Peter Eaton of Newbury, Massachusetts, asked $28,500 for this Federal clock from central or western Massachusetts, 1810-15. It is 96" tall and all original except the finials; it has an old surface. The seven-drawer cherrywood Connecticut River Valley tall chest with cove-molded top was $14,500.
Steven Still of Manheim, Pennsylvania, offered this Massachusetts serpentine mahogany chest of drawers for $57,000. The landscape painting over it of Berkley Common, Massachusetts, was $45,000. On the chest is a rare 1776 Revolutionary War diary of Thomas Contee (1729-1811), a wealthy tobacco merchant in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and a member of the Maryland legislature and militia. He attended the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The diary tells of his meeting with John Hancock and George Washington, the retreat of troops from New York, the siege of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and the morale of the Maryland troops. It was $29,500.
Jeff and Holly Noordsy of Cornwall, Vermont, asked $9800 for the chestnut bottles; the fireboard was $28,500, and the overmantel, $24,500.
Mark and Marjorie Allen of Gilford, New Hampshire, asked $35,000 for this Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, schrank, circa 1760. The Pennsylvania walnut farm table, circa 1740, with restored drawer, 58½" x 35", was $22,500; the backed pine bench, circa 1850, New Mexico, 35½" high x 66" long, was $2250 and sold; the drop-leaf walnut table, circa 1750, was $8000; the four fan-back Windsor chairs, also from Boston, were $8000. Mark Allen said it was his best show in ten years. He sold across the board including top-end ceramics and more reasonable iron and brass. “It was a miraculous show for us. For us business is on an uptick.”
Marcy Burns American Indian Arts, New York City, asked $12,500 for the 1800’s Germantown eyedazzler (left) and $8500 for the Germantown eyedazzler next to it. The pots under them (left to right) were made in Acoma, circa 1900, $4800; San Ildefonso, $6900; Acoma, $4200; and Zuni, $6500.
Jeff Bridgman of York County, Pennsylvania, offered this 13-star flag, dated 1865, all hand-sewn, the stars arranged in a tombstone pattern, for $85,000. “It is the best flag of this design I have ever had,” said Bridgman. It hangs over a Schoharie Valley chest, 1820-30, for $35,000.
Joseph Gromacki of Chicago, a lawyer and collector who spends weekends at his 1700’s Massachusetts saltbox house that was moved by former owners to farmland 30 miles north of Milwaukee, spoke at the Saturday morning round-table. He said that he furnished his house with a collection of pre-1750 furniture, ceramics, and textiles, from both New England and Pennsylvania. His ceramics collection is based on shards excavated at historic sites, and it includes, in addition to early English ceramics, wares imported to America from Portugal, Italy, and Holland. He owns one of the tiny Bartlam bowls and recently found a saucer. He said his advisor for furniture is Luke Beckerdite; for ceramics, Robert Hunter; and for textiles, Titi Halle of Cora Ginsburg.
Dr. Chalmers “Chum” Cornelius (left) with his good friend Peter Tillou at the Antiques Dealers’ Association of America (ADA) dinner where Peter Tillou received the Award of Merit. Cornelius spoke of Peter’s generosity. Jim Kilvington, master of ceremonies, spoke of their mutual friend, the late Charles Sterling, who introduced them, calling himself, Sterling, and Tillou kindred spirits “with an educated eye.” Dana Tillou, Peter’s younger brother, spoke of their childhood in Buffalo where Peter began collecting coins at age eight, encouraged by their artist mother. At Ohio Wesleyan University, where he went on a golf scholarship, Peter would sneak off to auctions at Garth’s. Calling his brother a scholar, collector, and dealer who hates to sell, Dana told how Peter put together significant collections of American folk paintings for Andy Williams, Dutch still lifes for Teresa Heinz, and paintings, books, shells, coins, firearms, swords, stamps, glass, Roman bronzes, African art, Australian art, and more for himself.
Peter Tillou also championed folk artist Winfred Rembert, whose medium is dyed, tooled leather and whose pictures tell the story of his life in the South and the civil rights movement. Winfred Rembert spoke at the dinner and sang spirituals. He called Peter Tillou his guardian angel and told how he once did not know where his next meal was coming from and how the show Peter arranged at Warren Adelson’s Gallery changed his life and made it better. Peter Tillou was the 13th recipient of the ADA Award of Merit.
