January 26, 2014

The Winter Antiques Show Celebrates Its Diamond Jubilee

January has been a tough month for New Yorkers.  Between two big snowstorms and a "Polar Vortex" that caused temperatures to plunge to record lows, there hasn't been much incentive to leave the cozy comforts of home.  But the annual Winter Antiques Show is always worth braving the elements for and yesterday I bundled up and headed through Central Park to the Park Avenue Armory.

2014 marks the 60th anniversary of this distinguished art and antiques fair and no effort was spared to make this an exhibition worthy of a diamond jubilee.  From the towering urns of red roses at the entrance to the stars projected onto the vast ceiling of the Armory to the red velvet benches in the aisles, it was an atmosphere of luxury.

The themes of beauty and rarity were reflected in the wonderful offerings in the 59 booths and two special historical displays on view.  While this fair can be very heavy on Americana, I thought this year's selections were much more diverse and interesting.  Some of the more unusual objects for sale included a whimsical wooden hat and cane stand carved in Germany and depicting a bear cub up a tree with Mama Bear looking up from the base.  Not surprising it was already marked sold by Tillou Gallery, Connecticut.

This pair of carved stone statues on the stand of Robert Young Antiques, London, is a great example of English folk art.  They depict "Paddy and his Wife", a couple embarking on a voyage to a new life in the Americas, circa 1850.

Also charming was a trio of objects, two German, one American, but all in the same case at Frank and Barbara Pollack, Illinois.  The Micky Mouse is a very early example of the iconic Disney character.  The tulips are actually made of glass and are German in origin, as is the paper maché lobster with candies hidden in its body!

The venerable Dutch porcelain dealers Aronson Antiquairs also brought a little humor to their stand with a collection of Delft Suijgkannen or Puzzle Jugs.  These novelty items were for 17th and 18th century drinking games where the party or tavern guest would try to drink red wine from the pitcher without spilling it all over himself and the table.  You see, each jug has booby traps - a perforated neck, a hidden tube, a hollow handle or rim - that makes getting the liquid from the ewer into the drinker's mouth challenging but possible, if you know the trick!

Less entertaining but very elegant was a stunning glass and mirror art déco panel on the stand of Maison Gerard, New York.  An 18th century painted wood with lacquer and silver Almohaddilla, or Mexican sewing box was a lovely discovery at Derek Johns Ltd., London.  And an exceedingly rare gothic coffret with a hand colored woodcut of the Nativity on the interior of the lid was a treasure on the stand of Les Enluminures, New York.

Unfortunately I could not procure a good image of my favorite object at this year's fair but I will try to describe it to you.  On the stand of Associated Artists, Connecticut, the very first stand as I entered the show, was a library table and two chairs that were absolutely stunning.  It turned out to be the creation of none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany who is, of course, normally associated with lamps and silver but evidently had quite a talent for furniture as well.  What made this suite so exceptional was actually two things.  First, the table was inlaid on the top, legs and braces with an intricate micro mosaic of pin-point size bits of wood set in brass to form a geometric pattern.  Second, the chair backs were carved in a heavy relief of flowers that extended over the top rail to give the illusion of a garden of blossoms and leaves.  The set was created for the music room of the Havemeyer mansion on East 66th Street circa 1891-93, and originally comprised two more carved arm chairs which are now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

This year's Winter Antiques Show featured two special exhibitions.  The first, entitled "Fresh Take", came from the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts, the oldest continuously operating museum in the country.  It sought to make comparisons and draw similarities between various cultures and ages and American folk and decorative arts.  The second was a group presentation in honor of the show's diamond jubilee.  With impressive loans of magnificent jewels by Graff, Chanel, Tiffany and Bulgari there was plenty of sparkle to celebrate this milestone of America's most prestigious antiques event.  The Winter Antiques Show continues through February 2, 2014.

No comments: