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Oct 16-23, 2018
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Oct 24-24, 2018
Published: November 18, 2014
By: Laura Beach
WILMINGTON, DEL. — Brock W. Jobe, Winterthur’s professor of American decorative arts, is the essence of tact. He was probably speaking off the cuff when he told us, in so many words, that he loves the unabashed traditionalism of the Delaware Antiques Show. We agree.
To attract the young and amuse the hip, many of the great old-line shows have moved away from American fine and decorative arts — and from antiquarian values. There is a place for the new and nearly so, but not here. At the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington November 7–9, the 51-year-old expo benefiting educational programming at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is a place where American taste and collecting values, the kind championed by Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont, reign.
Manager Diana Bittel is a pro’s pro when it comes to charity shows. She works hand in glove with the dedicated, efficient committee. The Delaware Antiques Show consequently runs like a fair of yore, complete with much-appreciated courtesies to the show’s 62 exhibitors. Just off I-95, the spacious Chase Center is easy to reach with ample parking. Set up and pack out are a breeze. The facility is not unionized. New this year, the adjacent Westin hotel was a hit with dealers and their customers. And did we mention that Delaware does not charge sales tax?
“The gate was up 21 percent through Saturday and the revenue was up 41 percent,” Bittel told Antiques and The Weekly. A well-attended preview party on Thursday, November 6, drew prominent collectors, among them Marjorie McGraw and other members of Winterthur’s Henry Francis du Pont Collector’s Circle. They bought on the floor.
Bucking the broader tide, American furniture was a best seller.
“Wilmington has replaced Philadelphia,” opined Newbury, Mass., furniture expert Peter Eaton, noting strong interest in Federal examples, from sideboards and card tables to secretaries and tall-post beds.
Bittel, who sold an inlaid double-door desk and bookcase and a child’s desk, had a buyer from Tennessee come to her in search of Bermuda furniture, one of her specialties.
The show was, in fact, a magnet for Southern buyers and objects. Alexandria, Va., dealer Sumpter Priddy offered a showstopper, a chest of drawers by the eccentric West Virginia cabinetmaker John Shearer. Dated 1809 and inscribed with the name of its owner, Salome Kramer, the lavishly inlaid chest closely resembles one in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg. A second inlaid Shearer chest was for sale at Christopher Jones, also from Alexandria, Va., while Pennsylvania dealer Christopher Rebollo featured a carved and inlaid walnut corner cupboard, circa 1820–1830, attributed to John Swisegood of Davidson County, N.C. A large and luscious pastel portrait of a Georgia child, Edward Sterling, with his dog, circa 1845, was an early sale at Joan Brownstein, Newbury, Mass.
Bittel added six exhibitors this year, among them Bernard & S. Dean Levy. Manhattan dealer Frank Levy, who is joining the Winter Antiques Show in 2015, said Delaware was good for buying and selling: “We bought two important pieces off the floor and sold five pieces of furniture, including a Salem, Mass., bed; a North Shore, Mass., sideboard; our Tinges clock and a Philadelphia Chippendale chair that is a mate to one at Winterthur. We also sold a painting and a painted chest. All but one of the five furniture sales were to new clients.”
On preview night, Quakertown, Penn., conservator Alan Miller was seen examining a Philadelphia Chippendale carved mahogany dressing table shortly before it sold at Gary Sullivan Antiques. “I’m thrilled,” said Sullivan, also new to the show. The Massachusetts dealer sold eight pieces of furniture, including three tall clocks, and bought a gutsy Salem Sheraton card table.
Said Sullivan, “This was the most scholarly crowd I’ve ever dealt with at a show. Everyone who came through on preview night knew what he was looking at. This is the show for Americana, something that’s pretty widely acknowledged now, and it has a more formal flavor. I only do one show a year. From now on, this is it.”
John Chaski’s debut appearance was likewise a success. “I sold about 25 items, including an important William and Mary chest of drawers, Mocha pottery, about a dozen pieces of delft and Chinese Export porcelain, and some paintings. The crowd was fantastic. There were serious buyers on the floor in quantity all three days,” said the Camden, Del., dealer.
Naturally, the Delaware Show is an important source for the arts of Pennsylvania and many of the industry’s heavyweights take part. Practically local, H.P. Chalfant of West Chester, Penn., sold eight pieces of finished furniture, including a bonnet-top desk and bookcase on ball feet, an English example made of American walnut.
