The Philadelphia Show, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The venerable Philadelphia Show went online via InCollect (www.incollect.com) from May 14 through 28 with 48 of the 60 dealers who had appeared on the April 23 preview party invitation before the actual show was canceled. The online show got mixed reviews from collectors and dealers. Shoppers found the website difficult to navigate, and dealers said they found it difficult to post.
Those who persevered said they liked what the dealers had to offer. For two weeks, browsing the Philadelphia Show became a daily routine for many devoted collectors. Dealers could add items to their pages daily, but few did. Some significant sales were made, while some dealers made no sales at all and are awaiting follow-ups from inquiries.
John Smiroldo, who launched the InCollect online selling platform in 2014, said the idea for the InCollect Philadelphia Show was his and that there was little time and a tight budget to pull it off. “My publishing company was going to print the show catalog, and when the show was canceled, I didn’t want the dealers to wait until the fall to offer what they saved for the show. The dealers needed the show this spring,” he said.
David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles of Woodbury, Connecticut, offered this William Johnson 19th-century lovebird cutwork token for $41,000. Schorsch said he bought it at the sale of the Esmerian collection at Sotheby’s in 2014. Probably made in Pennsylvania, circa 1825, it is cut paper, ink, and watercolor, 161/8" square, mounted on acid-free paper with a period frame (not shown). Schorsch called it one of the finest known examples of American cutwork. It was in the collection of Fred Wichmann and had sold at Sotheby’s in New York City in June 1983.
Smiroldo had already inaugurated the two-month-long May through June InCollect AFA Spring Show after he saw so many shows canceled because of COVID-19. That posting was a bonus for advertisers in his Antiques & Fine Art magazine (others paid $195 to post). He incorporated the Philadelphia Show within his AFA Spring Show format, charging the dealers, many of whom had already posted on the spring show site, just $150 to post 20 items on the much smaller, more exclusive two-week-long Philadelphia Show site, which focused on antiques. Smiroldo did not take any commission on sales as other platforms do. He counted on attracting more regular InCollect posters and viewers and more ads for his magazine, as well as more readers and subscribers to his publications, and he hoped he would bring Philadelphia Show dealers new customers.
Edwin Hild of Olde Hope, who heads the Philadelphia Show Dealers’ Committee, said Huntley Platt, a Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) staff member, made this online show happen. Last year Platt had worked as the museum liaison with longtime Philadelphia Show managers Diana Bittel and Karen DiSaia, who are no longer the managers. The PMA’s Women’s Committee wants the show to continue and plans to move it to the South Plaza at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a tent overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in spring 2021.
“We wished we had more time and had done more advertising for the online show,” said Platt when reached by phone, working from home and homeschooling three children. “We returned the dealers’ booth rent and had no money for advertising. Our sponsors were loyal, and we did an e-mail mail blast April 7th and more e-mail blasts before the end of the show,” she said. “All the paintings dealers wanted a month-long show, and the decorative arts dealers wanted a week-long show, so we compromised on the two-week format,” she volunteered.
Full-bodied rooster weathervane with spur feet, copper and cast zinc, 31" x 24¾", attributed to W. A. Snow Iron Works, Inc., Boston, 1883-95, $12,500 from Jeffrey Tillou Antiques, Litchfield, Connecticut.
Of the 11 dealers new to the show this year, eight were art dealers. Not every Philadelphia Show dealer participated in the online show. James Kilvington, Greg Kramer, and Peter Pap, long fixtures at the Philadelphia Show, were among the dozen exhibitors on the April 23 preview party invitation who did not participate in the online show.
