Date: Mon 01-Feb-1999
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY -- Perhaps it had to do with this year's loan show, a chocolate
box of artifacts from the varied collections of the New York State Historical
Association. Or maybe it's just the current zeitgeist. Whatever the reason,
the Winter Antiques Show unfolded as a historical tableaux of greater than
usual depth and complexity at the Seventh Regiment Armory from January 14 to
With 72 exhibitors from Europe and the United States offering paintings and
objects spanning hundreds of years and many societies, the Winter Antiques
Show can at times seem a glorious confusion of objects. Randomly presented,
they illustrate current taste and universal principles of design, but can
leave viewers wondering where antiquarianism has wandered off to.
This year, the heft was put back into history. For those who wished to learn,
the Winter Antiques Show was a place to study up. The loan show set the tone,
of course, but there were meaty presentations all over the floor. Groups of
like kind provided lessons on connoisseurship and assemblages documented
passages in national lore.
"This year's exhibit is beyond amazing. It is symbolic of the show," said
Winter Antiques Show chairman Arie Kopelman. American to the core, the NYSHA
exhibit celebrated the centennial of a major but under-recognized institution.
Joined in the display were blue-chip paintings and folk art gathered over the
last century, and American Indian art assembled and given to NYSHA by
Manhattan art dealer Eugene Thaw and his wife, Clare.
There was a time when WAS loan shows were underfunded and poorly organized. No
more. This year as last, the display was underwritten by the Chubb Group of
Insurance Companies and conceived by Stephen Saitas, the talented New York
designer who drew up plans for the American Indian Wing at the Fenimore Art
Museum at NYSHA in Cooperstown, N.Y. The responsibility for choosing objects
and preparing a catalogue for "A Centennial Celebration: Collections From The
New York State Historical Association" fell to Winter Antiques Show director
Catherine Sweeney Singer and NYSHA curator Paul D'Ambrosio.
"My understanding is that we were one of a number of institutions that sent a
proposal to Catherine," D'Ambrosio recalled. He said NYSHA was selected in
part because of its great strength in American painting, folk art and Indian
art, areas that show organizers consider important.
"I envisioned a wall of masks, which is exactly what we created," said Singer,
who visited the Cooperstown museum four times to select the works of art. In
the end, Saitas created a pavilion inspired by NYSHA's American Indian Wing,
which opened in 1995. Native American masks, mounted in a central case, were
the first things visitors saw as they came through the doors of the Armory's
great drill hall. Inside the pavilion were paintings, sculpture and folk art.
"Every piece was a masterpiece. We brought nothing remotely second tier,"
The pageant continued in the booth of Peter Tillou, who returned to the Winter
Antiques Show after more than a decade's absence. The high-profile Litchfield
County, Conn., dealer, who recently opened a New York showplace, made a grand
entrance. He raised the ceiling of his salon-style stand in order to present
three oversized history paintings.
Most monumental was Alfred Jacob Miller's sweeping 1841 canvas, "The Crows
Attempting To Provoke An Attack From The Whites On The Big Horn River, East of
The Rocky Mountains." At $8.5 million, the western masterwork was the most
costly item in this year's fair. A smaller Miller, the circa 1852 "Sioux
Camp," was $650,000 at Gerald Peters Gallery of New York.
With Kopelman and Singer at its helm, the Winter Antiques Show has reached
deep into the ancient past and culled the best of proto-modern design to make
this favorite of New York fairs more adventurous and eclectic than it once
was. Native American art has grown in prestige, as, one by one, Joshua Baer,
W.E. Channing & Co., Donald Ellis, Morning Star Gallery and Throckmorton Fine
Art have been brought into the fold.
The West that is honored in displays of outstandingly beautiful Indian
artifacts was given historical dimension by William Guthman, the show's only
dealer in military Americana. This year, the Westport, Conn., dealer devoted a
wall to documents and artifacts, some grisly in their detail, outlining
actions of the 10th US Cavalry against hostile tribes. A map drawn on wax
linen by Captain Henry E. Alvord for General Philip H. Sheridan in 1869 is, in
Guthman's words, "one of the most important documents of the Indian War
The history of volunteer firefighters, who advanced themselves politically and
socially while serving the public good, was energetically retold at America
Hurrah. Joel and Kate Kopp arrayed colorfully painted 1840s parade hats from
the Northern Liberty Fire Company, $20,000, and the Franklin Fire Company,
Philadelphia, $18,500, along with a painted panel from a fire engine, $55,000.
Portraits on canvas included "Chief Engineer, Hoboken, N.J.," $75,000, and
"Young Fireman," $12,500.
A luxury of riches awaited lovers of Pennsylvania vernacular art at Olde Hope
Antiques. The New Hope, Penn., dealers showed painted blanket chests. The
Pennsylvania German status symbols dated from 1776 to 1820, and were made in
the counties of Dauphin, Northampton, Berks, Lehigh, Lancaster, Centre and
Bucks. Prices ranged up to $165,000.
