A one-day antiques show certainly concentrates the minds of both exhibitors and show patrons †and the Wilton Historical Society’s 41st annual antiques show, conducted on March 30, may be that concept’s best exemplar. A steady stream of sophisticated, knowledgeable buyers wound through the Wilton High School Field House on Sunday, and they did not have the luxury of time to ponder a potential purchase from any of the show’s 70 top-shelf dealers. The clock was ticking, and everyone was aware of the 5 pm deadline.
It was not always this way. For three decades, show manager Marilyn Gould was able to secure the school facility for three days. School officials would schedule an in-service day (translation: school’s out) on Friday, allowing dealers to pack in and set up in the field house so that they could have both Saturday and Sunday for selling. With demand for school activities at the facility growing, however, and shifting show schedules, the school was unable to continue making those Fridays available, so Gould has had to play it as it lays.
That has not diminished the show’s popularity nor its dynamics. Early on Sunday morning, two gentlemen from Ann Arbor, Mich., Steven Stout and Robert Strauss, were waiting patiently but eagerly at the show entrance, having flown in on Friday just so that they could attend the show. Domestic arts diva Martha Stewart was also among the show’s early buying crowd. She made a purchase at Florham Park, N.J., dealer A Bird in Hand, much to the delight of smiling dealers Ron and Joyce Bassin.
“I was so pleased with the look and the balance. The weather was good and so were the move-in and pack-out,” said Gould.
Some dealers, too, were encouraged by the upbeat disposition of the show. “Our regular clients and collectors showed up in droves and bought strongly,” said Victor Weinblatt, folk art specialist from South Hadley, Mass. “We also added several new, young, affluent customers to our regular roster.”
Weinblatt’s stand is a veritable folk art boutique of superb forms and surfaces. A classic circa 1880 rooster weathervane stood sentry over such furniture gems as a green mid-Nineteenth Century New England tap table with a cross-stretcher and scrubbed top, game boards, dioramas and general store signs.
After the show, Weinblatt toted up an impressive number of sales: in paint, a circa 1840 apothecary with asymmetrical drawers and three bins; a graphic and quirky chest with scalloped apron and two lateral doors in Prussian blue; the earliest square nailed “Photography Rooms” vertical trade sign; a tall apple green bench with scrub top; a set of hanging shelves in robin’s-egg blue; an early hand planed, initialed child’s sled in deep red; a blue and pumpkin carved mid-Nineteenth Century checkerboard; a Tripoli game board with painted hearts; a Roy Mill P.E.I. goose decoy; an oversize lemon gold mirror; a mid-Nineteenth Century weaver’s skarn and a slew of smalls.
“I don’t like one-day shows as a rule, but this one continually seems to produce for me,” observed Bob Baker of Poverty Hollow Enterprises, Stamford, Conn. “I sold well across the board †three large 1920s cast stone pieces, a small 1880s side table, two 1900s small paintings, a set of eight 1930s majolica dishes, a pair of 1880s Staffordshire goats with royal children, several mirrors and an assortment of smalls, such as books, bookends, glass pieces, silver trays, lamps and other small silver items.”
A large pair of Eighteenth Century Italian putti were charming showgoers at Lucinda and Michael Seward, Pittsford, Vt. “What I like about them is their folkiness,” said Lucinda Seward, speculating that the pair may have come out of a chapel. A late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century hutch table was also getting scrutiny, and the Sewards also showed three relief carved panels, probably American pine. They sold the hutch table in the front of the booth, a one-drawer stand and “lots of smalls.”
Fine art was to be found at several dealer locations, including the Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., which trained a spotlight on an Edward F. Rook (1870‱960) 40-by-50-inch oil on canvas of “Snow, Ice & Foam (The Bradbury Mill).” “It’s the artist’s most popular motif,” said the gallery’s Joe Newman, “but from a different angle. It’s easily the greatest we’ve ever seen by him.”
Quester Gallery of Rowayton, Conn., brought a great selection of its marine art and antiques, including an atmospheric depiction of “Yachts Racing off New York Harbor” by Edward Moran (1829‱901), capturing the action of the 1876 regatta. The 23¼-by-37-inch oil on canvas was signed and dated 1876 lower left and priced at $390,000. “I have always enjoyed the Wilton shows and will continue to have interest in participation,” said gallery partner Michael Florio. “I would love to see a two-day show format again.”
The parade of fine art continued at dealers like Jaffe & Thurston, Wawarsing, N.Y., Frederic I. Thaler, Cornwall Bridge, Conn., and Cohasset, Mass., dealer Shelley Brown and James Puzinas of Blue Heron Fine Art. Showcased there was a wonderful pastoral scene with cows, “Maple in all it’s Glory,” an oil on canvas board by American painter Charles Gruppe (1860‱940) measuring 12 by 16 inches. The dealers, who sold a painting to a new client, said, “As always, we meet many new people who are engaging and we hope to sell to in the future.”