There was minimal advertising during the first week of the show. After a week, The Magazine Antiques launched Instagram stories featuring “Connoisseur favorites” of designers, collectors, and art lovers. On Memorial Day weekend Michael Diaz-Griffith, cofounder of the New Antiquarians, an organization for younger people in the antiques world, posted a dozen items on Instagram he thought deserved a look. He and Ben Miller of S. J. Shrubsole, New York City, another cofounder of New Antiquarians, hosted an online discussion featuring young dealers: Laura Adams of Avery Galleries; jewelry dealer Matthew Imberman of Kentshire; and Kevin J. Tulimieri of Nathan Liverant & Son. Very well done and well received, it was an educational experience that showed collectors how to look at furniture, silver, paintings, and jewelry.
Diamond and sapphire ring, mounted in platinum, circa 1930, $68,000 from James Robinson, Inc., New York City.
Bulgari lapis lazuli and pavé diamond ring, circa 1970, set in 18k yellow gold, made in France, $19,750 from Kentshire, New York City.
Longtime showgoers who traditionally have been first in line logged in when the show opened. Atlanta dealer and advisor Deanne Levison, who is usually among the first three at the Philadelphia Show, sometimes with clients in tow, said she liked the way the works were mixed up when you entered the site. “You saw a painting and then a piece of furniture or a piece of porcelain and a weathervane instead of a dealer’s stand. Some of it was fresh, and some things I had seen before,” she said.
Paintings had a large presence. Fourteen art galleries accounted for a quarter of the 60 show dealers listed on the invitation to the canceled preview party but made up a third of the 48 who signed up for the online show. Many dealers in decorative arts offered some paintings as well.
Sam Francis (1923-1994), untitled acrylic on paper, 29½" x 22¼", 1990, $195,000 from Schillay Fine Art, New York City. Considered one of the premier colorists of the 20th century, Francis is best known for dramatic, lushly painted works composed of vivid pools of color, thinly applied. The gallery noted that many “identify him as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, but Francis has also been compared to Color Field artists on the basis of large, fluid sections of paint that seem to extend beyond the confines of the pictorial surface.”
Neil G. Welliver (1929-2005), Flotsam Allagash, oil on canvas, 1988, 48" x 48", $135,500 from Alexandre Gallery, New York City. A 30" x 30" woodcut of same subject was priced at $2500.
Elizabeth Osborne (b. 1936), Abiquiu, oil on canvas, 30" x 52", 1974, $26,000 from Avery Galleries, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and New York City.
Many regular attendees of the Philadelphia Show said they were not aware of the online show. Advertising was sent as an e-mail on April 7, and many had forgotten it a week later. Moreover, the opening time of the show was not posted until the day before, and the time of its closing on May 28 was not listed. (It closed at 6 p.m.) The dealers who sent their own e-mails to remind their clients were thanked.
Olde Hope’s e-mail reminding clients to log on to InCollect arrived precisely at noon on May 14. David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles sent their e-mail the night before, telling their best customers what they would bring and noting that every item was fresh and not offered before.
At the show’s opening, Schorsch and Smiles made three sales—a drop-leaf table, a New Jersey watercolor, and an 1852 portrait by Ammi Phillips of Maria Rachel Munsill Bronson and her young son Wilbur Bronson wearing a blue dress. The watercolor was from the collection of Jane and Gerald Katcher. The sold items were immediately removed from their InCollect page, but a day later they were back with red “sold” tags.
By the end of the second day Schorsch and Smiles had made two more sales—a portrait of a young woman with sausage curls, circa 1845, by William Matthew Prior and a silhouette of a little girl with red shoes. On day five they sold a Queen Anne oblong tea table, 27" high, with a dry brown-painted surface. Notes posted on their InCollect page stated that Patricia E. Kane, curator of American decorative arts at Yale University Art Gallery, once thought tables of this design were made in Rhode Island but now thinks they may have been made in southwestern Massachusetts; a similar table is in the Yale Rhode Island Furniture Archive. Before the first week of the show was over Schorsch and Smiles had also sold a circa 1825 William Johnson paper cut, last on the market at Sotheby’s sale of the collection of Ralph O. Esmerian on January 25, 2014. By then Schorsch and Smiles had added eight more items to their InCollect Philadelphia Show page. Before the show was over they had sold an 8½" tall painted tin sugar box attributed to the Filley tinshop in Bloomfield, Connecticut. They also found a buyer for a small, circa 1830 watercolor on paper of a woman in a green dress, just 5" x 3", attributed to “Mr. Wilson” of New Hampshire and the first example of a small-scale portrait attributed to him.
