By Mitchell Owens
After all the Ayala Champagne was quaffed, Canard catering’s one-bite beef Wellingtons and chocolate tacos were gulped, and the insanely pretty floral arrangements by Brooklyn’s Tin Can Studios had been ogled, how did the invitation-only opening night of the Winter Antiques Show—which welcomes the public today, January 20, at the Park Avenue Armory, through January 29—do?
First, the crowd, whose ticket purchases benefited East Side House Settlement, an organization that has been improving the lives and encouraging the futures of the youth of the South Bronx for 125 years. As usual, a constellation of Manhattan’s chic and savvy were in attendance, from Jamee Gregory (author of New York Parties: Private Views) in sequined splendor to portrait painter Marina Killery in form-fitting sapphire-blue lace to former mayor Michael Bloomberg and his partner, financier Diana Taylor. Ditto AD100 designers and architects, among them Jamie Drake, Caleb Anderson, and Miles Redd, along with actress-writer Jill Kargman (Bravo’s Odd Mom Out) and supermodel Stephanie Seymour.
Sales, though, are always the proof in the pudding, evidence of the aesthetic temperature of the time as well as the strength of the economy. And by the end of this year’s debut of the Winter Antiques Show, dealers were peppering their booths with discreet red stickers indicating that sales were being made.
There was fevered interest in Maison Gerard’s Fireworks cabinet by Jules Leleu, a bravura circa-1946 meuble that is flamboyantly inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Society dowager Irene Roosevelt Aitken, a connoisseur of 18th-century English antiques, was spotted at Ronald Phillips, peering intently at an exotic pair of George III chinoiserie gilt-wood girandoles by Thomas Johnson. At Barbara Israel Garden Antiques, American billionaire Richard L. Chilton, the owner of England’s historic Crichel House, was pondering a marble wall fountain that married a 15th-century Italian basin and backplate with a circa-1900 Italian base. (The AD100 Jayne Design Studio recently won a Stanford White Award for historic preservation for its work on Crichel’s interiors.) And everybody was speechless when, at Thomas Coulborn & Sons’ booth, they came face to face with a brace of 1820s Neapolitan krater vases, so brightly colored and dramatically textured that, from a distance, they appeared to be knitted from polychrome wool (think Missoni) rather than cast in creamware.
All those items were still in play by the time the Champagne stopped flowing, but here’s a short list of what some of opening night’s guests admired and paid for.
Three collectors fell madly in love with Book of Flowers, a grand and glittering diptych by British artist Sophie Coryndon, who dappled two ivory-gessoed panels with a meadow of wildflowers made of cast plaster that she had carved and gilded in emulation of 16th-century gold-thread embroidery. The piece, measuring 72 inches long by 102 inches tall, sold for $48,000—but the two other impassioned visitors paid richly too, placing orders for the work to be replicated.
An impressively large circa-1860 eagle in flight, made in New England of carved white pine.
An 1843 J. Gauntt portrait of a fireman standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange at the time of the 1835 fire that wiped out much of Lower Manhattan.
A 100-inch-tall blown-glass whimsy, an American curiosity that resembles a giant walking stick; it was made around 1850.
An important 1776 copper-plate engraving of a plan of the city of New York, as it was surveyed in the 1760s; drawn by Bernard Ratzer.
Two English Regency specimen-wood tea caddies, circa 1820.
An 18th-century Italian mecca carved and gilded mirror (18 inches tall by 15.5 inches wide), with its original glass.
A circa-1815 English silver luster mug.
A circa-1820 English Nailsea goblet.
A circa-1850 specimen box displaying an arrangement of coral.
A collection of 41 tiny book-shaped whimsies, made in America in the mid- to late 19th century. The largest measures only 1.5 inches by 1 3/16 inches by 3/8 inches.
A Chinese Paktong Gu form vase made in the 18th century.
A circa-1900 English candle box made of mahogany and outfitted with gilt brass.
A pair of Charles I lion figures made of carved oak and highlighted with oil gilding. They originally graced the Speaker’s Pew at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, in London.
An American (possibly Salem, Massachusetts) walnut dressing table made in the Chippendale fashion, circa 1770–80, and featuring ball-and-claw feet. It was originally owned by Capt. John Hodges, an 18th-century military man, and his wife, Mary Manning.
A 1762 trade card advertising the business of Robert Barker Jr., an undertaker and appraiser in York, England.
Two English butcher’s trade signs, made of zinc, in the shape of large bull’s heads, circa 1910.
A French trade sign made of carved and painted wood, dated April 1843.
Six antique Swedish heart-shaped bowls made of root-wood.
An English tradesman’s sample staircase, circa 1880.
A 1926 Ohara Koson woodblock print titled Oban tate-e and depicting preening egrets illuminated by the light of a crescent moon.
A pair of Alecos Fassianos bird-shaped candlesticks of gilt bronze, made around 1995 as artist’s proofs.
Two circa-1955 bentwood-and-leather lounge chairs that Italian designer Gianfranco Frattini designed for Cassina. They were originally used at the Piccolo Hotel in Savona, Italy.
Image: Composition, a Suzy Frelinghuysen collage made around the 1940s.