This French Napoleonic prisoner-of-war work, a polychrome ivory, bone, and straw work marquetry two-tier multi-figure spinning jenny, dated 1809, made by Etienne Vongurt, was $59,000 from Hyland Granby Antiques, Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Todd Prickett (left) of C.L. Prickett, Yardley, Pennsylvania, shows a Minneapolis collector a cherrywood bonnet-top chest-on-chest, 90" x 40" x 19½", finial and brasses replaced. It was $125,000.
It seems strange that collectors who spend so many lonely hours on the Internet checking dealers’ postings, searching auction catalogs, e-mailing, texting, and Tweeting do not go to antiques shows to carefully examine objects of desire. At a show, they could engage in conversation and good fellowship and get a personal tutorial on the fine points of connoisseurship from passionate dealers who have plunked down hard cash to buy something of merit. Are the patterns of modern living so packed with events that attendance at antiques shows cannot fit into normal schedules?
Take, for example, the venerable Philadelphia Antiques Show, held April 12 through 15 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where it moved to a year ago. The show was not very well attended this year. It is not that the hall is so large that crowds get absorbed. Dealers noticed that many regular buyers, including members of the Folk Art Society of America (which got the ADA Award of Merit last year), were missing, and there were not a lot of new faces. That is not to say no business was done. Sales were made—a few dealers said they had their best shows ever in Philadelphia—but buying was not brisk for most of them.
The dealers say that they have become used to the new venue, but collectors, many of whom used to spend freely, complained about expensive parking and inconvenient weekend train schedules, and reminisced about the old venue where there was free valet parking for the preview and $10 valet parking the following days.
After a failed attempt last year at rebranding it as a lifestyle show with decorator booths, and casting aside the historic Rittenhouse orrery logo in favor of a key with tassel (nowhere to be seen this year), the show returned to its traditional ways, celebrating a collecting category with a loan show of Philadelphia pewter. The loan shows are designed to attract the general public and generate preshow publicity. The shows have alternated between a Philadelphia institution and a collecting specialty. Last year the loan show was the lavishly installed collection of the Pennsylvania Hospital. Next year it will be Historic Deerfield. (Let’s hope Deerfield brings things that were made in Philadelphia that the Flynts had collected. The loan show is supposed to generate tourist trade for Philadelphia, not encourage Philadelphians to go to New England! Perhaps the choice of Deerfield is an attempt to make the Philadelphia show a national show again, not just a regional one, and to encourage New England dealers to participate.) Why did they not choose the new Philadelphia History Museum, which fills the old Atwater Kent building? It has a deep collection and could use the publicity of a loan show.
Fifteen dealers, some of whom had exhibited at the Philadelphia show for years, dropped out for a variety of reasons, two because of injuries, and were replaced with half a dozen art dealers with first-rate paintings and sculpture. The show seemed like a marriage of the Philadelphia Antiques Show with the now-defunct USArtists, the Philadelphia show that for 20 years focused on American historical paintings from Colonial to Modernist as a benefit for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Now the American Art Fair in New York City in November has taken its place. The art dealers’ stands made the Philadelphia show look elegant, which is not easy to do in the cavernous convention center. It is hoped that they sold enough to return.
The Philadelphia show has always come at a difficult time of the year, in mid-April, when income taxes are due and people are feeling poor, and spring is in the air. This year after a gray March and a late spring, the weather was gorgeous, perfect for gardening or golf, and then watching the Masters golf tournament instead of heading for an antiques show.
It did not seem to matter that the show was a day shorter; a decent crowd came on Monday when tickets were discounted for anyone with a museum membership, but by 2 p.m. the aisles were empty. In a cost-saving move no banners were hung throughout the city, a common practice for major events, so local people were not reminded that the best show for Americana was in town. Dealers said the majority of big sales were not made to Philadelphians.
One wonders how fundraising for Penn Medicine, the show’s beneficiary, has done since the show moved from the 33rd Street Armory five years ago. The committee does not release the figures anymore.
Those who did find their way to the show saw some memorable things. Samuel Herrup of Sheffield, Massachusetts, had a doll-size English William and Mary armchair, made 1700-10, with its original exquisite needlework seat cushion, a remarkable survivor. The price was $35,000, and it sold. According to a collector who did some homework, a chair of comparable size and age in pristine condition but without a needlework cushion sold at Masterpiece, the London fair, in June 2012 for £30,000. This one with minor restoration to its crest seemed like a good deal for a small piece with a large presence.