“I loved David Schorsch’s Queen Anne side chair and his flat-top high chest—they are masterpieces,” said California folk art collector Dr. Jeff Pressman when reached by phone. He and his wife, Nancy, are regulars at the Philadelphia Show. “I really liked [Bernard and S. Dean] Levy’s blockfront chest, made for Josiah Quincy, who was John Adams’s lawyer and a Son of Liberty,” he added. Pressman added that he and Nancy missed the camaraderie of the show, and they phoned folk art collectors during their daily walks to talk about what they had seen.
Leslie Anne Miller, a collector and author of Start with a House: Finish with a Collection (2014), who heads the PMA’s board of trustees, said she missed the creative displays in dealers’ booths and the camaraderie of the show. She at first found browsing difficult, but it soon became a welcome diversion during quarantine, a chance to shop and add to the collection she has put together with her husband, Richard Worley, long a member of Philadelphia Show committees.
Asked to name just a few items that deserve another look, Miller said she liked Charles Peale Polk’s portraits of Mr. and Mrs. George Alexander Kennedy Sr. (Schwarz Gallery); a Chippendale marble-top table (H.L. Chalfant); a painted schrank (Olde Hope); a Remmey stoneware Washington presentation pitcher (Kelly Kinzle); a Benjamin Randolph Philadelphia dressing table (Philip Bradley); a Philadelphia high chest (James L. Price); a Joseph Lehn cup (David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles); a George II silver cake basket (S. J. Shrubsole); and Jeff Bridgman’s “Vote for Woman Suffrage Nov. 2nd,” a graphic yellow and blue suffrage poster. Miller said she hoped the online experience would keep the Philadelphia Show in the minds of collectors in the future and suggested that shows may have an online component even when they are live again in order to reach a broader audience.
Some collectors made a list of things they might consider, knowing that the show would continue for two weeks; others bought immediately. By the end of the second day, Taylor Thistlethwaite, who has moved to Upperville, Virginia, from Alexandria, had two red “sold” circles on his InCollect page. One was a prancing horse weathervane, circa 1855, with Pam Boynton provenance, and the other was a Classical cellaret with a typical Norfolk, Virginia-style foot, attributed to James Woodward (1769-1839), an importer, warehouse owner, and cabinetmaker in Norfolk.
Thistlethwaite said both sales had been in process, but posting them on InCollect pushed them over the finish line. “I had a good week,” he said. “I also sold my New York card table that I had at East Side [the Winter Show] and a pair of Philadelphia Queen Anne chairs from the same set as the chair on the cover of the Meyer sale at Sotheby’s in 1995 that was going to be the centerpiece of my Philadelphia Show booth. When the show was canceled I offered them to a collector.” By the fifth day of the show, Thistlethwaite also had sold a Baltimore sideboard to a client in Georgia. Before the show was over he had sold a small circa 1820 Salem settee, just 39" wide, in very good condition.
Carol Cookerly, who runs a marketing firm in Atlanta, said she has gone to the Philadelphia Show for the last five years and loves everything she bought. “Last year I spent too much, but I want this show to continue.” She said she thought the marketing was primitive and that she could show the committee how to use social media and technology to reach three times as many people. “They need to start planning now for next year,” she said.
Though business was far from booming, sales were made every day. Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania, said he sold a stoneware pitcher with a bust of George Washington on it, priced at $49,000. He also sold a tall-case clock with a brass face made in York by Rudolph Spangler, 111" tall, with a $34,000 price tag, to a new customer who found the way to Kinzle’s website; the clock was not on his Philadelphia Show InCollect page. He sold from his InCollect Philadelphia Show page an 18th-century Frederick, Maryland, corner cupboard with Scottish and Germanic carved and inlaid decorative elements.
