There is no arguing with the idea that the Winter Antiques Show, which opened last night at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, is the BIG one. Now in its fifty-sixth year, its seventy-five dealers from around the world are showcasing some of the very best in the decorative arts, painting, and folk art. There is a lot to see, and some of it is huge. We’ve picked out a few that are hard to overlook. You really can’t miss James and Nancy Glazer‘s majestic copper elk right inside the entrance. Standing ten feet high, it was made about 1903 by the W. H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio, and originally topped the Elks Club in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Across the aisle, Todd Prickett of C. L. Prickett has an exceptional Boston block-front chest-on-chest (c. 1775) that’s almost eight feet tall-and was included in Luke Vincent Lockwood’s seminal Colonial Furniture in America of 1913.
It might seem that Gerald Peters Gallery has only five objects on offer, they are so enormous, but there are several smaller pieces as well. The centerpiece, of 1914, is a fourteen thousand-pound, nine-foot-tall urn carved by Paul Manship from a block of Tennessee marble with a neoclassical frieze of Indians hunting buffalo and engaged in intertribal warfare. On the booth walls hang Manship’s Four Elements, four of eight parcel-gilt bronze reliefs he did for façades of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company’s old headquarters in downtown Manhattan (the other four are in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). All eight were detached during AT&T’s removal from the building in the 1980s. Considerably smaller but equally powerful is the gallery’s collection of British Championship Animals, modeled by Herbert Haseltine in 1925.
Small is always the focus for Elle Shushan, whose specialty is portrait miniatures. Her booth, designed by Ralph Harvard, evokes the dining room of the Harrison Gray Otis House in Boston, the headquarters of Historic New England—most appropriately, since that institution’s holdings are the subject of the show’s loan exhibition, set up just across the way from Shushan.
Returning to the big theme, Carswell Rush Berlin‘s enormous gilded girandole looking glass, probably English and dating from about 1810, is surmounted by a dramatic eagle with a snake in its mouth, a rare motif that may be a reference to the Mexican Wars of Independence. Aronson of Amsterdam has several late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Delft flower vases, including one of the largest known from the Grieksche A Factory, dating from about 1686 and well over two feet tall.
Flowers are very much the theme for the doorway designed by Prairie school architect George W. Maher for the Charles and Helen Winton House in Wausau, Wisconsin, about 1905-1906 in the booth of Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts. Using poppies as his theme, Maher created a pattern that exudes a sense of serenity and balance, achieving subtle nuances of color and dimension by incorporating different types of textured glass.
In the 1960s Harry Bertoia took the flower theme in another—though equally balanced and delicate—direction with his enormous Dandelion, offered by new Winter Antiques Show exhibitor Lost City Arts. One of seven created for Eastman Kodak’s display at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, this remarkable sculpture is composed of hundreds of individual gilt-wire sprays applied to a gilt-bronze sphere and raised on a heavy brass stem to a full 7 1/2 feet.
One last large object that caught my eye is also from the twentieth century, a wall hanging by the somewhat mysterious folk artist Peter Hunt, who is best known as a furniture decorator who established himself in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the 1920s. Robert Wilkins and Suzanne Courcier found this colorful textile embroidered with a village scene, dated 1944, and inscribed in French by the self-styled Pierre Le Chasseur on Cape Cod. The only known textile designed by Hunt, its pristine condition suggests that it was never entirely unfurled until now.
It’s really the quality of all the objects offered at the Winter Antiques Show—big or small, and every size in between—that make the show what it is.