Another piece of furniture that stopped people in their tracks was a Philadelphia mahogany dressing table from the shop of Benjamin Randolph. Its rococo carving is by Hercules Courtenay, and it has its original gilt rococo hardware. Philip Bradley of Downingtown, Pennsylvania, bought it at Sotheby’s in January when the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) consigned it in order to raise funds for the purchase of the “the Fox and the Grapes” dressing table that matches the high chest in the PMA’s collection. Bradley cleaned up the Randolph dressing table, darkened its finish, and did some genealogical research, finding that it may have been owned by Samuel Morris, known in Philadelphia as “everybody’s red-coated ancestor” (Morris was master of the hunt and an all-around good citizen). Bradley was asking $265,000 for his dressing table, which seemed like a fair price for a first-rate piece of Philadelphia furniture.
In the category of historical rarities, W. Graham Arader of New York City and Philadelphia offered an extraordinary Revolutionary War campaign map of the Delaware Valley, “A plan of the Progress of the Royal Army from their Landing at Elk Ferry to Philadelphia in 1777.” It was surveyed and drawn by Charles Blaskowitz, captain of the corps. It is a huge ink and watercolor map on laid paper, mounted on linen, 51 3/8" x 53 1/8" framed, and provides a detailed description of the towns and villages in southeastern Pennsylvania and the adjacent parts of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. It detailed the British campaign to take Philadelphia, the capital of the United States, during the late summer and autumn of 1777. It was $850,000.
Other items also told stories of the past. Bradley offered one of six known complete Pennsylvania five-plate stoves that were used to heat the main room adjacent to the kitchen in a Pennsylvania German house. One dated 1766 was made in George Ross’s Mary Ann Furnace in York County. It was $48,000. You won’t find another.
Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, offered a date stone, a diamond-shaped piece of limestone carved with an American eagle and dated 1813, evidence of patriotism in the early years of the American republic. It was from a ferry house in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, on the Monongahela River, where the ferry took people and wagons across the river to continue west. It was bought by an institution that wants to tell this story.
Greg Kramer of Robesonia, Pennsylvania, sold three rare pieces of Pennsylvania redware that he bought at setup from Frank Levy. The show-stopper was a sgraffito plate, incised and slip-trailed with a horse and rider by David Spinner, Milford Township, Bucks County. It is similar to a plate at the PMA.
Collectors of American schoolgirl needlework found the best on the market and bought some of it. Philadelphia dealer Amy Finkel and Connecticut dealers Carol and Stephen Huber sold samplers and silk embroideries to people from all parts of the country.
Dealers often send e-mails to their best customers telling them what they have saved for the show, and they sometimes include tickets to be sure these customers come. The collectors often reserve a piece or two, and they are delivered at the show and are never shown.
Some who come from afar shop the old-fashioned way. They see something they have to have and buy it on the spot. Arthur Liverant of Colchester, Connecticut, said he sold four pieces of furniture but none to Philadelphians. He found buyers for a graceful Rhode Island dressing table with slipper feet from the Goddard-Townsend school; a set of four English brass candlesticks marked by Joseph Wood; a Connecticut bonnet-top high chest; a rare three-legged tea table, one of only five known; and a pair of chairs owned by Jonathan Trumbull, governor of Connecticut.
Christopher Rebollo of Mechanicsville, Pennsylvania, sold three pieces of furniture—a camelback sofa, a tea table, and a Federal clothes press, a cupboard over drawers, to a Texan who cannot find anything comparable in Texas.
Some dealers have a local following, and some Pennsylvania material sold to Pennsylvanians. Philip Bradley sold a blanket chest painted with scenes of a city, probably copied from a European print source, and he sold a box-on-stand. Skip Chalfant of West Chester, Pennsylvania, sold an 18th-century Philadelphia candlestand, an early one with a vase-shaped baluster.
James Kilvington of Dover, Delaware, sold a much admired untitled painting of hunter’s birds by George Cope to someone who had seen it the week before at the Chester County show. At the preview he sold a rare historical hatbox with a log cabin design, a political item from the Tyler campaign, to dealer David Schorsch. He also sold a rare Federal canterbury attributed to the Henry Connelly or Ephraim Haines workshop.
Most dealers sold smalls. Steven Still of Manheim, Pennsylvania, showing for the first time at the show, sold a New England painted table, a Schimmel carving, and a painted box.
Paintings dealers say it takes a long time to consummate a sale, but they had serious interest and were sending paintings out on approval. Dolan/Maxwell, Philadelphia dealers in 20th-century prints and paintings, sold well.
