Sunday, January 27, 2013

Antiques Week 2013 At Last, Part III

A Visit to the New York Ceramics Fair
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?

Notwithstanding, the Fair remains one of the highlights of Antiques Week for Reggie and Boy, and we have done major damage to our bank accounts in its rooms over the years.  Should you be so fortunate to find yourself there, Dear Reader, you will understand why—it is an Aladdin's cave of ceramic treasures!

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

Like Mr. Howard, Mr. Vandekar specializes in English ceramics of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  We bought a charming small figure of a hunter from him several years ago.

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.

What a pretty Chinoiserie plate (one of a pair)! 

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.

One of the good ladies carried the booth's pretty floral theme to the sequined and beaded slippers upon her feet.  Aren't they charming?

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

I'm always amazed at how much inventory Ms. Willauer brings with her when she exhibits in New York.  Believe me, Dear Reader, it takes considerable foresight, planning, and flat-out labor to make such a display happen.  Hats off to you, Ms. Willauer!

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.

Ms. Willauer also has any number of mid-19th-century Staffordshire figures for sale, including these of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.

And with that, the closing gong rang and it was time to tear ourselves away from the fair!

We took one last, longing look out over the main floor and then headed downstairs.

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


  1. Hello Reggie:
    What treasures indeed. This has been a magnificent post for the way in which both through your descriptions and excellent images it has been really possible to appreciate so many of these wonderful pieces almost as if we had been there. But what temptations, abounding on every stand. Your will power is amazing!!

    1. Dear J&LH: What a pleasure it would be to stroll through such a show as this arm in arm with the two of you. I am sure the conviviality and amusement of the conversation would be memorable, to say the least. RD

  2. Dear Reggie,
    You and Boy have such exquisite taste of course! Thank you for sharing as I adore the Tulip Coffee Service and so many of the wonderful Staffordshire Animal Figurines. Oh and Cleopatra and Anthony!

    New 2013 Artists Series

  3. Hello Reggie, Sometimes an embarrassment of riches like this short-circuits the collecting instinct when one doesn't know what to admire first. I was impressed with the Anthony and Cleopatra figures, and also the castle, which looks like a giant pastille burner; I can imagine that they were difficult to leave behind.

    1. Dear Parnassas: Both were difficut to leave behind, indeed. However, the incentive to pay one's mortgage on a timely basis is a powerful one... RD

  4. Yes, an Aladdin's cave indeed! I don't know what I would do with it, but I loved that huge jug in John Howard's booth.

    1. Dear TDC: Isn't it marvelous? As to what to do with it, Mr. Schkolne pointed out when we were visiting the booth that someone had dropped trash in the jug when they weren't looking. How awful! Reggie

    2. That would be MS Schkolne (must stop typing so quickly!) -- RD

  5. WOW! Thanks for the beautifully photographed visit. Much appreciated as I was unable to attend due to the flu. Please keep up the good work!

  6. That Tulip Coffee Service IS magnificent!
    I can only imagine the will power to resist some of these treasures.

  7. Reggie:

    You have Marcia and Jackie reversed...Jackie is on the left and Marcia is on the right. They are both old friends. I just had a long conversation with Marcia last week about our upcoming trip to France. Next time you and Boy are in town hanging with Meg, we'll get y'all together!

    Best to you both,


    1. Thank you Mink, I have now corrected my error. When are you in France? We are going there in March, perhaps our paths will cross? Do please email me with details -- Reggie

  8. Dearest Reggie, I commend your willpower, but am a little disappointed - living vicariously through your reports, it saddens me to think of the "ones that got away". I admire the castle, but was seized with the collector's lust on seeing both Anthony and Cleopatra, and the Hirsute Pair. You were wise and prudent to resist. However did you do it?

    Yr. Sister Hermione

    1. Dear H: Willpower is something that only comes to me in moments of insanity. Your fond brother, Reggie

  9. Lovely post - I needed something of beauty to lift the spirit. Thank you!

  10. Dearest Reggie,
    Of the several (numerous, actually) qualities about myself which I dislike, my ludicrous fascination (near passion) for Meissen porcelain is near the top. The disgusting thirst I possess for this gorgeous stuff is a source of endless self-frustration, and Jr.'s tuition invoices spring to mind when, like a street addict, I make an acquisition... often in the dark of night from a Dresden dealer who has my mobile phone number and no concept of the East Coast time zone. I believe that I have mentioned Janet Gleeson's book to you, no?

    The story behind the hard-paste lust does somewhat exonerate me, and I will spill my guts concerning this matter over martinis with you and you alone.

    Until then, my Bayreuth and Saxony-induced pulse accelerations and palpitations will be kept engorged by a tolerant spouse and a network of German/Austrian porcelain pushers.

    1. Dearest Sandra: Yours is one of the most deliciously composed comments to ever grace this blog. Sheer antic brilliance! That you ever so, Reggie

  11. Hope you told the Baltimore ladies how much you enjoyed their fair city!

  12. So beautiful - want the monkeys. Easier to resist ceramics however living in Los Angeles, where the threat of them tumbling from earthquakes is always on my mind. Thank you for the lovely tour.

  13. Hello Reggie,

    Sandra's cracker of a comment had me in fits of laughter. Your readers are so very witty!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and the accompanying delicious photographs. I would love to attend such a dream show. I've seen Mr Vandekar's wares at the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show several times (always impressive).

    I think you certainly need to consider buying the castle to add to your elephant. Did you know there was a coaching inn during the late 1700s in central London by the name of "Elephant and Castle", where today's very busy road intersection stands? See Reggie, pairing a castle with an elephant is a natural fit.

  14. I love these posts so much, it's like getting to go to the fair with you! I'll be spending my spare moments in the afternoon redecorating my apartment with the things you've pictured.

  15. Do you think the gent beside Queen Victoira is Sir Walter Raleigh ?

    I do admire Ms Willauer's china , though the Atlas in the 20th! photo is pretty eyecatching

  16. What fun! Though I would most likely feel quite intimidated at such a fair as my knowledge of ceramics is meagre at best. I would probably just stumble around saying "oooh" & "ahhhh" and asking everyone if they had seen Reggie & Boy about.


  17. Goodness, I am still reeling from that coffee set... how does one move it? There must be some sci fi stabilization ray that keeps it from breaking in a zillion pieces.

    Thanks for the tour of the show. Those odalisques were amazing too... and so were the people. It is a very special creature indeed that makes a living caring for china.

    I am a recovering addict so I try to stay away from such shows... nice to see them from a safe distance though! Cheers!

  18. Such impressive restraint, Reggie Darling! I would have had to come away with some small item, a little pastille burner or Staffordshire spill holders. (I want those hounds!)

  19. Thanks for the share...


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