Published: January 27, 2004
The Winter Antiques Show celebrated its 50th anniversary in grand style with an opening night preview party on Thursday, January 15, that revelers were reluctant to leave. Sales were robust through the course of the ten-day show, especially for dealers in a broad spectrum of American furniture, painting and folk art, who benefited from the influx of collectors in town for Americana Week.
Despite bitter cold, opening night attendance was even with last year. Charity proceeds increased by 20 percent, thanks to a new price structure that set the top ticket at $2,500. On the show’s first Saturday, the gate surged to nearly 4,000, but dropped on Sunday with the return of snow.
“There are a number of special things in this year’s show, including the pavilion that we’re standing in front of,” said Catherine Sweeney Singer, the Winter Antiques Show’s executive director, gesturing toward this year’s sumptuous loan exhibition.
Setting the tone for the fair’s golden anniversary was “A Celebration of the American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” organized by American Wing chairman Morrison H. Heckscher and its curators, Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, H. Barbara Weinberg and Beth Carver Wees among them.
As a backdrop, the curators had chosen a rich teal, a color equally reminiscent of the Met’s Wigmore Gallery, devoted to the arts of Louis C. Tiffany, and the luxurious satins of John Singleton Copley. The exhibit’s centerpiece was a 281/4-inch bronze Diana by Saint-Gaudens, a miniature version of the one that dominates the American Wing’s courtyard. The deity was the perfect mascot for the Winter Antiques Show, where the rare and beautiful have been pursued since 1955.
“The challenge of the American Wing is to show painting, sculpture and decorative arts together. That was our challenge here, as well. Mixing media is how we should be thinking about American art today,” said Heckscher, by analogy characterizing the Winter Antiques Show’s greatest accomplishment, uniting more than 30 collecting specialties into a cohesive whole.
Presiding over opening night was Honorary Chairman Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of the City of New York, and Winter Antiques Show Chairman Arie Kopelman, who during his tenure has enhanced the charity’s coffers through a variety of corporate sponsorships.
Veronica Hearst, Sherry Bronfman and Betty Sherrill mingled with Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Oprah Winfrey, who came with her designers, earned exhibitors’ praise for her wide curiosity in objects ranging from needlework to Classical furniture.
“We have more exhibitors this year, 74 in all,” said Sweeney Singer, who with Kopelman has refined and expanded the Winter Antiques Show over the past decade. Newcomers this year included Adelson Galleries, Conru Primitive Art, Dillingham & Company, Historical Design, Cora Ginsburg LLC and Richard Philp. Richard Green and Frank & Barbara Pollack, Inc, returned after an absence.
The Seventh Regiment Armory was filled with new discoveries, at least one made only hours before the Winter Antiques Show opened.
“The Wadsworth Atheneum has the copy. This is the original,” said garden sculpture dealer Barbara Israel, who had just determined the truth about her marble figure, “Eve Repentant,” by Edward Sheffield Bartholomew (1822-1858). “Nathaniel Hawthorne thought it was indecent, but this was Bartholomew’s masterpiece,” said Israel, who was asking $110,000 for the figure.
Thomas Colville unveiled a painting by Elizabeth Nourse, an expatriate contemporary of Mary Cassatt who was known for her depictions of peasant mothers and children. The canvas, “End of the Day,” was found in France and purchased by the New Haven, Conn., dealer last summer. It dates to 1888, the year that Nourse arrived in Paris from Cincinnati.
Eight versions of the Mary Cassatt print “The Bath” occupied a wall at Adelson Galleries, where a John Singer Sargent oil on panel view of Capri took center stage.
“We had to wait two years to get the second one from the same owner,” Peter Schaffer of A La Vielle Russie said of two Nineteenth Century paintings by Nicholas Gregorievitch Svetchkov of Brittany and Welsh springer spaniels.
Known for its expertise in Philadelphia’s Peale family of painters, the Schwarz Gallery assembled canvases by three Peales: Rembrandt, Charles Willson and James. The Philadelphia dealers also offered a Peto trompe l’oeil painting and “A Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks, priced $1.65 million.
Somewhat less peaceable was Jan Breughel the Younger’s “The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark,” a jewel-toned oil on panel, signed and dated 1645, that was prominently displayed by Litchfield, Conn., dealer Peter Tillou.
A monumental portrait of George Washington at Yorktown by Charles Willson Peale set the tone at Hirschl & Adler Galleries, where the largest known American breakfront bookcase attributed to Duncan Phyfe was $650,000.
