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59th Annual Winter Antiques Show

For the week of January 29th, my agenda was to visit the New York International Gift Fair which I was covering for New England Home magazine's Design Blog. But the timing of my trip completely changed when I received an invitation to the Designers' Preview for New York's 59th Annual Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory. I lived in Manhattan for 13 years before moving to Massachusetts, but never attended this distinguished show. Of course, at the time I was in a different profession on Park Avenue, one that gave me little time, if any, to indulge in outside interests. But that's a different story.

What a treat this was for me. The antiques were not the only spectacle. The Armory itself and the exhibit booths, some meticulously crafted to showcase their choice inventory, were a lesson in design.  Also magical was a special exhibit--"Newport: The Glamour of Ornament"--on loan from the Preservation Society of Newport County, featuring treasures from Newport's landmark mansions. But that exhibit warrants a separate post.

Attracting me first were turn-of-the-century trade signs exhibited by Allan Katz. What I love about these pieces are their scale. Before broadcast media, to advertise their wares loud and clear, merchants used oversized signage.

                   

                                                                            Trade Sign, Dealer in Cattle, c. 1880

                 

                                                                            Trade Sign: Enormous Shoe c. 1915

The piece below is similar in scale but was a builder's working model for a paddle wheel passenger steamboat called the "Empire State."

                  

                                                            Builder's Model c. 1865-1875, Tillou Gallery

I could see the cattle sign above a mantle and the shoe or model on a console table in a rustic or seaside retreat.

For lovers of Arts and Crafts, there was this exceptional fire screen, c. 1905, from the Tiffany Studios. Made of wrought iron with gilt accents, it features gold favrile glass, the style of iridescent glass patented by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

   

                                 Favrile Glass and Wrought Iron Fire Screen, c. 1905, exhibited by Geoffrey Diner Gallery

From the same period, although not for sale, were these Josef Hoffmann chairs. I stumbled upon them in the booth of Jonathan Boos, a dealer in 20th Century American paintings and sculpture. I've loved Hoffman's and his compatriots' work from the Wiener Werkstätte since I learned about them in art school. To actually see one of Hoffmann's creations was a highlight for me.

            

                                                   Josef Hoffmann Chair, c. 1909, leather and ebonized bentwood

Fast forward to the 1960s. This stunning Wendell Castle desk and chair emulate many of the same attributes of the minimalist style of the Wiener Werkstätte. Of vermillion, or African padauk, the desk and chair's clean sinuous lines and minimal ornament showcase the beautiful wood grain.

 

                                             Wendell Castle Desk & Chair, c. 1965, exhibited by Lost City Arts

In sculpture, there were many bronze works by Harry Bertoia on display. But I was drawn to this tall piece by Richard Filipowski. Filipowski, invited to New England from Chicago by Walter Gropius, was a long-tenured professor at MIT's School of Architecture. This piece, entitled "Venus," of cast and hand sculpted bronze and silver, stands about seven feet tall. In the dramatic lighting at the show, it was truly impressive.

                   

                                                                  Venus by Richard Filipowski, 1960

I had two draw-dropping favorites at the show. First was this magnificent Japanned cabinet of red lacquer and bronze exhibited by Hyde Park Antiques. The carved giltwood stand, although a little much for me, is resplendent with figures and fauna. The piece, dating to 1690, exemplifies Western interpretations of Eastern art and culture. The cabinet doors open to an array of drawers and compartments detailed with similar scenes. Such an amazing piece of craftsmanship!

  

                                                    William III Japanned Cabinet on Carved Giltwood Stand, c. 1690

Last, and certainly not least, was the draw-dropping jewelry at the show. There were so many gorgeous pieces; a girl could just go crazy. But this piece, exhibited by James Robinson, Inc., was my absolute favorite. It's Siberian amethyst and emerald set in 18 karat gold with handcrafted bead and wire work. A Valentine's Day present, maybe?

                                

                                                              Siberian Amethyst and Emerald Necklace in 18K Gold, c. 1850