For many years Boy and I have spent Thanksgiving day with dear friends of ours who live in a lovely late-18th-century house not far from us in the country. It's almost the perfect place to spend Thanksgiving – classic New England compound, handsomely furnished, rooms warmed by roaring fires, and charming and amusing friends. It doesn’t hurt that the inhabitants are wonderfully attractive too; one of the sons spent a stint in New York modeling for the likes of J Crew and Banana Republic.
This year we reluctantly tore ourselves away to spend the holiday in the City, as we had been invited to spend Thanksgiving with friends of ours there, and we thought a breath of change would be pleasant. Boy became friends with what is now the wife of the couple whose Thanksgiving gathering we joined when they both attended Sotheby’s American Arts course a decade or so ago, and has maintained a fond friendship with her since then. She is absolutely lovely – tall, slender, and every bit a lady in a modern, of-the-moment way – and she is married to a dashing fellow who looks like an up-to-date version of Clark Gable, only better. While at their party the hostess excitedly told us that they had only recently been photographed for Italian Vogue for a story covering up and coming young couples in the contemporary art world. I can’t wait to see that! The party was really quite swell – delicious, yummy food, plenty of hooch, people of all ages, gorgeous flowers, lots of laughter, and no-one sulking in the corner even though the guests were mostly drawn from the couple’s large and extended families.
Our first stop was Harbor View Center for Antiques where, after what was appearing to be a fruitless journey, Boy pointed out a pair of German porcelain pugs, circa 1890, each holding a basket in their mouths containing two pug puppies. Our beloved Pompey is a pug, and I have developed a weakness for pug figures (at the right price); since these fit both bills, “sold” they were. In the same case I also noticed a small, velvet-backed silver frame from the 1940s that had openings for three snap-shots, and would be perfect for upgrading a triptych of photos I have of me and two of my siblings that sits in a rather degraded leather case on my chest of drawers at Darlington. So in the bag it went, too, joining the pugs.
After a number of other bootless stops at other antiques emporia in town our final destination was Hiden Galleries, a monster of an antiques mall chock-a-block with several hundred dealers. We were quite enamored of an absolutely marvelous lamp of a Harlequin figure in full costume, mask and tricorn from the 1950s, in perfect condition. Large scale and beautifully done, this was the “real deal” made for a highly sophisticated (and rich) client as opposed to the crappy “kitch” ones you see in junky group shops. It would be perfection in the right space – perhaps a games room in Palm Beach or South Hampton – but not in either of our residences. So we passed on it, speculating (again) that we wouldn’t be surprised to shortly see it in the window of Louis Bofferding, or Mallett for that matter.
However, time heals all wounds as they say, and more recently – within the last year or so – Boy and I had begun to remark on how we were beginning to like green majolica again. About six months ago Boy bought a single 19th century green majolica plate that we’ve enjoyed having about (the green is really lovely – grassy and luminous). More recently, we bought two, near-identical sets of 12 plates (for a total of 24) at auction for an astonishingly cheap price and were delighted to serve dessert on them several weeks ago at a brunch we held for several dozen.
So when we came across the 19th century Wedgwood majolica footed compote and an incidental serving plate in one of the cases at Hiden Galleries, we were quite happy to add them to our stash. And the price was right. I'm showing our full collection here, which I think looks quite handsome assembled en masse. The actual shade of their green is closer to the second photo than the first.
As we drove through Connecticut and then New York on our way to Darlington, our day of shopping completed, we passed any number of Big Box shopping malls with parking lots jammed with cars indicating that “Black Friday” was a success (at least in terms of foot traffic) for retailers of new merchandise. I’m happy for them. However, I much prefer to spend my “Black Friday” strolling in peace through the aisles of antiques stores. Not only am I not annoyed by the hustle and bustle of today’s retail experience, but I am confident that what I come across will not be found in every shopping mall or under every Christmas tree in America. I also know that the sticker price is almost always negotiable (no “manufacturer’s suggested retail price”), and that I’m doing my part for the environment by buying previously owned, recycled products. Sure, I know I use carbon footprint by driving around, but – hey – I’m carpooling with Boy and Pompey when I do it.
Photos by Boy Fenwick and Reggie Darling