May 13, 2009 | One morning in 1983 Sumpter Priddy III woke to Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is?" on the radio and knew she was singing to him. Although he had achieved his goal of becoming a curator at an important American museum, there had to be more. He resigned from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia, and "took a flying leap," as he puts it, into a career as an antiques dealer.
The second of five children of a successful businessman and an English teacher, both with long Virginia pedigrees, Priddy grew up on a farm near Ashland, where, he says, "I fed a hundred head of cattle and did chores every day from the time I could walk until I left for college." But an interest in antiques and history was instilled in him from childhood. "My parents and grandparents were inveterate auction-goers, and took me to country sales and antique shops from my youth," he recalls, "and two of my older cousins and a neighbor were obsessed with Civil War battlefields and campsites, so we were always digging in refuse pits."
When he was fourteen, a teacher told Priddy about Winterthur—Henry Francis du Pont's grand house museum in Delaware—and he begged his parents to take him to see it. At that time you had to be sixteen to tour the house, so his sixteenth birthday present was the much-anticipated trip. "Even before that I knew I wanted to be a curator," he recalls, but the visit clinched it. He began to educate himself in earnest about American furniture. "The honest truth is," he says, "I learned the most from studying the pages of The Magazine Antiques—I would cover up the captions and quiz myself endlessly about what was in the pictures."
April 14, 2009 | Readers who enjoyed William Nathaniel Banks's article about Madison, Georgia, in our April issue now have another reason to visit that historic and beautiful town, which is celebrating its bicentennial this year. The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center is presenting an exhibition entitled The Many Faces of Madison: A History of Portrait Painting in the Piedmont, which includes thirty-five likenesses dating from the late eighteenth century to 1985, with most from the nineteenth century.
Among them are portraits of some of the inhabitants that people Banks's story. John Byne Walker and his wife Eliza Saffold Fannin, for example, whose marriage, Banks reported, Walker recorded in his plantation book in the same breath with his account of his corn, wheat, and oat crops, are represented in portraits of about 1840 that are traditionally attributed to Thomas Sully.
April 7, 2009 | In New York in the 1880s—the gilded age when the likes of the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and the Goulds were building their mansions along and near Fifth Avenue—the new aesthetic style often reigned supreme as the choice for their grand interiors. Herter Brothers, Kimbel and Cabus, Pottier and Stymus, Leon Marcotte are just a few of the firms that catered to the city's wealthy, creating rooms in which the furniture, woodwork, textiles, and other decorative objects all bespoke a coherent whole, even if each reflected a different influence.
Last Friday two exemplary rooms from the period were given to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and the Metropolitan Museum of Art—respectively, the master bedroom and the dressing room from a townhouse at 4 West Fifty-fourth Street that was redecorated in 1881 for Richmond native Arabella Duval Worsham. After she married Collis P. Huntington in 1884, she sold the house, fully furnished, to John D. Rockefeller, who evidently made few changes to the décor over the years. After his father's death in 1937 John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave the Moorish style smoking room from the house to the Brooklyn Museum and the bedroom and dressing room to the Museum of the City of New York, which, when it became clear that they would not fit in its current renovation plans, decided to give them to institutions where they would be widely accessible. Neither room will be immediately accessible, however: at the Virginia Museum the bedroom will be installed in the new McGlothlin Wing, scheduled to open next year; the dressing room will probably not be unveiled at the Metropolitan Museum for a few years.
March 20, 2009 | Charleston's architecture, gardens, and history always draw visitors, but for lovers of antiques, there's no better week of the year to be here. Wednesday, the twelfth annual Charleston Art and Antiques Forum opened—four and a half days of lectures, tours, discussions, and visits to private collections—and Thursday evening brought the festive preview party for the Charleston International Antiques Show, a gathering of some of the best dealers in the country.
It was almost impossible to choose which of the three tours to take on the Art and Antiques Forum's opening day—a behind-the scenes peek at the holdings of the Gibbes Museum of Art (where most of the events are held), led by the museum's vivacious new director Angela Mack; Ralph Harvard's walking tour of the city's earliest surviving houses; or the one I opted for—Daniel Ackermann's insightful tour of the magnificent Greek revival building of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim synagogue. In the eighteenth century Charleston had the largest and wealthiest Jewish community in America, and the synagogue is the oldest in continual use in this country. It was built in 1841 to replace the original building, which had burned three years earlier, and Ackermann provided fascinating background about it and Charleston's important role in the evolution of Judaism in the Unites States.
March 19, 2009 | We were prepared to pay considerably more, so were happily surprised," says American needlework dealer Carol Huber about her successful bid on this charming Boston canvas-work picture, offered at the first auction of American furniture and decorative arts held by Bonhams in New York in mid-January. When she saw it in the catalogue, she thought the presale estimate of $6,000 to $8,000 was "very low," and, indeed, others must have thought so too, for the bidding was active, with several people in the room and on the phone taking part; the hammer ultimately fell at $27,450. Similar pieces sold in the last decade have gone for much more-including a pair Huber and her husband, Stephen, bought in 2001 for more than $100,000. She tucked the needlework into her tote bag and took it straight up to their booth at the Winter Antiques Show, where a thrilled collector snapped it up "at a modest profit." Before the new owner takes possession, the Hubers will oversee conservation of both the …» More
Pickle Dish, American China Manufactory (Bonnin and Morris), Philadelphia, 1771-72. Soft-paste porcelain with lead glaze; height 4 3/16, width 4 1/2» View All