January 22, 2012

The 58th Annual Winter Antiques Show

We have not had a very severe winter here in New York City.  In fact, compared to last year this winter has been practically balmy.  But finally Mother Nature sat up, realized it was the middle of January, time for the Winter Antiques Show and certainly time for some snow!  So with a suitable flourish for this most prestigious event, the temperatures fell, the winds picked up and suddenly we were enveloped in a proper winter storm!  Perfect timing, I thought, as I put on my brand new and as yet untested snow boots, and headed off to to enjoy the warm and elegant cocoon of the rare and wonderful art, furniture and objects filling the booths of the 73 dealers from the U.S. and Europe exhibiting at this, the 58th Annual Edition of the Winter Antiques Show.

As usual the wares presented ranged from the sublime to the bizarre, the practical to the extravagant, and everything in between.  From rare books to Oriental rugs, Fabergé enamel frames to North West Coast carved masks, from Delft porcelain to Shaker boxes there was something for everyone.

This show has always had an emphasis on Americana, but this year there seemed to be more diversification in both nationality and era.  While the term "antique" always implied "over 100 years old", that definition has been stretched to include photography and furniture and design up to the 1950s.  While this may irk the purists among us, it does make for an interesting variety of material for the visitor to enjoy.

And enjoy I did!  Almost without exception, every booth offered something marvelous to behold.  Like the Thomas Jefferson Autograph Letter Signed dated 1809 and discussing religious freedom in the new United States of America, on the stand of Kenneth W. Rendell, New York.  Or the fantastic turn of the century Japanese silk scroll by Ogata Gekkô, depicting "The Hell Courtesan with her retinue as skeletons in autumn" hanging at Joan B. Mirviss, New York.  Or a beautiful 17th Century English beadwork dressing box with three dimensional figures of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza embroidered in colorful glass beads on display at Elliott & Grace Snyder, Massachusetts.

If I had to pick a favorite piece I would have a tough time deciding between three very different items.  I loved the diamond and enamel "eye" brooch designed by Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí - a surprising find at A la Vieille Russie, New York.  I was fascinated by the 1870 Mississippi African American Pictographic Plantation desk/secretary with its wonderfully carved relief of tools and instruments covering every plane featured on the stand of Tillou Gallery, Connecticut.

Maybe it's a result of my heritage, but I think my favorite object at this year's show would have to be the wood block wallpaper panel entitled "Canada" printed in 1855 by Zuber Manufacture, France, as part of the series "Zones Terrestres".  This panoramic mural of a ship navigating the treacherous icebergs of the Great North is one of only two known examples and can be found with antique wallpaper specialist Carolle Thibaut-Pomerantz, Paris.

Before I knew it several hours had passed.  I had been so absorbed in the worlds of portrait miniatures, grandfather clocks, stained glass lamps, suits of armor, sailors' valentines and myriad other collectibles that I totally lost track of time!  It was another magical visit to the Winter Antiques Show - an annual delight of treasures and wonders and the perfect way to spend a January afternoon!

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