The show’s most imaginative booth belonged to Elle Shushan, a Philadelphia specialist in portrait miniatures who asked New York designer Ralph Harvard to create a multisided enclosure inspired by John Nash’s Brighton Pavilion. Shushan’s American, English and Continental portraits included two by the husband and wife artists Mr and Mrs Moses B. Russell; one by Philadelphia master Rapha-elle Peale; early Twentieth Century Revival miniatures by Laura Coombs Hills and Eulabee Dix; and three miniatures of the Langdon family of South Hero, Vt., by the unrecorded artist E.S. Fairchild.
Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery celebrated the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb by offering a cache of six drawings and a prototype bulb. The manuscripts dealer also featured F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original draft for the novel At Your Age, for which the author received a record sum from a publisher.
“I have a weakness for the Queen Anne form,” said Leigh Keno, admiring in profile a pair of sinuous Philadelphia side chairs with rare volute-carved feet, $175,000. His booth also housed a Marblehead, Mass., desk inscribed with the name Benjamin Reead, the date 1771, and the case piece’s original price, ten pounds sterling. More than 200 years later, Keno was asking $380,000. A Hartford area bonnet-top highboy with pinwheel carvings was $170,000 and a New England Queen Anne black-painted tray tea table, $95,000.
“We sold three of our best pieces to new clients. That bodes well for the market,” said the New York dealer, who parted with the William Bradford painting “Sloops and Schooners at Evening Calm,” $365,000; a pair of Federal sconces, $125,000; and the tea table. To established clients Keno sold the Queen Anne chairs, a Chippendale card table and a bird carving.
On hold was Woodbury, Conn., dealer Wayne Pratt’s best piece, a Boston block front lowboy, one of less than ten known and priced in the mid-six figures.
New York dealer Guy Bush built his booth around a Bergen County, N.J., cupboard in red paint and a Connecticut Valley tiger maple Chippendale secretary desk with shell carved interior.
“It’s the only known hairy paw-foot piece made south of New York City,” Virginia dealer Sumpter Priddy III said of a rare desk, $785,000, half of a secretary thought to have been made by Peter Scott for the Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg.
“We sold a major Boston pier table and a gueridon stand, and have had serious museum interest in our Deming and Bulkeley center table,” said Carswell Rush Berlin, a New York dealer in American Federal and Classical furniture.
Associated Artists of Southport, Conn., had an excellent show, selling a variety of important pieces from a stand evenly divided between furniture by Herter Brothers of New York and Daniel Pabst of Philadelphia.
Twentieth Century American furniture included a Gustav Stickley double-door bookcase, $195,000, and Byrdcliffe blanket chest, $115,000, at Cathers & Dembrosky. Washington dealer Geoffrey Diner offered a Gustav Stickley eight-legged sideboard of 1902 and a rare, early leather-top #417 writing table, along with a Gerrit Rietveld chair.
“We’ve got the greatest English Chippendale sideboard table in the world,” said Chicago dealer Paul Franklin, pointing to the lavishly carved example, $75,000, against his back wall.
“To me, the important thing is that you can come to this show and buy,” said Fairhaven, Mass., dealer Ricky Goytizolo of Georgian Manor Antiques, pointing out an Anglo Indian calamander and marble table, $12,800, of 1840.
Chinoiserie was the order of the day at Hyde Park Antiques, where dealer Bernard Karr unveiled a George I green lacquered secretary bookcase, $480,000.
New York dealer Clinton Howell returned for his second year, offering a rare pair of marquetry and inlaid console tables, $975,000, by John Linnell; and a pair of oversized carved and upholstered Queen Anne gesso stools, $350,000, in the highest French style of the day.
“We’ve sold well across the board – big furniture, little furniture, accessories,” said Gary Young, a Centreville, Del., dealer in English furnishings who is always a bellwether for business.
European modernists included Barry Friedman, Ltd, who built his booth around a ceramic fireplace of limpid green, designed by Hector Guimard, architect of the Paris Metro, in 1897, $125,000. Other rarities included a Gerrit Rietveld “Red-Blue” chair, $225,000, of 1920; and a Leger pencil drawing of 1924, $285,000.
Historical Design showed an Italian rosewood writing table inlaid with silver and mother-of-pearl. By Eugenio Quarti, the table had been exhibited in the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.
At the Fine Arts Society, a dazzlingly inlaid Lamb of Manchester display cabinet, $150,000, complemented James Jacques Tissot’s exotic 1882 painting of the prodigal son tempted, “In Foreign Climes.”