Hyland Granby Antiques of Hyannis Port, Mass., consummated the sale of one of
only two known scrimshaw teeth carved aboard Charles Darwin's HMS Beagle .
Just prior to preview, Alan Granby said the $65,000 tooth was certain to sell,
but he couldn't predict to whom. Several interested parties braved opening day
snow, hoping to be the first in line.
Across many collecting categories, quality is the key note of the Winter
Antiques Show. Pristine objects turned up at Fred and Kathryn Giampietro. The
New Haven, Conn., dealers sold a uniquely expressive cigar store Indian
attributed to Julius Melchers of Detroit, circa 1870, for $85,000.
Best of kind at Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins was an exuberantly painted
Vermont tall clock of circa 1820. "Both Hoadley and Whiting were peddling
faces and movements," Robert Wilkins said of the clock with face and works by
Winchester, Conn., maker Riley Whiting. Related to Matteson chests, the case
was clearly from Vermont. Anchorman Forest Sawyer was spied in conversation
with the Austerlitz, N.Y., dealers not long after a rare pair of circa 1820
Watervliet Shaker cupboards in red paint sold on opening night.
Courcier & Wilkins, which also sold Grenfell mats, was across the aisle from
needle arts experts Stephen and Carol Huber. The Old Saybrook, Conn., dealers
represented the breadth of English and American embroidery tradition but were
particularly flush in Eighteenth Century examples. Highlights included a
canvaswork picture attributed to Polly Burns of Medford, Mass., circa 1768,
$175,000, and a rare Philadelphia sconce dated 1748, $75,000.
American furniture is an area of significant depth at the Winter Antiques
Show. After exhibiting for two consecutive years at the International Fine Art
and Antique Dealers Show, Carswell Rush Berlin added the Winter Show to his
schedule. The Upper West Side dealer in Federal and Classical design said he
found the vetting process for American furniture vigorous but collegial, more
so than at any other fair. His rarest item was a paint decorated New York
recamier. "It relates closely to one that is an icon in the collection of the
Brooklyn Museum of Art." Robin's egg blue with gilt mounts, the recamier was
Lauded by The New York Times for "the beauty of the pieces and the clarity of
the installation," Marguerite Riordan of Stonington, Conn., upheld her
well-earned reputation for Connecticut Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture.
Her centerpiece was a New London County high chest of drawers of circa
1750-60, which sold in the neighborhood of $225,000. From a private
collection, the perfectly proportioned casepiece with dentil molding, reeded
pilasters and shell-carved drawers was included in a landmark exhibition of
Connecticut furniture at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1967.
Newport was in the news this January, what with Sotheby's selling a
Christopher Townsend desk and bookcase for $8.2 million and Christie's
countering with a $1.2 million block and shell carved chest. Washington, D.C.,
dealer Guy Bush made news of his own with a Goddard-Townsend dressing table of
circa 1760. The shell-carved piece on cabriole legs ended in pad feet.
Wayne Pratt built his own casepiece-laden display around a Queen Anne walnut
bonnet-top high chest of drawers attributed to noted Charlestown, Mass.,
cabinetmakers Benjamin Frothingham. The circa 1760 masterwork was $422,500.
Leigh Keno's small but perfect presentation balanced the furniture making
traditions of Boston, New York and Philadelphia from the Queen Anne through
the Federal period. "It's been a wonderful show for us," reported Keno, who
sold a New York sideboard, $145,000; a girandole mirror, $135,000; two
turret-top Boston card tables, $425,000 and $65,000; a gateleg table,
$115,000; and a painted fireboard, $45,800.
This year, the English furniture district pointed north from the center of the
floor, where Devenish & Company set up its spacious stand, to Georgian Manor
Antiques and Kentshire Galleries. Against the left wall with a George III
mahogany secretary bookcase was Alfred Bullard. At the back were Philip
Colleck, with a George III child's bed labeled by Morgan and Sanders, and Gary
E. Young, with a Dutch miniature bombe-front bureau bookcase, circa 1770.
Arts and Crafts furniture and decorations, both American and English, have
become a Winter Antiques Show staple in the few years since they were
introduced. This year, Cathers and Dembrosky were particularly well received.
The New York dealers sold their three rarest items: a Greene and Greene walnut
desk, commissioned for Charles Greene, circa 1903; and two light fixtures, one
by Dard Hunter, from the Roycroft Inn dining room, circa 1906; the other,
circa 1907, from the Greene and Greene-designed Blacker House in Pasadena.
The growing sophistication of New York audiences and the eclecticism of their
tastes are underscored by several cross-cultural displays. Chief among them is
Matz & Pribell, a Cambridge, Mass., dealer offering Asian goods made for the
Portuguese, Dutch, English and American markets. The artistic confluence was
best exemplified by Rembrandt Peale's "Portrait of Rajah Rammohun Roy," 1833,
the most significant work by an American artist of an Indian subject.