Exhibiting at the Winter Antiques Show for the first time in January, New Oxford, Penn., dealer Kelly Kinzle wrote up a Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel horse in dry, old paint; a chest on chest; and a paint decorated dower chest.
Robesonia, Penn., dealer Greg Kramer, who displayed a rare Mahantango Valley paint decorated hanging cupboard above a dated 1776 Berks County, Penn., blanket chest decorated by the Black Unicorn artist, said he sold “three pieces of furniture, lots of smalls, redware, two wonderful miniature furniture forms and had lots of interest on other items — even after the show.”
Olde Hope’s arresting presentation juxtaposed a Goddess of Liberty weathervane attributed to Cushing & White with the “Liberty 1855” album quilt inscribed for Robert L. McDonald of Maryland. The New Hope, Penn., dealers got off to a good start, selling a painted stepback cupboard, a horse and rider weathervane and accessories.
“The gate was up and it made a difference in overall sales. There was more energy and more furniture leaving the floor,” said Olde Hope’s Ed Hild.
Needlework authorities Stephen and Carol Huber chalked up sales of samplers from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, a schoolgirl watercolor from Vermont and three silk embroideries. One of the rarest was a mid-Eighteenth Century piece from the Marsh school in Philadelphia.
“All our sales except one were to people who came to the show from out of the area,” said Steve Huber.
Philadelphia dealer M. Finkel & Daughter attracted notice with a Horsham, Penn., sampler by Hannah Jarrett, dated 1798, that descended in the family of Edward Hicks.
“One of the best textiles I’ve ever owned. The colors are extraordinary,” Butch Berdan said of a black blanket embroidered with colorful flowers in 1826 by Susanna Thompson Winfield for Chloe R. Gidings.
Stephen-Douglas Antiques hung a recently rediscovered stenciled bedcovering from New York State. The piece, Stephen Corrigan noted, is illustrated in The Flowering of American Folk Art.
Paintings exhibitors are carefully selected for the venue, with an emphasis on regional interests. Occupying a booth by the entrance, John Schoonover featured illustration art by his grandfather, Frank Schoonover, and other members of the Brandywine School. There was more Brandywine painting at Somerville Manning Gallery of Greenville, Del.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts graduate Tim Dixon and his partner, Audrey Hall, sold five paintings, among them two Nineteenth Century landscapes, two Impressionist works and one contemporary piece. Schwarz Gallery of Philadelphia wrote up “Mountain Landscape,” a Hudson River School view by James Morgan Lewin. Elle Shushan, the Philadelphia-based specialist in portrait miniatures, parted with James Peale’s signed and dated 1790 likeness of Edward Duffield II.
Circa 1828, a striking primitive watercolor portrait of a woman by Ruth Shute was on hold at Stephen Score Inc, which also featured watercolor portraits of a lady and gentleman of the Orr family, about 1830, by Ruth’s husband, Samuel.
A pair of beaded Iroquois moccasins, possibly wedding slippers and circa 1860–70, and a finely woven Aleutian hat band or belt, were at attractions at Marcy Burns American Indian Arts. The New York dealer said she sold across the board — Navajo textiles, Pueblo pottery, baskets and silver.
“We had a great show — sold 25 things, most notably a Pennsylvania jelly cupboard in original yellow paint, a set of six flying ducks by Roy Conklin and two watercolors by Joseph White,” said Ron Bassin of A Bird In Hand.
Whimsy succeeded for garden ornaments specialist Barbara Israel, who sold figures of squirrels, penguins, carp, terriers, a cat, a puppy, a beehive and an owl.
The traditional nature of the Delaware Antiques Show favored silver dealers Jonathan Trace and Spencer-Marks. Massachusetts dealer Mark McHugh was happy to report that he and his partner, Spencer Gordon, marked up two punchbowls, one a magnificent example by William Forbes for Ball, Black & Co., New York, circa 1852–1862; a massive pair of Matthew Boulton candelabra, Birmingham, circa 1810; and a Krider & Biddle of Philadelphia salad bowl, circa 1870, with figural lobster handles.
Said McHugh, “The retail crowd on the weekend was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and having a great time. People were definitely buying silver to spruce up the dining room and entertain for the holidays.”
The 2015 Delaware Antiques Show is planned for November 6–8. Save the date.
For additional information, www.winterthur.org or 800-448-3883
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