George Washington stoneware presentation pitcher with cobalt decoration, Richard Remmey, Philadelphia, 19th century, 13½" high, in excellent condition, $49,000 from Kelly Kinzle of New Oxford, Pennsylvania. It is inscribed “Coaquanock Lodge No 463 IOOF.” The Coaquanock Odd Fellows Lodge, No. 463, was instituted in Philadelphia in 1852 and closed in 1925. The lodge records are held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The pitcher sold.
Polly Latham, a Boston dealer in Chinese export porcelain, said she made three sales, two from her page on the Philadelphia Show site, and from her website a pair of rare raspberry Fitzhugh plates with a gilded central landscape, 9½" in diameter.
Chinese export Kangxi period porcelain charger decorated in famille verte enamels, 1700-20, 15" in diameter, $6200 from Polly Latham Asian Art, Boston, Massachusetts.
Early in the show, Peter Eaton sold a Hepplewhite secretary with tambour doors and floral inlay on its central panel, circa 1800, North Shore of Massachusetts or New Hampshire. He said his client had been considering the piece for some time and decided to spring for it when he saw it on the site.
Edwin Hild and Patrick Bell of Old Hope sold kitchen antiques, finding buyers for a dough board with a heart-shaped handle early in the show. On the second-to-last day they found a buyer for a trapezoidal 39" x 37" painted pine herb drying rack with lots of pegs, from New England, 1840-60, a kind of antique abstract sculpture when hung on the wall.
Spencer Marks sold an English Georgian pink gold and agate snuffbox, circa 1820, just 2.7" x 1.9", and a trompe l’oeil vesta case made by Thomas Johnson in London, 1882-83, a little over 1½" high and less than 2" wide, in the form of a wicker fish basket that opens to reveal an intaglio reverse painting on glass of two trout lying on grass—a true creel with a fish inside. Under the painted trout is a compartment for matches; the underside is scored to be a match strike.
Scale is hard to experience online. For example, a painting of the hongs at Canton that Taylor Thistlethwaite priced at $12,500 is a miniature, only 5" x 7". Purple Iris, a watercolor by Sebastian Schedel (German, 1570-1628), $37,500 from Arader Galleries, is just 5½" x 4½". A miniature Dutch bronze cauldron that Elliott and Grace Snyder sold over Memorial Day weekend is 2¾" high. They pictured it with an apple to give it scale. They also sold an English snuffbox, dated 1842, signed “W. Holland.” It was engraved with the advice “Honesty is the best policy,” “Keep your Temper,” and “Live and Let Live.” It is just 3½" in diameter.
Sebastian Schedel (German, 1570-1628), Purple Iris, 5½" x 4½", Dutch school, 17th century, gouache with brown ink on vellum, $37,500 from Arader Galleries, New York City and Philadelphia. Schedel was one of the artists who contributed to Basilius Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis (1613).
By the third day, Marcy Burns American Indian Arts had sold a lidded Aleutian basket and a Zia pictorial jar to clients she had not heard from in a while. By the fifth day, Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant and Son had made three sales, a paint-decorated tall chest, a trade sign reading “Dr. Fuller Private Diseases,” and a fancy stenciled sewing box. By day five, Arlie Sulka of Lillian Nassau had made two sales, a gold iridescent Tiffany Favrile glass vase decorated with swirling green vines and leaves, wheel carved in a naturalistic style with an inscribed signature on the underside, and a set of sculptural forged iron fire tools by Albert Paley, made in 1996, including a poker, tongs, and shovel. Barbara Israel Garden Antiques sold a lead wall ornament in the form of a mask of a bearded man, 37½" x 26", English, circa 1940, and a small English sundial on a pedestal, 15" square x 30" high.
