By Mitchell Owens
Every art fair and antiques show has me shaking my head: I never can afford a single thing. Which doesn’t stop me from coveting this or dreaming of that—and wondering if any dealer entertains layaway. This year’s Winter Antiques Show was no different. The show, which opened to the public at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan on January 20 and closes on January 29, is populated with renowned dealers, many of which presented treasures with which I would happily coexist. And the 17 winners are:
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s Le Chinois, or Bust of a Chinese Man. Curiously, the dealer told me and my colleague Alison Levasseur, AD’s interiors and gardens editor, that the terra-cotta sculpture, a 1920–39 cast of an 1872 design, originally began life as a woman, but Carpeaux (1827–1875) changed its sex by adding a queue. It is based on a much larger Carpeaux sculpture with figures representing the four continents and which is now in the collection of Paris’s Musée d’Orsay. Bowman Sculpture is offering the piece for $120,000.
Ronald Phillips, the eminent London dealer, placed a circa-1760 mantel at the center of his booth, a surprisingly shallow and extremely graceful George III gilt-wood creation attributed to woodcarver Thomas Johnson. It is one of three known examples by Johnson, who created the design around 1758.
I’m not a huge fan of American folk art, but if I’d had $65,000, Elliott & Grace Snyder could have persuaded me to purchase a large hooked carpet (detail shown) measuring 95 inches long by 96 inches wide. In the late 19th century its anonymous creator stitched the burlap base with a colorful multitude of flora and fauna, including cats, birds, flowers, and a horse.
Elliott & Grace Snyder also offered a quillwork diorama for $18,000, a framed Continental curiosity dating from around 1670. Most of the imagery—a castle, flowers, and miniature portraits reputedly depicting England’s James II and his second wife, Mary of Modena—is largely fashioned of rolled paper.
Women artists are the focus of Todd Merrill Studio’s booth, and among the pieces is a new work by Beth Katleman. Called White Rabbit, it is a Lewis Carroll riff on a rococo Thomas Chippendale girandole. The humorous piece, measuring 77 inches high by 31 inches wide, is peopled with cartoonlike characters, including a pigtailed girl in a hoopskirt (quite plainly standing in for the heroine of Alice in Wonderland), the Cheshire cat, and a rodent wearing a top hat.
Aronson, the Amsterdam delftware dealers, captivated me with the presence of two life-size porcelain pears, polychrome models dating from around 1775. The pair is being sold for $4,800.
Dominating the booth of Keshishian, the London textile dealers, is a jungle-theme embroidered European hanging—replete with clambering monkeys—that dates from around 1920 (so says the Winter Antiques Show vetting committee) or the late 19th century (in Keshisian’s opinion). Made of linen that had been embroidered and appliquéd, it measures 19.9 feet tall by 14.5 feet wide.
One of the stars at Rupert Wace Ancient Art is a painted wood panel from 12th-century Egypt, the time of the Middle Kingdom. The panel, which depicts a long polychrome wall pierced by three doors and ornamented by all manner of panels and pilasters, was part of the sarcophagus of Hathorhotep, the daughter of an as-yet-unidentified pharaoh.
Hyde Park Antiques has a circa-1795 English ladies’ desk, made of rosewood inlaid with boxwood, in the style of Thomas Sheraton. The stepped sections incorporate hidden compartments for writing supplies, and the brass candleholders are original. It is priced at $26,000.
Cohen & Cohen, specialists in Chinese export porcelain, is one of my favorite dealers, and the piece that caught my eye was a large Qianlong scallop-edge saucer dish (consider it a serving tray) dating from about 1750 and fashioned of enameled copper. At the center of the dish is a naturalistic scene of gnarled rocks, red flowers (seemingly camellias), and lotus blossoms. Colorful birds round out the piece, which is about 18 inches in diameter.
I’ve become obsessed of late with depictions of rooms, and Montana-based artist Karen Kilimnik’s My Reading Desk Overlooking the Park (painted on June 25 and 26, 2002) is at the top of my wish list. It is being offered by Geoffrey Diner Gallery for $138,000. The 20-by-16-inch oil-on-canvas work depicts a scarlet-and-gold interior, apparently in a grand English or European house.
People at the Winter Antiques Show stop dead in their tracks when they see the pair of krater vases mounted on the exterior wall at Thomas Coulbourn & Sons. Made in Naples around 1826 to 1830, the striking pieces were fashioned by the Giustiniani Factory in emulation of ancient mosaics. Highly textured with a sawtooth-like surface that resembles hundreds of little cubes, the 26.5-inch creamware vases are priced at $195,000 for the pair. Given the zigzag pattern and riotous colors, perhaps one of the Missoni family should buy them.
At Donzella, a circa-1948 console table by Gio Ponti and Paolo De Poli greeted visitors. Made of walnut inset with enameled copper tiles, it was priced at $120,000 and sold on opening night.
Liz O’Brien has many covetables, from contemporary mirrors by Nancy Lorenz to vintage furniture by Max Kuehne and mirror obelisks by Serge Roche. What I wanted most, though, was the 1930s desk/dressing table that belonged to the Duke of Windsor. Used at the Windsors’ houses in the South of France and Paris, the nine-drawer, white-and-red-painted piece has an inventory label emblazoned EP (for Edward Prince). It may have been originally ordered for his bachelor pad, Fort Belvedere, possibly from the now-little-known decorator Herman Schrijver, who decorated the house in the mid-1930s and was an early favorite of Wallis Simpson, the American who became the duke’s wife. It can be yours for $16,000.
At Tambaran, I craved Blue Blossom, a 2016 work by Korean artist Sung Hee Cho. Measuring 86 inches by 36 inches and encased in a glass box, it is composed of thousands of hand-painted rice paper petals, so the piece resembles a shower of wisteria blossoms or densely packed hydrangeas. It is being offered at $38,000.
Forty-eight thousand dollars is dealer James Infante’s price for a Marcel-André Bouraine illuminated aquarium sculpture. It dates from 1925 and is made of patinated bronze and onyx.
Jim Oliviera and Sara Blumberg of Glass Past are selling, for $4,800, one of the most delicate glass vases imaginable: a Venini soffiato vase designed around 1921 by Vittorio Zecchin. Soffiato means “puffed,” and the exquisite mouth-blown piece does seem about as fragile as a bubble.