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The Winter Antiques Show 2014

Lita Solis-Cohen | January 24th, 2014

Library table and two chairs, Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, New York City, 1891-93, made of primavera (similar to satinwood) and American ash with elaborate floral carving, varicolored wood, and metal micromosiac inlay; the chairs have glass ball and brass claw feet; $1,330,000 from Associated Artists. David Parker believes Samuel Colman was responsible for the suite’s exquisite patterning, but Tiffany’s hand is evident in the reeded back spindles and tapered legs and the glass ball and brass claw feet of the chairs. A pair of bergeres at the Metropolitan Museum of Art have the same densely carved pattern on the crest rails. The micromosiac marquetry, made of thousands of squares of natural wood of different colors, a 16th of an inch in size, and each square surrounded by minute pieces of metal, was inspired by Indian woodwork mosaics of Bombay, imported by Colman and Tiffany’s partner Lockwood de Forest.

This Admiral George Dewey trade figure is similar to another made by Samuel A. Robb that is pictured in a 1911 photograph in Frederick Fried’s Artists in Wood. Before 1960 the figure lost its legs and was then mounted as if it were a ship’s figurehead. New York City dealer Helena Penrose sold it in 1960 to the Atwater Kent Museum in Philadelphia for $3300. In 2007 the Atwater Kent, now the Philadelphia History Museum, deaccessioned the Dewey figure with a group of figures that did not have a Philadelphia provenance. David Schorsch bought it at Christie’s. He asked Pennsylvania conservator Alan Andersen to restore the figure. Patches and repairs were done, and the lower 27" of the legs were carved based on the 1911 photograph of the nearly identical Dewey. Only ten of the naval buttons remained, so another 12 matching period buttons were found and put in the original holes. A period naval sword was added. It was $175,000 from David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles of Woodbury, Connecticut.

Glass Past, New York City, offered Italian glass by Carlo Scarpa for the Venini Company, priced at $9500 to $45,000. From left: the first two pieces are battuto (beaten glass), circa 1940; the next two are examples of bugne (bumps), 1936, and the next two are corroso (corroded glass). Five of the six sold. “One out of every two people who came into the stand said they had seen the Scarpa show at the Met,” said Sara Blumberg. 

Carswell Rush Berlin, New York City, had this Duncan Phyfe bed carved with four eagle beaks similar to those on Phyfe card tables. It was $110,000. The pier table behind it was made in New York by a French craftsman, a contemporary of Lannuier. The sinumbra lamp was $13,000; the pair of rhyton lamps, $22,500. The pier mirror, Salem or Boston, was $38,000. The upholstered chairs are similar to a set of ten labeled by Richard Parkin. The New York City bookcase was $150,000.

Elle Shushan of Philadelphia re-created a section of the Père Lachaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the city of Paris and the first garden cemetery. It opened in 1804 and has some Egyptian Revival architecture made popular by Napoleon’s exploits in Egypt. Napoleon hired a miniaturist to redesign it, according to Shushan. Italian artists made drawings of Egyptian Revival designs for it that still exist and were the inspiration for Ralph Harvard,  who designed the booth. It won the prize for best booth design as voted by the dealers and a second first prize for best overall design as voted by showgoers, who were polled as they left the show.

Moderne Gallery, Philadelphia, offered a Minguren I table with a crosscut top for $60,000 and two lounge chairs for $26,000 the pair. The chair and ottoman were by David Ebner and $48,000. The Nakashima sliding-door cabinet with a top cabinet was $40,000. The pottery was by Estelle Halper, 1960, priced from $500 to $8500. The “Potato Chip” bowl by James Prestini, circa 1950, was $12,500. Prestini taught at the New Bauhaus School of Design in Illinois.

Nathan Liverant and Son offered this Queen Anne walnut dressing table that belonged to patriot James Otis (1725-1783), Boston or North Shore, Massachusetts, for $85,000. The pair of pastel portrait silhouettes, 15 3/8" x 11 3/8", of the Hubbard sisters of Ashby, Massachusetts, by Ruth Henshaw Bascom (1772-1848), sold.

Racetrack tout trade figure, attributed to Charles Dowler, Providence, Rhode Island, 1880’s, carved and painted wood, from the Andy Williams collection, $575,000 from Jeffrey and Peter Tillou of Tillou Gallery, Litchfield, Connecticut.

New York City

For 60 years collectors, curators, and students of American decorative arts have made the last weeks of January the focus of a hunt in New York City. The competition begins at the Winter Antiques Show in the drill room of the Park Avenue Armory, which is transformed into an elegant bazaar.