Ralph M. Chait Galleries, a specialist in Chinese porcelain, sold four pieces of porcelain and had a hold on another. Chait’s sales included a rare Chinese famille jaune figure of an immortal archer; a pair of 18th-century hexagonal bucket-form ewers painted with floral decoration; a rare painted pottery covered jar (Hu), 20" high, from the Han Dynasty, 1st century A.D.; and a pair of 13" high Chinese turquoise-glazed mid-19th-century porcelain vases related to those in the collection of Augustus the Strong, circa 1722, now in the Zwinger Museum in Dresden, Germany, and others in the British Royal Collection. His sales were all to Americans and Europeans.
Amy Finkel of M. Finkel & Daughter sold a sampler stitched by Mary Hergesheimer in Philadelphia in 1808, 24" x 25¼", stitched with a house, a garden, sheep, gods, birds, an alphabet, and a verse that begins “Oh Support my Weak Endeavor.” Gleason Gallery was the first to sell a painting. An architect from Philadelphia called and bought Running Stream, a watercolor by John Pierce Barnes, 11¼" x 10", for $595.
By the end of the first week Schwarz Gallery had sold Winter Landscape by Walter Launt Palmer, a pastel on paper, 23¼" x 19½", a classic snow scene. By the second-to-last day of the show the Cooley Gallery had sold Hillsboro Beach, Pompano, Florida by Margaret Cooper and Mt. Laurel by the River by William Smith Robinson. Questroyal sold Monhegan, Foot of Blackhead, a 1913 painting, 10.75" x 8.37", by Leon Abraham Kroll, and Sunset, Giverny by Impressionist Theodore Earl Butler, an 18¼" x 287/8" early 20th-century oil on canvas, demonstrating why the art dealers wanted the longer show.
Before the show was over James Robinson sold a stylized lily of the valley brooch fashioned of oxidized steel, 18k white gold, pearls, and diamonds and signed by G.T. Marsh & Co. of San Francisco, circa 1935.
Pair of Chinese export porcelain dishes in a variation of the Tobacco Leaf pattern, 10¼" x 13¼", $9800 from Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Paul Vandekar noted that the pattern was popular in Portugal, France, and Sweden.
On the last day of the show David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles sold to new young collectors a footed cup painted with a flowering sprig on a salmon ground by Joseph Long Lehn (1798-1892). It brought the total of Schorsch and Smiles sales to nine of the 48 items sold during the show. “It was gratifying to see significant sales,” said Schorsch. “When I asked a commodities trader why there is strength in the antiques market today he said the market had been beaten down and it is coming back.” Schorsch said prices are far below what they were at market highs but that people are buying. The Philadelphia Show was a high-end show.
About 10% of the items offered sold at the April 24-27 ADA (Antiques Dealers’ Association of America) Spring Online Show. Only about 3% of items sold at the online Philadelphia Show, but the items that sold were generally higher-priced. The show had posted stock for 48 dealers, and more than half posted no sold tags at all. There were more art dealers at the Philadelphia Show than at the ADA show, and few art dealers made sales.
More than one serious buyer said they would not buy a piece of furniture they had not actually seen, saying it was impossible to see the wood and construction in a digital photograph even when enlarged. That is why some furniture dealers were reluctant to put their best works online. They said they are saving them for the next live show, which they hope will be in the fall.
Inspections at shops and in dealers’ driveways while practicing social distancing were arranged, and so were curbside pickups and direct delivery. No one seemed ready to park a car in a city parking lot, take a plane, train, or cab, or stay overnight in a hotel right now, but people seemed willing to drive to a country shop where wearing masks and social distancing were enforced. Dealers seem willing to offer liberal return policies should a piece not fit into a collection as expected because it had not been seen. Passionate collectors seem to be adapting to antiquing in a new way in this challenging time.
Smiroldo said he is revamping his website, making it more user-friendly, and will hold four AFA two-month-long shows a year for now and work with other shows to post shorter exhibition times. This is the way business will be done for now.
