NEW YORK CITY — Dazzling is a word to be avoided, but in the case of the Winter Antiques Show, which closed at the Park Avenue Armory on February 2, it happens to be true. So much is packed into a venue the size of a city block that a visitor risks being blinded by its sheer quantity, quality and variety.
Each of the Winter Antiques Show’s 73 exhibits represents a lifetime of erudition and a year’s worth of planning, not to mention the taste, ambition and mercantile prowess necessary to perform on this stage. As they say, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. And if you can make it in New York in January when plunging temperatures and cancelled flights are prompting the sane to stay away — well, hats off to you.
The show, which benefits East Side House Settlement and opened with a gala preview on January 23, celebrated its diamond jubilee, with a lavish display of jewels underwritten by Graff, Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Bulgari. It was Arie L. Kopelman’s 20th year as chairman and Catherine Sweeney Singer’s as executive director. Drawing heavily on Kopelman’s expertise in luxury goods marketing, the duo has professionalized what in retrospect was an amateurish if amiable operation.
“This only works these days with great underwriting,” said Kopelman, acknowledging in particular the patronage of Chubb Personal Insurance, sponsor of “Fresh Take, Making Connections,” the loan show, organized by Peabody Essex Museum, and J.P. Morgan. He added, “the most important thing in having a great show is having a great mix of dealers.”
That mix ranged from ancient to modern and contemporary, the latter being ever more visible. Nearly every exhibitor could — and did — make honest claim to having the rarest of the rare and the best of the best.
“This is arguably one of the three or four most important pictures in the history of the medium,” Hill-Stone’s Alan Stone said of “Knight, Death and the Devil,” an impression of Albrecht Dürer’s 1513 engraving, $245,000, so crisp that it seemed to jump off the page.
“This is one of the best Raphaelle Peales that we have ever had,” Robert Schwarz said of Peale’s luscious 1813 oil on panel depicting peaches and grapes in a Chinese Export basket. The Philadelphia dealer sold another prize, John Frederick Peto’s “Still Life with Teacup, Saucer and Bread,” a small oil on board of 1900.
Gerald Peters Gallery gathered important views of the American West. Signed Albert Bierstadt, “Longs Peak, Colorado,” circa 1860, an oil, was $1.2 million. Thomas Moran’s “Devil’s Tower, Wyoming,” 1919, was $2.9 million.
A puzzle jug is a rarity. A wall of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Dutch delft examples, as displayed by Aronson Antiquairs, is a miracle. The Amsterdam dealers wrote up more than a half dozen sales of pottery, including a vase and cover of 1660.
Over the past four decades, Chinese porcelain scholar Michael Cohen of London has identified a group of exquisitely decorated bowls attributed to what he has named the Purple Foliage Workshop. Cohen & Cohen offered for sale one of the bowls, made circa 1755 for the English market and decorated with a hare hunting scene taken from a print by Thomas Burford after a painting by James Seymour.
Another marvel of craftsmanship, at Associated Artists, was a library table and two matching side chairs with micromosaic inlays. The Southport, Conn., dealers paired the suite — made by Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company around the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, where the company introduced such decoration — with a Tiffany chain mail hanging lantern, circa 1905. Closely related furniture is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago. Elsewhere in this winning stand, a magnet for curators looking to build their collections, were Milton Avery’s lively watercolor impressions of a fishing village in Gaspe, Quebec, circa 1938.
London’s Fine Arts Society featured highlights from the John Scott collection of British proto-modern design, including works by Pugin, Dresser, Jeckyll, Morris and De Morgan.
On opening night, New York designer Ellie Cullman huddled with clients at Maison Gerard, whose dimly lit booth showcased elements from a circa 1928 Art Deco lacquered room, $750,000, created by French designer Jean Dunand for Templeton Crocker of San Francisco.
Curators from the MFA Boston’s Art of the Americas wing gathered at London dealers Derek Johns and Theo Johns to study New World Spanish and Portuguese colonial painting.
“It is almost the size of a double,” Carswell Rush Berlin said of a bed attributed to Duncan Phyfe, 1810–16, that was formerly in the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge. A Duncan Phyfe cylinder secretary of about 1820 and a marble top center table by Charles Honore Lannuier, circa 1815–19, were attractions at Hirschl & Adler Galleries.
“This is worthy of the great gardens at Stourhead,” specialist Barbara Israel said of a circa 1844 composition stone naiad that went to a West Coast buyer. The water nymph is signed by H. Bentley, who bought Coade, known for composition stone figures, and reused its molds.
