the show, Marilyn Gould reflected that she was pleased with the show and especially encouraged by the enthusiasm among the dealers during Saturday set-up where there seemed to be a good amount of dealer buying. “I thought the booths looked very good. People did a nice job of setting them up,” she said.
The next show, the 36th Wilton Historical Society Antiques Show, will bring nearly 100 dealers to the field house on March 15-16. For information, 203-762-7257.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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