Over the years those who raised the banner for Americana at this show have competed for attention with champions of antiquities and Asian, English, Continental, and modern works of art. Only a small band of survivors specializing in American 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century furniture, maps, prints, paintings, and accessories from the Colonial times through the Classical taste, Aesthetic Movement, and folk art remain at the show. Their influence, however, is considerable. Because of them, the New York auction houses schedule their major Americana sales to coincide with the opening of the Winter Antiques Show. The first people in line at 4:30 p.m. for the 5 p.m. opening are collectors of Americana.

For the landmark occasion of the 60th consecutive show, January 24-February 2, Jay Cantor prepared an American decorative arts time line for the show catalog of “Defining Moments: 100 People, Places, Publications, and Events in American Decorative Arts.” The loan exhibition traditionally showcases an institution that celebrates American arts and history. This year it was the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the oldest continuously operating museum in the U.S.; it was founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society.

The Winter Show celebrated its Diamond Jubilee with a redesign and a display of diamonds in the center court. Queen Victorian’s tiara and Bulgari, Tiffany, Graff, and Chanel diamonds were in special cases. Dealers marked 60 years of fundraising for the East Side House Settlement, now in the South Bronx, and 20 years of service for show director Catherine Sweeney Singer and show chairman Arie Kopelman, a hardworking duo, by offering some extraordinary works of art.

David Parker of Associated Artists, LLC, Southport, Connecticut, offered a Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company library table and two chairs, made of a light wood called primavera and American ash with elaborate floral carving and exquisite micromosiac marquetry made of tiny strips of varicolored wood and brass. The chairs have glass ball and brass claw feet. The table and chairs were a discovery, not known until they turned up at a Midwest auction. Parker said they express a uniquely American taste that embraces the exotic sensibilities of the Far and Near East, the arts of antiquity, and nature. Museums should have lined up to buy them. The asking price was $1,330,000.

There was museum-quality American Classical furniture for sale at the show. Stuart Feld of Hirschl & Adler offered a marble-top table with a Charles-Honoré Lannuier label, one of two known. It was made for Nathaniel Prime, the first director of the New York Stock Exchange. The cylinder mahogany and satinwood secretary at Hirschl & Adler was made at the Duncan Phyfe shop and so was the ebonized chair pulled up to it. The pair of card tables with gilt stenciling came from the Baltimore workshop of John and Hugh Finlay. The paintings, lamps, glass, porcelain, and accessories on this stand are too numerous to list; they create a special kind of perfection known as the “Hirschl & Adler style.”

There seemed to be more American 18th- and early 19th-century portraits at the show this year than in years past. Half a dozen were by members of the Peale family of Philadelphia. Portraits by James, Raphaelle, and Rembrandt Peale and Charles Peale Polk were offered by Alexander Gallery, Christopher T. Rebollo, Schwarz Gallery, and Tillou Gallery; Hirschl and Adler had a Gilbert Stuart and so did Alexander Gallery.

A dozen memorable portraits by limners who worked in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts were on half a dozen different stands. Elliott and Grace Snyder, David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles, Olde Hope Antiques, Joan R. Brownstein, Frank and Barbara Pollack, Nathan Liverant and Son, and Tillou Gallery all offered portraits. Artists included Ammi Phillips, John Brewster, Asahel Lynde Powers, Erastus Salisbury Field, Ruth Henshaw Bascom, the Shutes, several Prior school painters, and the elusive A. Ellis. A dozen of these folk portraits sold.

The large marble bust of Roley (Roderick) McIntosh (1837-1868), a Creek Indian chief (his mother was a Creek, his father a Scot living in Georgia), by the German sculptor Ferdinand Pettrich stopped showgoers in their tracks at Gerald Peters’s stand. Alice Levy Duncan, the sculpture specialist at Peters, called it Pettrich’s masterpiece and asked $2.5 million for it. Most of Pettrich’s Indian portraits are in the Vatican Museums, and three are in the Dresden State Art Collections in Germany. These two collections were brought together for an exhibition at the Albertinum in Dresden from October 6, 2013, to March 2.

Born in Dresden, Pettrich studied with his father and with Bertel Thorvaldsen in Rome and spent seven years in Washington, D.C., at the time land treaties between the native tribes and the U.S. government brought Indian chiefs to Washington. The artist created portraits in plaster and painted them in a terra-cotta tone. In all, there are 16 busts, four low reliefs, four life-size statues, and nine models for intended works. After he returned to Europe in 1857 he presented a group of them to Pope Pius IX in return for a generous stipend. The life-size marble of McIntosh was carved in Brazil from a plaster study and drawings Pettrich had made in Washington. He exhibited this piece and the plasters in London in 1857 on his way back to Rome. Pettrich’s Tecumseh,now at the Smithsonian, was also carved in Brazil; it went to an American patron after the London exhibition.