The Philadelphia Show’s online presence was a gift from Smiroldo, who said he is working with a team of seven to upgrade his platform and make it available to antiques shows to post dealers’ stock online. “It is up to the show to design their presentations, produce videos and webinars and gallery tours, and it is up to the dealers to post. If they don’t know how, if they send us the digital image we can post for them it or teach them how to do it,” he said. “We are building an app that will allow a dealer to load videos or images directly to their page at a show. The images will be exceptional if they also invest in a light kit for less than $100.”
Pensive by Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012), bronze, 1946, 18" x 9" x 7", $150,000 from Dolan/Maxwell, Philadelphia. The gallery represents several black artists.
Smiroldo promises to make his site more user-friendly, with search buttons that go directly to the show dealers’ pages or to the furniture, decorative arts, or fine art in a particular show. (This time those labels took viewers to the entire InCollect site, generally geared to designers.)
Smiroldo said he was pleased with the numbers he got from Google Analytics. The numbers went down from more than 6000 on the first day, over 4000 the second day, and 3000 the rest of the first week to only 975 on sunny Memorial Day and then went back up at the end of the show to 1454 on Wednesday and 1227 on the last day.
A lot more people looked at antiques during two weeks in May than in four days at an April Philadelphia Show in a tent at the Navy Yard. It appears that an online component will be part of antiques shows even after the COVID-19 pandemic is conquered. “InCollect can keep dealers’ stock posted for a few days after the show is over, so those with second thoughts can have another look and contact the dealer,” Smiroldo suggested.
It is a different world.
Hyde Park Antiques, New York City, offered this near pair of circa 1860 Irish Regency ebonized and parcel-gilt oval mirrors, similar to ones that sold at the sale of the Mario Buatta collection at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, in March. The larger is 23" high. They were $10,800.
Carved granite figure representing Industry, with the attributes of ancient industry at her feet, an anvil, hammer, and cogwheel, symbolizing mechanical production, circa 1880, 38" x 27", in good weathered condition, $60,000 from Barbara Israel Garden Antiques, Katonah, New York.
New England appliquéd table cover, 40" x 75", wool appliquéd on a wool ground, circa 1845, in excellent condition, $14,500 from Elliott and Grace Snyder of South Egremont, Massachusetts.
Sampler by Ruthey Lock of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1802, 26" x 25½", formerly in the Theodore Kapnek collection and published in A Gallery of American Samplers: The Theodore H. Kapnek Collection (1978) by Glee Kruger, $24,000 from M. Finkel & Daughter, Philadelphia.
Dower chest, Schoharie County, New York, 43½" x 31" x 18½", 1820-30, painted with an urn of flowers in reds and yellows on a blue ground and with the initials “M” and “F” for the owners, good condition, $24,000 from Taylor Thistlethwaite of Upperville, Virginia.
Carl E. Lawless (1894-1934), Through the Vines, oil on canvas, 30" x 30", $7500 from the Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Connecticut, which listed it as New Hope school. Lawless studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then moved to Mystic, Connecticut.
Diminutive sinumbra lamps by William Carleton of Boston, 19" high, circa 1830, with embossed metal labels reading “MANUFACTURED BY / W. CARLETON / BOSTON,” $15,000 from Charles Clark of Woodbury, Connecticut. A pair with the Carleton label and a fancier shade is illustrated and discussed in Boston in the Age of Neo-Classicism, published in 2000 by Hirschl & Adler.
Red-painted Mahantongo chest of drawers, 50¾" x 41" x 21", painted pine and poplar, circa 1830, with pinstriping, yellow and red dentil molding, yellow and blue stenciled rosettes, and a blue compass star in the center of each side panel. Fresh to market, it was $85,000 from Olde Hope, New York City and New Hope, Pennsylvania. It was once owned by H. F. du Pont and is illustrated in Decorated Furniture of the Mahantongo Valley (1987).
Originally published in the July 2020 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2020 Maine Antique Digest