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Books and SEEING

Posted 9 Feb 2013, by Don

I have hundreds of books in my library that deal with early American antiques (from the 17th century through 19th century), ranging from furniture, to folk art, metalware, woodenware, fakes and frauds, textiles, clothing, museum and private great collections, etc.  Many of my books have worn covers as I have been through them so many times, TRAINING MY EYE as to what is great vs what is not.  In any period, pieces made by one craftsman in a given shop are more successful than like pieces made elsewhere, and my library helps me to learn the difference.  If I had to choose just one book, it would be Fine Points of Furniture, by Albert Sack, known in the trade as “good, better, best”.  Albert’s book starts one down the journey of learning which design is better than another for a given form in a given early furniture period.  Often a …

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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Posted 4 Feb 2013, by Don

The Expression:  UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL is one that we hear often, but when did we start using it in America? Research indicates that its first documented use in America was in the Revolutionary War “Liberty Song”, published in the Boston Gazette in July 1768, with the words “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!  Some years later in 1799, the patriot and orator Patrick Henry, well known for “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” , said:  “Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.” So it was with somewhat astonished delight that I acquired a painted box last year with the carving “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” on one …

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A few comments about "condition" of antiques and folk art

Posted 28 Jan 2013, by Don

I am a dealer known for offering special pieces in superb original condition, and condition will always be a very important criteria of what I invest in, and what I offer for sale. Yet sometimes one can get so hung up on condition that one can walk away from a very special piece. Take for example this fabulous candlestand I recently sold (Connecticut, ca. 1790, in cherry wood). It has a wonderful design, delicate form with slender legs, tapered ankles, thin ring-turned column, dry and rich and possibly original surface, and a beautiful carved top that is a rare form, if not a unique survival. It would fit well with the finest early furniture of the highly coveted 18th century CT schools. Yet, I have some clients who would not buy this piece because of a black ring on the top, and a minor shrinkage crack that probably occurred over …

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Painted Boxes with 'Spice'

Posted 29 Dec 2012, by Don

A painted label on a box, firkin, or other 19th century container that indicates a spice, or a type of food, are hard to find and highly sought after. Shown are several good examples, ranging from the 1820’s to the 1870’s, that I have placed with collectors. Although each of these painted spices or firkins would be desirable unlabeled, the period addition of a simple descriptor of the contents can intensify the demand for, and the value of, the piece many times over. The label not only makes the piece more interesting, it also helps us relate to the use of the object many years ago, and provides a wonderful and unique decorating statement. Yet it is essential that the label was painted onto the object during its period of use, not a later embellishment in an attempt to artificially increase value.

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"Reading" a Great Folk Art Painting Story

Posted 7 Nov 2012, by Don

Typically a folk artist tells a story with his paintings, using his unique artistic abilities and the story he has held within his mind’s eye. Our enjoyment of the piece can be heightened by reading these story elements. For example, look at this wonderful painting of a mill town, ca. 1860’s, in Northern Pennsylvania: The primary story that the folk artist is telling through this painting is the mill town’s PRIDE that it has risen above agriculture-only to making things, the town is bustling, the town is on the map! And that one can advance to higher levels within this community. What are story elements that show this? First, the town has a train. Only populations centers with significant need for goods and people to be carried in and out were serviced by a train. And the town has this new communications tool called “telegraph”!   The owner of the …

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