Wednesday night I slipped out of work early to head uptown to visit the New York Ceramics Fair, which is being held this Antiques Week at the Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side.
This year's Ceramics Fair brought together thirty dealers of historical to contemporary porcelain, pottery, and glass from across the United States and England. The Fair was a bit smaller this year, with a handful of notable absences from its roster of dealers. I wonder, is it because the public's taste for fine ceramics is waning, or is it a function of a still-ænemic economy?
|The woman wearing the shroud of black in this photograph is a regular|
attendee at all the New York City antiques shows.
I've seen her prowling the aisles of them for many years . . .
The Ceramics Fair is being held for the second (or is it the third?) year in the spacious, two-storey auditorium of the Bohemian National Hall, with dealers' booths spread across the main floor of the room and also the balcony above.
|Mr. John Howard|
Our first stop was at the booth of John Howard, hailing from Oxfordshire, England. Mr. Howard specializes in early English ceramics and has been the source of a number of our purchases over the years. Two years ago we bought from him a superb early-19th-century pearlware bust of the Goddess Minerva, in the Classical taste. It is one of the treasures of our collection at Darlington House.
|This magnificently scaled, dry-body jug in|
John Howard's booth was a jaw-dropper!
This year Mr. Howard was joined by a friend and colleague named Ms. Myrna Schkolne, who is an expert in English Staffordshire ceramics of the 1780-1840 period. Ms. Schkolne is a noted author on the subject (we bought one of her books from her that evening) and is about to come out with the first of a four-part series—likely to be the definitive one at that—on English Staffordshire pottery of her specialist period. I am looking forward to adding her series to our reference library.
|Ms. Myrna Schkolne|
Mr. Howard's booth features a delightful selection of Staffordshire animal figures this year.
Including several early and rare examples, such as this eighteenth-century lioness:
I was quite taken with this pair of monkeys, too, also from the eighteenth century:
Mr. Howard is also featuring an extensive selection of eighteenth-century creamware:
The pair of hirsute, early nineteenth century pearlware busts shown in the following photograph were right up my alley, but I resisted their temptation and hurried on before my resolve of fiscal conservatism melted away. Our time at the fair was short, as we arrived only forty-five minutes before closing time, and there was still much left to see!
Our next stop at the fair was at the booth of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge (now based in Maryknoll, New York), where we were greeted by the affable Paul Vandekar, who owns and runs the business today.
|Mr. Paul Vandekar|
|The Earle D.Vandekar of Knightsbridge booth|
I admired an early-nineteenth-century silver luster bust of the Empress Josephine. It reminded me of ones featured in a post (since taken down) by Aesthete's Lament that were (then) being sold by the American dealer R. Louis Bofferding, a friend of the author. The ones in Aesthete's Lament's post were shown in photographs taken in the 1930s in a house in Lake Forest, Illinois, designed by David Adler and decorated by his sister, Francis Elkins. Some provenance!
|You, too, can own a Francis Elkins-approved|
silver lustre bust!
I also found myself lusting after a pair of early nineteenth century recumbent pearlware figures of Anthony and Cleopatra, in the Classical taste, as shown in the following photograph. They would look perfect sitting on one of the fire-surrounds at Darlington House. But no, Dear Reader, I remained steadfast in my fiscal resolve and forced myself onwards!
|These figures are of substantial scale, each measuring approximately|
a foot in length. Very impactful, indeed!
I became weak-kneed, however, in the very next booth to Mr. Vandekar's where I spied a large early-19th-century English pearlware Gothic castle, seen in the following photograph. Of a substantial scale (it probably stands more than a foot tall), it is decorated on all sides, including front and back, as it was designed to sit in the middle of a dining table. How I would have loved to take it home with me to grace ours at Darlington House! But again, fortitude reigned. I didn't even dare ask the price, in case I was even more sorely tempted! In retrospect, I suspect that I shall always remember the little castle as one of the "ones that got away." If only I had room for such a thing. Ah well . . .
|Every man wants to own his own castle, doesn't he?|
In addition to dealers specializing in the ceramics we collect, the Ceramics Fair has dealers specializing in wares outside our collecting sphere. We were particularly impressed by the large, mid-19th-century English footed majolica urn shown in the next photograph.
|Boy and an urn|
After pausing to admire the majolica urn we then made a bee-line to the booth of the good ladies Moylan-Smelkinson/The Spare Room Antiques of Baltimore. They also specialize in English ceramics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (do you notice a theme here, Dear Reader?), and are a must-see destination of ours at these (and other) shows. Not only are the ladies knowledgeable and carry a large inventory, but they are delightfully charming, too.
|Ms. Jacqueline Smelkinson and Ms. Marcia Moylan|
Moylan-Smelkinson always have lots of beautifully decorated tablewares on display.
They also have a large assortment of delightful figures and delicious decorations to choose from.
Along with several shelves of pretty ceramic snuff and patch boxes.
But the standout in their booth this fair, at least in my humble opinion, is a gorgeous English ceramic tulip-shaped and decorated coffee service from the first half of the nineteenth century. It is breathtaking.
After a delightful few minutes chatting with the Moylan/Smelkinsons we tore ourselves away and ran upstairs to the balcony level of the Bohemian Hall's auditorium to visit the other dealers there. Time was short! It was almost closing time! Standing at the edge of the balcony before diving into its booths we paused to take in the excellent view of the main floor below:
Our destination on the balcony was the booth of Linda Willauer Antiques of Nantucket. We enjoy visiting her marvelous, jam-packed shop whenever we visit the island (where we have found a number of treasures in years past). We are also sure to look her up whenever she comes to New York for shows.
|One view of Linda Willauer's booth at the Fair|
Ms. Willauer is justifiably well-known known for her extensive offerings of Chinese export porcelain and English Staffordshire.
This year Ms. Willauer had a pair of pistol-grip Chinese export urns on display, one of which is shown in the following photograph:
I thought this pair of Staffordshire hound spill vases were charming.
And with that, the closing gong rang and it was time to tear ourselves away from the fair!
|Mr. Nicholas Dawes|
Where we introduced ourselves to Nick Dawes of "Antiques Road Show" fame. He was exceptionally pleasant and friendly.
After leaving the Ceramics Fair we stopped in for cocktails and hamburgers at the nearby Finnegan's Wake, a friendly neighborhood Irish pub and a regular cheap 'n' cheerful destination of ours (Reggie doesn't only dine at the likes of La Grenouille, Dear Reader!). I can't recall whether I drowned my sorrows at "F.W." (as we call it) for not buying a thing at the Fair, or because I was celebrating my willpower for not doing so. In any event, the martini (or was it two that I had?) was a delicious topper to a most enjoyable tour of this year's New York Ceramics Fair.
Please note: Dear Reader, should you find yourself in a position to go to the Ceramics Fair, you had better hurry up and do so as it closes this afternoon at 4 p.m.
All photographs by Reggie Darling