Sunday, February 10, 2013

Antiques Week 2013 At Last: Part VI

The Downtown Armory Show
What a difference a day makes, Dear Reader.  After attending the glittering gala opening of the Winter Antiques Show at the uptown Armory on Park Avenue, the next morning we attended the "other" Armory antiques show, at the downtown Armory on Lexington Avenue in the twenties.  Antiques at the Armory (or the Downtown Armory Show, as it is known) is a much more affordable antiques show than its far-fancier uptown sister, and it attracts an eclectic roster of dealers and attendees.

Such as the woman in the preceding photograph, shown sitting at the entrance of the show enjoying a pre-show smoke.

There was much to see at the Downtown Show, with dealers appealing to buyers of all sorts and pocketbooks.  While the show is always heavy on Americana, it features lots of other offerings, too.

Boy rather liked the lamps shown in the preceding photograph.  He thought they would look swell in one of his clients' Manhattan apartments.

Both Armory shows are held in cavernous spaces, with ceilings soaring high above the fray.

I liked these mushroom specimen models, made of carved and painted wood.  They reminded me of ones that I had admired in a magical Kips Bay Showhouse room decorated by Ann Getty a number of years ago.

The Downtown Show was decorated with half a dozen or so large metal urns filled with flowers and greenery.  Someone went to real effort to make these happen, and I thought they looked marvelous.

I was sorely tempted when I came across this booth's display of Black Forest bears.  I have a collection of them at Darlington House, started by my mother's father and which I have added to over the years.  I bring them out at Christmastime to decorate the mantel in our Snuggery.

I thought this patriotic dress from the first quarter of the twentieth century was appealing.  No, not for me to wear, Dear Reader, but rather as an example of Americana.  I can just imagine a pretty young woman wearing this dress, marching in an Independence Day parade, circa 1920.

I also was drawn to these two wallpaper covered bandboxes, dating from the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  We have several of them at Darlington House.  Ours are reproduction ones that were made at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York.  Contrary to what many people think, bandboxes were not made just to hold hats.  They were a popular and inexpensive hold-all for clothing and personal effects.  Given their ephemeral nature, relatively few of them survive today, and those that do usually are for sale at what an uneducated buyer might consider eye-popping prices.

One dealer had a group of miniature bandboxes for sale at $300 to $650 apiece (I told you they were expensive).  These made a charming display, I thought.

As did this tower of quill boxes from the mid-nineteenth century.  I've seen rather a lot of quillwork boxes for sale recently.  I wonder if they are now being made again, perhaps in India. 

As Martha Stewart once famously exclaimed, "Every good cook deserves a copper pot!"

I thought this early twentieth-century mustachioed folk art policeman's head was nifty.

At the show I came across this early nineteenth-century portrait painted by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), the same itinerant American artist who painted the two children in the double portrait I showed in my Sotheby's preview post.  The Phillips painting of the children in the Sotheby's sale was estimated at a whopping $250,000 to $300,000.  This fellow's listed sticker price was for a much more reasonable $12,500.  Unlike the painting at Sotheby's, which failed to find a buyer, I suspect this man's portrait sold shortly after I snapped its image, given what I believe was a very reasonable price for this artist's work.

I'm not usually a fan of paint-by-numbers pictures, but I thought this massing of them on a wall was terrific.  They would look great in a child's room, I think, or in a rustic mid-century lakeside cottage.

I thought this tiny early nineteenth-century eglomisé matted needlework picture was charming.

The dealer who displayed this green lattice work panel didn't realize that he'd got it wrong.  It is meant to be displayed horizontally, not vertically.  It is a fireboard, designed to be placed in the opening of a fireplace during the off season.  We have (and use) similar (although not identical) fireboards at Darlington House, some of which are antique, and others that we had made.

Not all of the goods at the Downtown Show are American or European in origin.  One dealer had a collection of African figures on view.  The one shown in the preceding photograph caught my eye.  She stands only around eight inches tall.

I was rather taken with this nineteenth-century American painting of squirrels naughtily feasting on strawberries.  I suspect the cat peering at them may have disrupted their mischief but moments later . . .

This sculpture of a mother monkey and her baby was both appealing and kind of creepy.

There were any number of miniature dioramas for sale at the Downtown Show.  I don't know if it is that a collection of them had recently come on the market, or if someone is making them today.  In any event, they were quite marvelous.

Here's Martin Chasin, a dealer in antique English silver.  We've bought numerous pieces from him over the years.  He's very nice, and a pleasure to do business with.  If you are in the market for reasonably priced, superior quality antique English silver, I recommend that you check out his website or look him up at one of the many shows he attends.

Something tells me that this elaborate and fanciful martin house won't be returning to the out-of-doors after the show.  Rather, I suspect it will be featured in the decoration of a house in the Hamptons or somewhere similar.

I came very close to succumbing to these two nineteenth-century English basalt candlesticks.  However, since I had already blown my resolve not to buy anything at the shows just the night before, I decided to forgo them, even though they were very well priced at $2,500 for the pair.  Now that I think of it, Dear Reader, I probably should have allowed myself to buy them to add to our basalt collection at Darlington House.  Ah, well—as Scarlet O'Hara famously said in Gone With the Wind, "Tomorrow is another day."  I console myself that I will, indeed, have other opportunities to buy basalt candlesticks . . . hopefully when I'm feeling flusher.

There was a pair of these decorative, patinated chimney covers at the show.  I'm not exactly sure what one would do with them, but I liked them nonetheless.