Lori Cohen of Arader Galleries, Philadelphia, offered Audubon birds and botanical prints as well as maps and made multiple sales. Donald Cresswell of The Philadelphia Print Shop said he sold briskly. Some prints are less expensive than other items, and there seemed to be resistance to high prices this year.
Elle Shushan of Philadelphia said she sold portrait miniatures, mostly to clients to whom she had sent tickets, and only a few of her portraits had five-figure prices. Enrique “Ricky” Goytizolo of Georgian Manor Antiques, Fairhaven, Massachusetts, who is known for pricing English furniture and accessories very fairly, sold well to people furnishing in English taste. Polly Latham of Boston sold China trade porcelain made for the American and European market.
E & J Frankel Ltd., Brooklyn, who have been selling Chinese antiques at this show for more than 35 years and have a following, were busy. Mark and Marjorie Allen of Gilford, New Hampshire, sold delft, iron, and brass.
The loan show of Philadelphia pewter brought the Pewter Collectors’ Club of America to Philadelphia for its annual meeting. Pewter dealers Melvyn and Bette Wolf of Flint, Michigan, who were major lenders to the loan exhibition, were at the Philadelphia show as dealers for the first time and sold well. They found a buyer for a 1760-80 chalice by pewterer Johann Heyne of Lancaster. They sold a variety of wares to members of the pewter club.
The PMA made two acquisitions at the show. A donor bought an 1850 sugar bowl by Bailey and Co. from Jonathan Trace of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in honor of curator David Barquist. Kathleen Foster, curator of American art at the PMA, said she acquired a pair of pencil drawings of an elegant African-American couple from Joan Brownstein of Newbury, Massachusetts. “I bought them not knowing the artist,” said Foster. “Then collectors Ched and Sandy Cluthe came into the booth and told me they were by Abraham Demarest, who worked in New Jersey.” The Cluthes said a group of Demarest’s drawings is at the Monmouth [County] Museum in Lincroft, New Jersey. “This is what the antiques show is all about, sharing information,” said Foster.
Even though business was done, most dealers worried about the future of the show. “If the show does not get a director who understands our needs and can work with the unions, many of us will not return,” said a longtime exhibitor. “The show needs someone to take charge who will include the dealers in major decisions all year long, not a volunteer chairman, no matter how well intentioned, that changes every year and has to start on square one.”
Dealers were upset because the union would not let them use their own drills, hang their own pictures, or adjust their own lights. No one was allowed to load their trucks on Monday after the show closed at 6 p.m.; they could pack up but had to come back early the next day to load their trucks because the union would have charged overtime, and the committee ladies would not authorize overtime because it would take away from funding Penn Medicine. It was OK, however, for dealers to spend another night in the city at their own expense.
With all its difficulties, the Philadelphia show is still the best show for Americana. Even though Americana does not have as large a following as it once did, the dealers said that they want the show to continue if they can have some input. Introducing first-rate American art may be the show’s salvation, but American art must be featured in the PR.
Nevertheless some wondered aloud if the middle states, where there is a concentration of interest in American material, can support two major Americana shows a year—Delaware in the fall and Philadelphia in the spring. Shows have had trouble finding dealers with comparable material to replace dealers who leave, because fresh quality material is scarce.
Without the involvement of the dealers at every stage of planning, it may not be possible to turn the Philadelphia show around. It is not that the committee has not tried; it is just that they are not professionals.
This year the Philadelphia show committee offered visits to private collections as well as to the Barnes Foundation and the PMA; a private dinner with museum directors on Thursday; house tours and tickets to the opening party on Friday; and a special round-table discussion with three top collectors—Joseph Gromacki, Joan Johnson, and Washburn Oberwager—on Saturday morning before the show opened. Only a handful of people signed up for the whole package. The price tag was steep, $1500 a person plus transportation and housing, for a memorable weekend. For the Saturday morning round-table, they were joined by some dealers and committee members (anyone who had bought a preview ticket at any level was welcome). They were treated to slideshows of three impressive collections. Then the three collectors, led by Kathy Foster of the PMA, talked about the marketplace and answered questions. The consensus was that there is a scarcity of great material for sale. Most of their buying is done privately; deals are put together by agents who do not own what they deliver, but know what collectors want and where to get it. The sales are consummated without benefit of auctions or shows.
Of the three collectors on the panel, only one made a purchase at the show. Joan Johnson, who said she has bought something at the Philadelphia show every year, bought a slip-decorated redware plate.
For more information, go on line to (www.thephiladelphiaantiquesshow.org).
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest