From the Archives: Living with antiques: The collection of Martin and Gloria Gersh

Bernard Levy Art, Living with Antiques, Magazine

This article was originally published in our pages in June, 1984.

The Gershes have devoted more than twenty years to the study of and search for pre-eminent examples of English eighteenth-century furniture. Their meticulous research, which has included counsel from the dealers in the field, together with their superb taste has produced a major collection of the best English design and craftsmanship to which they have devoted all their resources from their careers in education and publishing. 

Pl. I. At the center of one wall in the living room is a superb English mahogany collector’s cabinet, c. 1765. The excellence of the carving is demonstrated in the detail shown on the frontispiece. On the plinth of the pediment is a Chinese sang de boeuf porcelain vase of the K’ang Hsi period (1662-1722), and on the flanking pair of English gilded wood brackets of c. 1760 are two sang de boeuf porcelain bowls of the same period. The splendid pair of English walnut side chairs and matching armchair, c. 1725, are part of a set illustrated in Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture (London and New York, 1924), p. 225, Fig. 64, and in R. W. Symonds, English Furniture from Charles II to George II (London, 1929), p. 45, Fig. 23. Other chairs from the set are in Kenwood House, London, and in the Wernher collection’ of Luton Hoo, in Luton, Bedfordshire, and London. On the early seventeenth- century Isfahan rug stands one of a pair of English carved mahogany card tables of c. 1755 (see also Fig. 1). The silver cake basket was made by Edward Wakelin (w. 1747-1777) in London in 1750/1. Photographs are by Helga Photo Studio.
Pl. II. Above the mantelpiece in the living room is an English burl-walnut and parcel-gilt looking glass of c. 1720 that retains its original glass and the label of “A. Gardner Junr, Carver and Gilder, Looking Glass and Picture Frame Maker” of “Hackney Road, near Shoreditch Church, London.” On the mantelpiece is a pair of sang de boeuf porcelain gallipot shape vases of the K’ang Hsi period. Flanking the fireplace is a pair of English mahogany torchères of c. 1760, on which is a pair of silver candlesticks made by Robert Makepeace and Richard Carter (w. together 1777-1778) in London in 1776/7. They have been electrified. An identical pair of candlesticks is in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The armchair is discussed in the caption to Pl. I. The English mahogany side chair, c. 1745, is of a design popular in New York a decade later. The chair is illustrated in Anthony Coleridge, Chippendale Furniture circa 1745- 1765 (New York, 1968), Fig. 171.
Pl. III. On the English mahogany tripod table of c. 1760 is a chinoiserie silver tea caddy made by Christopher Makemeid (w. 1755-1773?) in London in 1763/4. Above the table hangs an English mahogany barometer of c. 1765. The entrance hall beyond is shown in Fig. 3.
Pl. IV. The English mahogany chest on chest of c. 1755 in the bedroom has its original gilt brasses. To the right is one of a pair of English gilded wood girandoles of c. 1760 which retain their original mirror plates and candle arms. The walnut and parcel-gilt looking glass over the bed is probably American, c. 1760. The French gilded wood wall bracket of c. 1720 to the left of the looking glass is one of a pair. On it is one of a pair of sang de boeuf porcelain bottles of the K’ang Hsi period. At the foot of the bed is an English mahogany chest with three locks which was made for valuables c. 1750. On the chest is a French silver snuffbox of c. 1775. The mahogany hall chairs in the corner are from a set of four of c. 1765 which bear the Holmesdale crest and are attributed to the shop of Thomas Chippendale (1718 — 1779).
Fig. 1. On the card table in front of the window in the living room are silver candlesticks from a set of four (see Fig. 3) made by William Cripps (w. 1743-1767) in London in 1749/50. The mate to the card table is discussed in Pl. I and is also visible in the foreground here. The English walnut open armchair of c. 1735 is one of a pair in the collection (see also Pl. I). A matching armchair is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. To the right of the window is one of a pair of English mahogany, satinwood, amboyna, and burl-walnut pedestals of c. 1810 with ormolu mounts and marble tops which support a pair of English Adamesque inlaid satinwood urns of c. 1775 (see also Pl. I). On the right-hand wall, under an English gilded wood girandole of c. 1760, is an English mahogany card table also of c. 1760 with scrolled toes. On it is a satinwood and kingwood bracket clock with grisaille decoration and ormolu mounts made by Benjamin Vulliamy (w. 1775-1820) in London c. 1775. The claret-ground saucer on this card table and the cup on the one in front of the window are Chelsea, from the gold anchor period (1758-1769). Another cup from the service is on the mantelpiece in the living room (see Pl. II), and still other pieces from the service are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The silver cups on either side of the saucer were made by Claude Cochois of Troyes, France, in 1750.
Fig. 2. Inside the collector’s cabinet shown in Pl. 1 is a Rockingham porcelain tea and coffee service with a claret ground that dates from c. 1826, in the Thomas Brameld (1787-1850) period, and bears the red griffin mark. The claret-color glasses are English, c. 1825. On the slide is a fine English walnut tea-caddy chest of c. 1735 with gilt-metal mounts. The chest is in the style of furniture made by the London cabinetmaker Giles Grendey (1693-1780).
Fig. 3. Under the English carved and gilded walnut looking glass of c. 1735 in the entrance hall is a New York mahogany drop-leaf table attributed to the shop of Gilbert Ash (1717-1785), c. 1765. On it is one of the set of silver candlesticks discussed in Fig. 1 and a Chinese sang de boeuf porcelain vase of the Ch’ien Lung period (1736-1795). In the alcove is an English burl-walnut desk and- bookcase of c. 1730 with its original hardware and gilded cartouche in the pediment. On the writing surface is a silver coffeepot made by Benjamin Godfrey (w. c. 1731 -c. 1741) in London in 1740/1. The English walnut stool dates from c. 1705.
Fig. 4. The superbly carved and inlaid English walnut side chair in the entrance hall dates from c. 1710. It is illustrated in Ralph Edwards, Dictionary of English Furniture (London, 1954), vol. 1, p. 255, Fig. 88. Above the chair is an English carved and gilded wood bracket of c. 1760 on which is a Chinese porcelain sang de boeuf vase of the K’ang Hsi period. The English mahogany pole screen dates from c. 1760.

BERNARD LEVY is a well-known antiques dealer in New York City, who has advised many of the foremost collectors of furniture in this country.