“Rare” is a workhorse word for in this industry, but it really gets a workout at Leatherwood Antiques. Sandwich, Mass., dealers Mo Wasjelfish and Johnny Young fill their space with an eclectic grouping of items ranging from English armorial shields from the late Nineteenth Century to sailors’ valentines and woolies to Black Forest carvings. One exceptional and, in a word, “rare” item offered was a cane and umbrella stand in the form of a majestic eagle standing on a tree stump, a work of meticulous carving from the eagle’s beak to the realistically rendered mushrooms and roots. A carved rabbit clock from Switzerland, late Nineteenth Century, was also a rarity, according to Wasjelfish. “You see lots of stags, never a rabbit,” said the dealer.
Robesonia, Penn., dealer Greg K. Kramer’s display took up about a third of the gym’s left rear wall, and with good reason. As usual, he filled it easily with his collection of Americana, folk art, quirky period and painted furniture, architectural pieces and decorative arts items. Kramer’s son Eric was, as usual, on hand to assist customers, but Kramer enlisted his other son, Jason, as well to help field questions at the busy booth. Clearly the zaniest item on display was a rare trade sign that was an oversize figure of a Betty lamp of handwrought iron including the pick and chain. Found in northern Pennsylvania and from the early to mid-Nineteenth Century, the sign probably once adorned a blacksmith or lampmaker’s shop and was priced at $28,500.
A nice piece of furniture was a Pennsylvania bent arrow back settee, circa 1840‶0, with tole pattern decoration of florals and fruits in original paint.
A Pennsylvania community quilt, circa 1879, featuring the initials of the people who worked on it and folky birds in the corners was front and center at the booth of Mike Newsom and Betty Berdan of Thomasville, Penn. It hung behind a diamond point New England blanket chest from New York State, circa 1800, whose “condition is very nice,” according to Newsom. A circa 1800‱810 cherry and figured maple card table that Newsom guessed was out of the Springfield, Mass., area had rare carved legs.
Maile Allen, the antique maps and prints specialist from Colonia, N.J., came to the show armed not only with her inventory of Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century maps, botanical and natural history prints, but with some news as well. She is now setting up space at a consignment shop, The Decorator’s Secret, in Stamford, Conn., which she will stock with some of her floral prints, Chippendale and sets of English country maps. Recent motherhood seems not to have slowed her down at all.
Promoting their new design service, Antiques By Design, Ellen Vlasak and Vickie Conklin set up a minidisplay in the booth of Axtell-Vlasak Antiques, Deposit, N.Y. The women help people design their home interiors with antiques. An Eighteenth Century spoon rack in original red paint featuring a bombe lid, two open heart cutouts and a casselated top, circa 1780, was one of the highlights in the booth. Also noted was a pilot house eagle, circa 1860, with a 52-inch wingspan that had a Kingston, N.Y., origin.
“The chairs are quite common, but you rarely see something like this,” commented Stephen Corrigan about the mid-Nineteenth Century settle bed from Quebec that he had bought at auction from an estate. The robin’s-egg blue bench, like much French Canadian country furniture, was simply made, but Corrigan pointed out that the back rail was more expressively formed than most hired man’s beds.
Stating that they are they are “the rarest Whieldon plates I’ve ever seen,” ceramics specialist Rufus Foshee, Camden, Maine, was understandably ginger when pulling one of the very rare creamware plates with colored glazes out of the showcase so he could better show the acanthus border and leaves in yellow, green and brown. Both plates were in mint condition, a hallmark of Foshee’s collection. The dealer said he eschews making house calls these days and prefers acquiring collections at auction. Also adding a springlike hue amid the equally colorful spatterware and mocha pieces were five children’s cups, all English yellow glaze and marked with motifs like “Take Care While Riding a Goat,” a boy and his dog, a cow, “A Recruiting Party” and “A Shave A Penny.”
J.B. Richardson, who likes to edit Americana down to its purest form for his display, showed a great Nineteenth Century portrait of “Tibby” the cat, artist unknown, in its original frame, along with a late Nineteenth Century hooked rug in soft muted colors with eagle, horses and florals and an unusual hollow horse weathervane crafted of zinc rather than copper and set upon a slightly folky but elegant arrow.
A Dutch porringer, made in Delft, circa 1710, was among the rarities shown by delftware, folk art and weathervane dealer Autumn Pond. The Bolton, Conn., dealer also showed a small lobed delft William and Mary charger, circa 1690, and a set of four framed Dutch tiles, circa 1600‱630. Key weathervanes on view included a Fiske, N.Y., horse and sulky, circa 1890, and a copper crowing rooster, probably from France, circa 1890.
As previously reported, the Wilton Summer Antiques Show, a benefit for the Wilton Kiwanis Club generally conducted in June, remains on hiatus this year. The Wilton Holiday Antiques Show is set for Sunday, December 7. For information, 203-762-7257 or www.wiltonhistorical.org .