In the current issue of The Magazine Antiques, legendary dealer Nathan Liverant says each day he wakes up, excited about what he might see. Today Houston today would be a good place to wake up. Houston Antiques Dealer Association President Larry Bahn wrote in the program, fall back in love with antiques. The event provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Not only was there an ample amount of quality furniture at the show, but a variety of musical instruments brought an extra layer of charm and a musical take-away for show goers.
We saw some familiar faces in Houston including print dealer Howard Price from Florida and from Pasadena, Douglas Morris. At perhaps the ideal size of a little more than 100 dealers, the HADA show kept away the feeling you had to rush to get through. This allowed for extended conversation with dealers, and with a little luck, the beginning of friendships.
Richard Auber from Connecticut brought and demonstrated a contemporary harpsichord made in his hometown. An internet search later revealed Auber is a harpsichord builder and the third owner in the 50-year history of Zuckermann harpsichord.
An 18th century slant-front desk lured us in to the booth of Gail Ensinger from Surfside Beach, South Carolina. Furniture is a specialty for Ensinger who brought two trucks and filled two booths at the show. The keyholes of the slant-front desk are inlayed with whale bones – a prominent regional feature of New Bedford Mass, indicating its New England heritage. When the front is open, the original curly maple veneer on the drawer doors reveals the wonderful interplay of polychrome and the visual pleasure of exotic wood patterns. The original wood pulls were replaced by brass hardware at later period. “Brass was expensive at that time,” said Gail. We wondered whether the original wood pull would have made the desk more market-attractive if not more visually appealing.
The next stop was at the booth of Tony Henninger of Manor House Antiques in Knoxville who displayed a variety of export porcelain and French decorative arts. We noticed some sales and inquired. Henninger says over the years the HADA show has always been particularly good to Manor House. A pair of Chinese export porcelain plates are decorated with Fitzhugh pattern, yet the center has a striking coat of arms. While Fitzhugh pattern is mostly seen in export porcelain for American market, not many American families could claim heraldry with fancy armorial emblems. Either way, the pair provides a unique angle to examine the Fitzhugh pattern – as Elinor Gordon wrote in her book “Collecting Chinese Export Porcelain” – providing the link between European and American export ware, a not insignificant chapter in decorative history.
We recognized some of the paintings from the Found store in Dallas and had the opportunity to meet William Johnson. The past ten years have been rough on the trade, Johnson says, but at this show at least things were selling well. Johnson offered paintings in a wide price range and emphasized that he has long advocated buying art in every price range. “Just throw away the name and look for good paintings. You can afford fine art, he says.”
Douglas Berryman from Venice, Florida charmed visitors through his variety of music boxes. “All mechanics,” as he proudly played a gigantic one made in New York that uses metal disks. “The owner can unlock it to bypass the coin slot.” He held the original key with a smile. Originally, he says, the device would have been in the lobby of a hotel.
It is perhaps not surprising that the sound made from metal comb teeth inside wooden boxes sound so warm and sweet, as real music is never played out of plastic. But to watch the cylinder rolling to pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb adds an additional sense of visual accomplishment in the making of music.
If the 18th century American furniture has always had its place in major antique shows, it was interesting to find that Victorian furniture dealer also attracted customers in HADA show. At B&C Victorian Antiques, Bill and Carol Brooks brought a rare American rosewood Rococo Charlise lounge chair, paired with a side chair, made in Philadelphia. The exact models are shown in “American Furniture of the 19th Century” by Eileen and Richard Dubrow. An Aesthetics Movement sheet music box still has most of the original gilding for flowers and vines decoration. Their store can be found at www.rubylane.com/shops/bandcantiques
Katherine King from Milwaukee came with a variety of enticing works of art including a large painting by Diaz La Pena.
It was also a pleasure to meet the Show Committee Chair Sandra Smith, who should be congratulated for a job well done.
Never having been to Houston, the HADA show was one of the most gratifying in some time and so far a favorite among Texas shows. Take the opportunity to fall in love with antiques again when the show returns in March at the George Brown Convention Center.