From its beginnings as a decorative arts showcase, the Winter Antiques Show
has evolved as a critical venue for painting and sculpture. In addition to
American paintings dealers such as Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Gerald Peters
Gallery, Schwarz Gallery and Thomas Colville Fine Art, there are now some top
European vendors, among them Richard Green and Peter Nahum.
Also of London is the Fine Art Society, a leading source of late Nineteenth
and early Twentieth Century British art and design. The Fine Art Society's
engrossing display mingled a William DeMorgan luster charger, $20,000, with a
series of large and evocative Tissot oil sketches, $1.1 million. The studies
were made for "The Prodigal Son In Modern Dress," "The Departure" and "The
Return," canvases exhibited at The Dudley Gallery in 1882.
A perennial favorite among silver dealers, James Robinson offered a crowd
pleasing selection of sterling toys for children. Jonathan Trace inaugurated
handsome new bottle-green cases, using one to his advantage to display a large
and rare Tudor candlestick of circa 1550, $42,000.
The multi-generational Ralph M. Chait Galleries has been in business long
enough to have developed one of the most illustrious clienteles in the field
of Chinese art. To this year's Winter Antiques Show, the specialists brought a
Kang Xi famille verte vase of impeccable lineage. The porcelain treasure that
had belonged to John D. Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller and noted dealer Otto
Fukashima sold early in the show.
Another Winter Antiques Show veteran, Joan B. Mirviss, has carved out a
distinctive niche for herself as the East Side's only specialist in Japanese
art. For the Winter Show, she concentrates on such antique rarities as an
early Seventeenth Century six-fold screen in the Momoyama style. That leaves
her free to show contemporary pottery and prints at the International Asian
Art Fair in March, where date restrictions are relaxed.
"The Winter Show has never looked better," Mirviss commented opening night.
Partially tented ceilings, carpeted floors and a heightened emphasis on
presentation have certainly improved its appearance.
One standard setter in the display department has always been Hirschl & Adler
Galleries, which ingeniously incorporated antique windows to suggest an
elegant Nineteenth Century interior, complete with bay window and transom
lights. Period lighting accented the New York dealer's unsurpassed collection
of painting, furniture and accessories to great advantage.
Highland Park, Ill., folk art dealers Frank and Barbara Pollock set off
vibrations among a still brilliant shirred rug, $43,000; an outsized painting
on canvas, $32,000, called "Portrait of The River Queen "; and a paint
decorated Amish secretary desk, circa 1870, $140,000.
Bolour, Inc., an antique carpets and tapestries dealer, created a snappy
vignette in the tradition of Doris Leslie Blau. The table set with fruit and
wine against a backdrop of exotically hued Persian rugs and embroideries
called to mind a Dutch still life.
With the economy strong and the stock market at record levels, New Yorkers and
others appeared to have money to spend this year. Sales were excellent across
the board. Canadian dealer Donald Ellis parted with a Sioux war shirt and
leggings, circa 1830, $450,000; a pair of wood and pigment dance masks from
the Koniag tribe, Kodiak Island, Alaska, late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth
Century, $225,000; and a Classic Second Phase Navajo chief's blanket, circa
Documents dealer Kenneth Rendell sold a 1944 letter from Dwight D. Eisenhower
to his wife, Mamie, $250,000. "It is such an impassioned letter, a love note
and an anguished reflection on the soldiers he knows he is sending to certain
death," reported one reader, clearly moved. The New York dealer also sold an
Einstein letter on the formation of Israel, $25,000; and a Marie Antoinette
signed payment order of 1783, $17,500. At Bauman Rare Books, an American
collection of modern verse went for $185,000.
English furniture sales included a George II giltwood console, circa 1740, in
excess of $100,000, at Hyde Park Antiques of New York. Biedermeier dealer Karl
Kemp had success with an inlaid ashwood desk, circa 1825, $32,000; and an Art
Deco wrought iron and crystal chandelier attributed to S. Simonet Fereres,
Paris dealer Philippe Perrin, known for Eighteenth Century French furniture,
sold a pair of sofas and several objets d'art. New to the show, Florian Papp
closed the deal on a Swedish chandelier, $22,000; a Viennese bench, $24,000; a
writing table, $140,000; a credenza, $68,000; and a pair of mirrors, $78,000.
Jewelry sales were robust. On opening night, Kentshire Galleries Ltd. of New
York sold an Art Deco citrine and diamond fan brooch, attributed to La Cloche
Fereres, for $32,500; and an Etruscan-style gold necklace of 1870 for $39,500.
A pair of candlesticks left the stand of English and American silver dealer
S.J. Shrubsole for $50,000. Peter Finer, an English expert in antique arts,
sold a wheel lock gun for $100,000. Carpet sales included a Serapi wedding
presentation piece, $85,000 at Peter Pap, and a Voysey carpet at English Art
Nouveau specialist Geoffrey Diner.
Vigorously reaching out to collectors, designers and high society, East Side
House Settlement increased receipts on opening night and at the Young
Collectors evening on January 21. Preview ticket sales increased by more than
$100,000, while the Young Collectors Evening was up by 33 percent. The later
raised $100,000 at a silent auction.