New research often surfaces at the Winter Show. Carswell Rush Berlin offered a pair of carved walnut dining chairs, 1833-40, by Richard Parkin, active from 1819 to 1860 in Philadelphia. They are related to a set of chairs in the collection of the Landis Valley Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a label reading “Richard Parkin/ Cabinet-Maker/ Egyptian Hall/ 134 South Second Street/ Philadelphia.” Berlin has been able to identify furniture by Parkin in several museum collections. David Schorsch had a Philadelphia fraktur, a large bookplate from a Bible, roughly 12" x 9", made for John Bertsch by Sebastian Hinderle. Philadelphia fraktur is rare, and the artist was not previously known.

When Charles Keates, a young Philadelphia collector, walked into Arader Galleries’ booth on Sunday afternoon, he found a map he had always wanted to own. He spotted the James and Lewis Evans Alexander map of New Jersey and New York City, one of the earliest cartographic engravings and the first map of New Jersey published in the British Colonies, at the back of the stand, hung low down on a wall below larger maps. “I had no idea it would be for sale at the show,” he said and took it home.

Collectors bought maps, prints, paintings, pottery, needlework, brass, silver, jewelry, Chinese export porcelain, and folk art. Most noteworthy were the Berks County painted dower chest from the renowned Austin Fine collection sold by Olde Hope Antiques and the portrait of Albert G. Gilman attributed to A. Ellis that was sold by Tillou Gallery. Only 15 works by Ellis are known, and most are in museum collections. This one had been in Peter Tillou’s personal collection for decades.

Allan Katz, showing for the second year, sold a dozen pieces of sculptural folk art—a shooting target, trade figures, weathervanes, and more.

Lori Cohen at Arader Galleries sold 15 maps, botanicals, and a portrait of American Indians. Cohen & Cohen, English dealers in Chinese export porcelain, reported a good show, and some dealers in English furniture had good sales, but not a lot of American furniture sold. 

Some great rarities, of the highest quality and much praised during the show, are still available. The quillwork sconce with the brass candle arm offered by Stephen and Carol Huber was $255,000. The painting of the Berks County Alms House by Charles Hofman, one of the residents, was offered by C.L. Prickett. It is one of three almshouse paintings with  a “taffy” oval inside border, and the only one in private hands. It was $850,000.

The pair of Asahel Powers’s paintings on wood of Jesse and Sally Stedman was $585,000 from Olde Hope Antiques. The artist painted them in Chester, Vermont, and wrote the sitters’ names, ages, and the date, 1833, on the back of each panel. The large double portrait of the Ten Broeck twins, Jacob and William, by Ammi Phillips is from the artist’s so-called Kent period when he used dark backgrounds to set off faces. David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles asked $2.5 million for this monumental Phillips painting from the Andy Williams collection.

Some said the $30 million spent at auctions, especially $13 million spent at the Esmerian sale at Sotheby’s, put a big dent in the pocketbooks of those who might have spent more at the show. Barbara Pollack, who has exhibited for 20 years, thinks the excitement and success of the Esmerian sale opened the eyes of new collectors and young people. There was a spurt of sales at the show in the days following the auction. Several Americana dealers said they had a good show.

The pictures and captions show mostly Americana that was offered and some that sold.

The Winter Antiques Show lasts for ten days; it takes that long to see it all and engage in meaningful conversations with the dealers. One could spend a whole day with paintings, another day with jewelry, another with antiquities and pre-Columbian and Asian, and another on 20th-century design. There are lectures to attend, and lunch is available at the show. On the last Friday evening 30 dealers gave talks in their stands, and there was a wine-tasting in the center court—education and wine all for the $25 ticket. The Winter Show is like no other.

Seventy-nine dealers brought the best they could find and arranged it as cleverly as possible. Awards were given for booth designs. Red ribbons were pinned on  Elle Shushan’s stand. Inspired by Egyptian Revival drawings for Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, she asked New York designer Ralph Harvard to design a mausoleum incorporating a weeping willow and hung her portrait miniatures on drawings of tombs. Robert Young offered English and Continental folk art in style and also won a red ribbon for design. Another ribbon was given to New York City dealer Maison Gerard, which reconstructed an exceptional Art Deco lacquered octagonal room designed by Jean Dunand, circa 1928, as a breakfast room for the penthouse apartment of Mr. Templeton Crocker in San Francisco.

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Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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