Happy surprises were the order of the day. Alexander Gallery featured two uniform jackets, a pair of breeches and two hats worn by Thomas McDonough, a pre-Revolutionary War aide to New Hampshire’s Governor Wentworth, who later served as British consul to the United States. The New York dealers were delighted when, on opening night, Newport dealer William Vareika offered them the matching 1780s portrait depicting McDonough in the very uniform.
“It was exciting to put it all together,” said Laurel Acevedo.
“It is a major discovery,” paintings specialist Thomas Colville said of J.H. Twachtman’s “Arques-la-Bataille,” 1884. The limpid, horizontal interpretation of a favorite French view is inscribed with the artist’s name and that of one of his executors, Thomas Dewing.
Yarmouth Port, Mass., dealers Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins decorated one wall with circa 1850–1940 folk instruments, $85,000, collected over many decades.
With the stock market up double digits over the past year and real estate rebounding, the mood on the floor was buoyant.
“It was meant to be in The Birds of America. Ultimately, another version was published,” Harry S. Newman said of the rare Audubon watercolor depicting the long-tailed duck (old squaw), that New York’s Old Print Shop sold on opening night.
From needlework specialists Stephen and Carol Huber, the New York-Historical Society acquired an important biblical sampler by a New York girl, Sarah Ann Janeway Van Zandt (1771–1841), who completed it in 1783. The institution owns a portrait of the maker as a mature woman, painted around 1835. The Hubers also sold an outstanding Philadelphia sampler worked by Anna Lobdell at Ann Marsh’s school in 1761 and had keen interest in a rare Boston quillwork sconce of circa 1730.
From miniatures to primitives, portraiture sold well at Joan Brownstein, Tillou Gallery, Elliott and Grace Snyder and Elle Shushan, whose Egyptian Revival-style booth was inspired by Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery, established by Napoleon in 1804.
David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles, who purchased 37 lots at Sotheby’s Esmerian sale for nearly $4 million, were active at the show as well. They parted with portraits by John Brewster and George G. Hartwell and had interest in Ammi Phillips’ sharply graphic portrait of the Ten Broeck brothers. Presiding over their stand was the life-sized figure of Admiral George Dewey, a trade figure by Samuel A. Robb.
Buyers swept Allan Katz’s booth clean, claiming Lady Columbia, $150,000, a painted zinc figure by William Demuth of New York, circa 1876, that was last displayed in Brennan’s Cigar Store in Carbondale, Penn. The Woodbridge, Conn., dealer also sold codfish, stag and deer weathervanes, a set of ventriloquist dolls and other assorted folk sculpture.
“Business has been good. The economy is rebounding and there is great interest in American decorative arts,” said Colchester, Conn., dealer Arthur Liverant, whose many sales included a New London County, Conn., tall case clock by Thomas Harland; a Misses Patten School, Hartford needlework by Anne Hathaway of Suffield, Conn.; a Portsmouth school drop-panel chest; and a Chippendale maple desk on frame from eastern Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
The Delaney family covered all bases with timepieces ranging from a rare painted-case dwarf clock by Joshua Wilder, Hingham, Mass., circa 1820–25, to a circa 1888 hall clock retailed by Tiffany.
Peter Eaton sold a splay-leg Queen Anne tea table from North Shore, Mass., or New Hampshire that some will remember from the 1982 Roger Bacon sale. The Newbury, Mass., dealer featured an exceptional inlaid cherry Lombard school candlestand, circa 1800, with a fluted shaft.
Collectors gathered around at Jonathan Trace Antiques, poring over cases of increasingly scarce Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century American silver.
Sold for a record price at Pook in October, Charles Hofman’s signed and dated 1878 painting on zinc of a Berks County alms house resurfaced as the centerpiece of C.L. Prickett’s display. Elsewhere, Olde Hope Antiques enjoyed sales of a circa 1790 Pennsylvania dower chest, best of kind and formerly in the collection of Austin Fine.
Among other sales of note were a pair of Chinese monumental glazed stoneware figures of foreigners riding fu lions, ex collection J.P. Morgan, at Ralph M. Chait Galleries; Carlo Scarpa Venetian glass, subject of a current Metropolitan Museum display, at Glass Past; Tiffany table lamps and Nakashima table and chairs at Geoffrey Diner Gallery; and a Harry Bertoia bush sculpture at Lost City Arts.
The 2015 Winter Antiques Show is planned for January 23–February 1 with a preview on January 22.
For additional information, www.winterantiquesshow.com or 718-292-7392.