“We’ve sold virtually everything – our Soap Hollow cupboard and clock, the chest of drawers, the dog weathervane, stoneware, our carved dog, a Pembroke table, our shore birds and a set of shelves. Sometimes this show just clicks, and it clicked for us,” Patrick Bell of Olde Hope Antiques, New Hope, Penn., reported midway through the fair. “Interest has been extremely strong. There has been some hesitancy for the past two years, but New Yorkers have been reassured by the stock market being over 10,000.”
“We could use more storage space. We’re 80 percent sold out,” noted Fred Giampietro. The New Haven, Conn., specialist in American folk art showed a race track tout, $475,000, and four mortar and stone fencepost heads dug out of a farmers’ field in Roxbury, Conn., last year, $135,000.
At David A. Schorsch, a complete nest of eight round Nantucket lightship baskets, $125,000, signed by the maker, took pride of place alongside a heart and hand carved wooden figure that the Woodbury, Conn., dealer purchased at Northeast Auction in August. An object conservator recently discovered inside the sculpture a crumbling letter stating that the piece was made in 1839 by Bella Dexter and Ezra Ames of Chelsea, Mass.
“I tried to present a really good booth,” Barbara Pollack said with modest understatement. A tour de force of American primitive portraiture and painted furniture, Pollack’s memorable stand ranged from Sheldon Peck’s oil on panel “Portrait of a Lady in a White Shawl,” $45,000, to a pair of pastel profile portraits by Ruth Henshaw Bascomb, $125,000, to a huge New England redware jar that The Magazine Antiques chose for its first color cover in 1931. The Illinois dealer’s sales included the jar, a miniature Chippendale chest, a pig trade sign and a William Matthew Prior portrait of a child in a red dress with hammer and tacks.
There were several fewer exhibitors on the floor on the first Sunday, when Patriots fans like Robert Wilkins and Wayne Pratt slipped away to catch the playoff game that will send their team to the Super Bowl.
“We’ve had a very good show,” said Suzanne Courcier, who spelled her husband for the afternoon. Courcier & Wilkins’ sales included a Shaker blanket chest in brilliant bittersweet red; a Shaker tall clock by Benjamin Youngs, $125,000; a Shaker cupboard; a painted table; rugs; and game boards.
“From a dollar standpoint, I’m up 15 percent this year,” said Donald Ellis. The Ontario dealer in Native American art sold six major pieces on opening night, including a First Phase chief’s blanket, a harpoon counterweight and an extraordinary bear mask. An 1830s Plains warrior shirt and leggings were on hold.
New York dealer Spencer Throckmorton sold a terra-cotta sculpture of a wind god, Veracruz culture, 900-1200. Conru from Belgium, the show’s other dealer in primitive art, stopped traffic with a Solomon Island crocodile inlaid with nautilus shells, $75,000.
Guthman Americana featured an embroidered Huron moose-hair pouch and moccasins; Nathaniel Bartlett’s 1755 powder horn and woven sash; an unrecorded broadside of a sonata sung for General Washington in 1789, $55,000; and a hand colored print, “The Burning of New York, 1776,” $17,500.
“We sold several really major silk embroideries,” Old Saybrook, Conn., dealer Carol Huber said midway through the fair.
“We had an active start and sold quite a few pieces on opening night,” said Titi Halle of Cora Ginsburg LLC, whose encyclopedic textile offerings ranged from an early Fifteenth Century Chinese counted-stitch embroidery to block printed cotton fabric designed by Russian painter Serge Poliakoff in 1946.
“We avoid the obvious,” said Eddy Keshishian, a London and New York dealer in antique rugs, carpets and tapestries. Signature pieces included a Swedish Modernist carpet; an English Art Deco carpet woven in Donegal, $265,000; and a rare Tabriz in an rare, pale palette from the great English country house Lutton Hoo.
“The screen is the star,” Japanese art specialist Joan Mirviss said of a late Seventeenth or early Eighteenth Century gilded six-fold example with the stamp “Inen.” Depicting the four seasons, the screen, $70,000, is unusual in its sophisticated combination of opaque and translucent pigments.
Antiquities specialist Rupert Wace of London sold a Second Century AD Roman marble head of a bearded male, $300,000, to an American museum.
“It’s very difficult to get Egyptian sculpture,” New York dealer Alan Safani said of his show-stopper, a limestone statue of a nobleman and his wife from the reign of Tutankhamun, priced in excess of million dollars.
Richard Philp, a London expert in early English and Continental works of art, offered a Thirteenth Century Sienese painting on panel of a female martyr by Segna di Bonaventura.
“The market seems to be a bit fuller at the top. Dealers have done well and the auctions were good, too” said Leigh Keno. So often a harbinger of things to come, the 2004 Winter Antiques Show was an upbeat start to the new year.
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