I've always got my eye out at such shows shopping for an imaginary beach house.  I thought this "Old Salt" doorstop (he stood around eight inches tall) would be a nice addition to a traditional seaside cottage on Cape Cod or elsewhere on the New England coastline.  Boy, however, wasn't convinced . . .

I came across this amusing sign as I was leaving the show, and had to take a photograph of it.  I thought it cleverly apropos of all the bargaining and horse-trading that goes on at such events.

In need of sustenance after prowling through the aisles of the Downtown Show, we jumped into our car and headed back uptown to Lusardi's, an UES institution, where we tucked into a tasty, wine-fortified luncheon of delicious pasta.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves, which was quite a contrast from when we usually eat dinner there, when the place is always packed to the gills.

And with that, Dear Reader, I complete my tour of the antiques auction previews and shows held in New York City during this year's Antiques Week.  I hope you liked it.

Editor's Note: By the time I made it to this point I could not bear the thought of attending yet another antiques show, and therefore skipped the downtown Metro Show, the other major show held during Antiques Week.  I understand from people who made it there, though, that it was well worth attending.

All photographs by Reggie Darling


  1. Dear Reggie,

    Thank you for your always entertaining and insightful commentary.

    While I have no doubt that at every antiques show one may find reproductions, as the dealer who displayed the natural history dioramas you photographed, I wanted to let you know that these were not newly made, as you speculated. In fact, they came from the Children's Museum in West Hartford, CT which was recently remodeled and 'modernized'. These examples likely date from the 19540s or 50s and were newly electrified. Frames which pre-date the dioramas, from the 1870s-80s, were added to make them more decorative. (In their previous museum setting, they were built in and shown flush with the walls and so not intended to be seen as freestanding objects). The number of them you saw is not suspicious in this case since they were part of an extensive institutional display. You may have seen 2 more at the show that also came from the same museum which deaccessioned them.

    I felt compelled to clarify their provenance because, even for decorative curiosities like these, age and authenticity matter to me.

    Thank you and *Boy* for your interest. The pleasure you derive from antiques (and curiosities) is inspiring.

    Kind regards,
    Andrew Spindler

    1. Dear Mr. Spindler -- thank you very much for clarifying and educating me (and my fortunate readers) as to the origin of the miniature dioramas. Your explanation makes perfect sense, and all is now understood. I was, as I wrote, quite taken with them. Would that I had a place for one or two of them, I surely would have scooped them up, as they are marvelous, indeed. Yours with appreciation, Reggie

  2. I loved your pics of this show. The stuff at the fancier shows is beautiful, but I can't imagine actually living with it whereas these homelier works look like they could survive dust and dogs...

    Yr. sister, Hermione

    PS the chimp and baby aren't actually chimps, but rather some sort of monkey, as proven by the fact they have tails!

    1. Dearest Hermione -- thank you for your gentle correction, I have since updated the post accordingly. Your grateful brother, Reggie

  3. Reggie, Could you please explain the purpose of fire board in the off season? I have never seen one and I am curious . Is it to keep unwanted critters out of the house?
    Thank you

    1. Hello Anon: Fireboards were used back in the day to cover the openings of fireplaces during the warmer weather months, and were popular because they covered the unsightly, log-less openings. You will frequently see ones that are either painted with whimsical scenes, covered with scenic wallpaper, or made with louvres such as this one. Thanks for asking -- Reggie

  4. Thank you for such a wonderful 6 part tour of the Winter Antique Show. It's been a true pleasure. We lived a few blocks away from Lusardi's and ate there at least once a week. I miss it, and we always have a dinner there when we're in NY.

    1. Hello Kathy, I'm, pleased you liked this series. Please let me know when you are in New York for one of your visits, so we can meet you for dinner at Lusardi's! RD

    2. Would love it Reggie. I'm sure we've crossed paths there many times. And yes, I adored this series and thank you so much again for all your time and effort in sharing it.

  5. I am sighing over those basalt candlesticks. But you are right - there will be others.

    Thank you for bringing us these photos. I've been lingering over your posts. They've truly been delightful.

    1. I am now figuring those candlesticks will haunt me for years (shoulds-woulda-coulda). Oh well. Glad you liked the series! RD

  6. i see lots of beautiful mirrors=)

  7. You sent me on quite a journey Reggie becuase of those dolphins, I am trying to discover when that um.. representation came into being.

    I laughed at the 1c off sign ..we no longer have 1 or 2c coins here

    1. Dear smr -- please let me know what you find out about the dolphin candlesticks -- so I can keep torturing myself over why-oh-why-oh didn't I buy them??? I think the one cent coin has long outlived its usefulness on these shores... RD

  8. Hmmm... I'll take the lamps, all the boxes, some silver, the portrait, and the squirrel painting. I will burn the creepy monkeys.

    Thank you for going and letting us live vicariously through you.

    1. Hello Emmaleigh -- glad you shared my appreciation for the show's offerings. I had a weird "Planet of the Apes" sensation when I saw the mother monkey with her baby. It was rather weird and unsettling! RD

  9. Great blog post with beautiful images on antiques, antiques at the armory at the downtown armory show, is much more affordable antiques and features lots of other offerings, too. I was searching for the same kind of information and i found your weekly blog post very interesting and will be looking forward for more posts. Thanks for the information.

    Thanks & Regards,

  10. really wonderful things; I enjoyed your images very much. just wish I could attend. I love those lamps, too, as well as the green oriental chest they are sitting on.

    great post...donna

  11. Wow, love the gold lotus lamps and the malachite finish on that chest. And of course the basalt candlesticks! I turned a similar one into a lamp for my entryway.

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