A Review: Antiques & Art at the Armory

On a recent weekend, I attended the Antiques & Art at the Armory Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. If you haven’t been to an event at the Armory, it’s worth a trip just to see the building itself. With original interiors by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus it retains an authentic 19th Century appearance throughout the public rooms. Set your eagerness to get to the antiques aside for just a moment and walk down the halls to the left and right of the entrance. You’ll be glad you did. Once you’ve taken in the amazing interiors, walk past the sweeping staircases to the 55,000 square foot drill hall where some of the best dealers in the world are eager to show you their latest acquisitions. Everyone I spoke with was happy to share their knowledge about the unusual items they had on display.

One of the first booths I saw on entering the hall was Ophir Gallery of Englewood, NJ. I spoke to Edo Ophir about his interest in Art Nouveau and Art Deco objects. Ophir specializes in items created between 1885 and 1925, with a special fondness for pieces from Tiffany Studios. Tiffany was responsible for a number of impressive lamps on display. My favorite was a Lily table lamp, but it’s hard to beat a beautiful green Dragonfly hanging lamp.

If you are looking for Americana, and something a little older, then Jeff R. Bridgman American Antiques of York County, Pennsylvania is for you. The Bridgman booth contained more American Flags than I’ve ever seen in one place. I thought the most interesting was created for the Centennial in 1876. In addition to being used just for that year, this flag is also desirable because it is made of wool, which sheds water, and not cotton, which absorbs it. It is beautifully presented and priced at $22,500. Bridgman has items in addition to flags, and their cow weathervane was a crowd favorite. It is priced at $27,500.

I’m always looking for beautiful clocks and watches, so I was excited to see Larry Dalton of Scarsdale, NY at the show. Dalton’s booth contained a good number of clocks for the serious collector. The first piece I noticed was a Seth Thomas Brass Ship’s Clock in a very large size. It has a 12” dial. This is an eight-day, time only model with two mainsprings to drive the clock. I was sorry it didn’t have a Ship’s Bell movement, but these time only pieces are extremely accurate and very fine. This one is priced at $6000. The star of the booth was an unusual Atmos clock. These high quality timepieces are often described as having perpetual motion, but in fact are wound by changes in temperature or barometric pressure acting on the mechanism to power the clock. This is a particularly early one, which was made by J L Raulter in 1935, before Atmos was sold to Le Coultre. Although clearly marked Atmos, the appearance of this piece is quite different from the familiar Le Coultre models of the mid 20th Century. It reminded me of a 400 day clock from 1900, or the popular Crystal Regulator. I really wanted to take it home with me for the $8,500 asking price.

The M. S. Rau booths were not to be missed. Rau brought a collection of world-class items to the Armory. When was the last time you saw a painting by the Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564/65 – 1636) offered for sale? Bill Rau explained the symbolism of “The Battle Between Carnival and Lent” to me. On the left are townspeople making merry at a Carnival celebration and on the right are church members battling them as Lent begins. It’s meat, waffles and gambling vs. fish and self-flagellation in a fight to the finish. This is priced at $685,000. If you’ve ever been to the Frick Collection and wished that you could have things like that at your house, now’s your chance. Rau is offering a cabinet with a twin in the Frick collection. Created in the 1570’s the form of the cabinet may be an acquired taste, but you’ll never see another one (unless you travel to the Victoria and Albert in London, which owns a related piece). Mr. Frick paid $110,000 for his in 1916, so this one seems like a bargain at $985,000 in 2010 dollars. The most impressive piece was a wine cooler in sterling silver by Rundel Bridge and Rundel. This is one of six created for Windsor Castle in 1827. Queen Elizabeth II still has four of them. Two were taken to Germany soon after they were made, and this is one of those two. It even comes with it’s own carrying case. If you want it for yourself, the price is $1.45 million.

The Armory Shows are always well attended, and this one was no exception. People were enjoying themselves, and I noticed a number of “Sold” tags when I was there.


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