2021 WINTER SHOW RECAP

2021 Winter Show Recap

Success! Our heartfelt thanks to all those who made this year’s Winter Show not only possible but an overwhelmingly positive experience for the dealers and collectors alike. The tremendous amount of thought and labor behind the virtual platform was apparent in the site’s beauty and ease. More than half of the pieces exhibited in our booth were sold to established collectors, including first-time clients. This blog installment features a roundup of some of our favorites as well as reflections on this successful Show.

Originally owned by Elizabeth Hostetter-Huber (1809-1891) of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, this crooked-neck coffee pot with original painted decoration attributed to the Filley tin shop of Philadelphia, ca. 1825-1850, is regarded as the finest decoration of its kind. A commenter on our Instagram page remarked that the decoration anticipates Matisse. A personal favorite, we have enthusiastically bought and sold this masterpiece on three separate occasions over the past two decades. Its star-studded provenance includes some of the most discriminating private collectors of a generation.

This unicorn fraktur is the stuff of legends. Among the rarest and most sought after Pennsylvania-German fraktur are the handful that incorporate chained, rampant unicorns,   examples of which feature in museum collections…and our Winter Show booth! Previously attributed to the elusive “C.M. Artist, it was only in 1987 that the highly distinctive body of fraktur executed between 1788 and 1802 were proven to be the work of Christian Mertel (1739-1802) by the late scholar Frederick Weiser [1]. Mertel’s fraktur are distinguished by a bold simplicity of design, the inclusion of stylized bird and tulips, and the use of watercolor in distinctive shades of orange-red, dark blue, and olive green. This geburts und taufschein (birth and baptismal certificate) is inscribed “Anna Margareta Bishop, born October 22, 1791 to Peter and Margaretta Bishop.” We first sold this magical piece in 1995 and were delighted to reacquire it and pass it on to a deserving private collector.

Helen McKearin commented that William Schimmel’s (1817-1890) eagles seem to have a “restless, roaming nature much like the vagabond carver himself.” We were proud to offer this wonderful example at The Winter Show and pleased to see it sell on opening day to a collector who had long desired a Schimmel eagle. This medium-sized Schimmel eagle is charismatic and poised to take flight. Among the many features demonstrating its thoughtful execution is the incised cross-hatching to suggest individual feathers; it is rough-hewn yet wholly vibrant—again, “much like the vagabond carver himself.” Wilhelm Schimmel wandered throughout Cumberland County, Pennsylvania in the late 19th century, trading his carved figures carved for small sums if not food, drink, and shelter. Despite his irascible temperament, raucous (drunken) signing, and penchant for jail cells, people adored and protected Schimmel. Schimmel might be surprised to learn that his whittlings are still traded today—and this time the sums are a bit more substantial (disclaimer: we do not accept food or drink in payment). David has suggested that Schimmel is the Basquiat of the folk art world, with his masterpieces now routinely selling into the mid six figures. 

Cityscapes are a rare subject in American folk painting, and this is the first example known to us by the portraitist Joseph Goodhue Chandler (1813-1884). Signed and dated 1873, it depicts Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and Fallon’s Block on Main Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. Depth is asserted through the proximity of the tree in foreground, the exaggerated perspective imposed on the buildings, and the atmospheric quality of the city horizon beyond. The two main buildings are disproportionately large and have the appearance of being stretched backward toward a vanishing point, allowing for maximum impact. The incongruity of architectural styles—quintessential of late nineteenth century New England—is celebrated by the use of vibrant color and linear lines. The tiny detailed figures in the scene go about their day; the horse and buggy alludes to the comings and goings of a downtown, people with places to go. Researching this painting was particularly fun; we discovered a number of historic photographs that document this streetscape as well as some petty thieves who took advantage of the hotel accommodations located at Fallon’s Block. 

Perhaps more than any other historic craft medium, iron represents the confluence of utility and artistry. Through the skill and creativity of the blacksmith, otherwise mundane objects can be elevated to fine art.

Here, the humble trivet form takes on a rare or even unique level of sophistication. Brandishing the initials ‘F’ and ‘D’ and the date 1832, it was likely made as a presentation piece or gift for a family member of the maker. The extreme delicacy of the filigree-like script letters and fancy numerals, in combination with the highly accomplished workmanship, make this an absolute masterpiece of 19th-century American wrought iron. It is the finest trivet we have ever encountered.

Ah, a boy and his dog—no, wait…a boy and his HAT. Like his brother-in-law William Matthew Prior, Sturtevant Hamblin (1817-1884) produced schematic yet bold portraits of a burgeoning American middle class. In this winsome portrait of a child, the subject looks straight ahead while holding a hat and riding crop; his blue dress complimenting his auburn hair. In the upper right register an architecturally-defined window gives way to an electric sunset. A flattened, deep-brown color plain stands in for the remainder of the background, lending an almost abstract or surrealist quality. Although heavily influenced by Prior, the dark outlining of the tapered fingers and the smudge of paint used to define the chin are distinguishing elements of Hamblin’s portraiture. This portrait was used for online advertisement for The Winter Show.

While much was different about this year’s Winter Show, at least one thing remained consistent: we exhibited an exceptional Windsor chair. In this red-painted fan-back side chair, color and form interact to amplify its many excellent features.

This gem of a Windsor is attributed to William Seaver (1793-1837) and a virtually identical example is illustrated and discussed in Nancy Goyne Evans’ essay “Windsor Furniture Making in Boston: A Late but Innovative Center of the Craft”[2]. This chair checks all the boxes for a classic Boston fan-back side chair: its arched cupid’s bow crest ends in crisply-carved volute-shaped ears while slender baluster-and-ring turned stiles flank seven spindles; the delicate shield-shaped saddle seat has a nicely peaked pommel and is raised on Boston-style baluster-and-ring turned legs with abruptly tapered feet. For those who relish in the technical (there are dozens of us), the legs are joined in a bobbin-turned H-stretcher formation with coin-shaped disc turnings that flank the baluster of the center stretcher. Much has been said about the color red and the effect it has on our psyches. For us, this chair is as good as any Rothko painting.

As we prepare for The Philadelphia Show, any weariness we might feel is tempered by the success we enjoyed at The Winter Show and excitement to exhibit another lineup of “fresh” objects. We were amazed last year by the can-do spirit with which the The Philadelphia Show team rose to the occasion in delivering a new online platform in the first weeks of the pandemic. Camaraderie has always been a defining characteristic of this field. While we did not predict we would still be in virtual mode one year later, we do hope that together we will experience another successful Philadelphia Show.

 

Written by Laura Cunningham and David Schorsch

 

[1] See Weiser’s article, “Der Rebbogge” in the Journal of The Pennsylvania German Society, volume 21, 1987, p. 75-85.

[2] In Brock Jobe and Gerry W.R. Ward, eds, Boston Furniture, 1700-1900 (Boston: 2016) p. 184.