Whitehall Blog

Archive for October, 2013

High Point Lecture Highlights

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Once again I had the pleasure of speaking at The Antique and Design Center of High Point during Fall Market Week–a talk for which the designers and appraisers all receive Continuing Education Points/Recertification Points, depending of the organization.  This time I explored concepts for discerning value and spent time comparing new products on the market with antique and vintage pieces that I spotted on the floor of the Center.  It was a lot of fun, brought some extra sales to several dealers (some items sold before I gave my talk, so can only say in those cases others agreed with my assessment!).  I thought I would share both a few points from the talk and some comparisons that I discovered.

The Key to Value Comparisons

I am a strong believer in mentally grading everything you encounter on a style quality continuum: good, better and best (and horrid if you want to add a fourth category!).  This is of course a manner of assessment first proposed by Albert Sack in his seminal book on American furniture:  he showed examples of nearly every form and period, grading them into these three categories.  Eventually “masterpiece” was added in one of the final editions–sadly disingenuous in my opinion.  It was a ploy to promote pieces sold by his family firm most of which fit nicely into “best” or “better”.  Anyway it is easy to do with a couple of photo examples.

Rose Canton Punch Bowl

This is a 19th century Rose Canton punch bowl, 16 inches in diameter.  It is of fine quality BUT it is a type of Chinese Export porcelain known as famile rose and it has several relatives in the 19th century which are more valuable.  In Rose Canton there are quadrants of decoration (note how they move out from the center) which are only decorated with birds, butterflies and flowers.  Closely related to this is Rose Medallion–next photo–which also builds on quadrants, but this time they alternate between panels (medallions or reserves are the correct terms) of human figures in various settings and the bird/butterfly/flower motif.  To be classified as Rose Medallion there must be people!  Rose Medallion is a second 19th century category of famille rose (pink family in French). Interestingly, any Chinese porcelain of any period which incorporates any pink (rose) in the decoration has historically been categorized by westerners as “famille rose”.

Rose Medallion Punch Bowl

This is smaller than the first example, yet has the identical value.  It is ALMOST the highest category of value–Rose Mandarin–which has no medallions or quadrants but simply a single, massive figural design.  However this must be categorized as medallion as it has a large central panel surrounded by four large figural panels interspersed with four small bird and butterfly panels.  Compare in these two bowls the Greek Key motif which separates panels–the first quite simple, the second heavily gilded and of superb quality.

While we do not currently have a Rose Mandarin example, it is simple to imagine–simply mentally expand the center of the second bowl to cover the entire interior and that is Rose Mandarin!

Complicating things slightly, I decided to show a pair of huge Rose Medallion platters because they are rare in design and the finest quality of Rose Medallion.  These platters are of a design purchased by President Grant and used as his presidential china in the White house.  Thus these are known as the Grant Pattern of Rose Medallion.

Do you see the remarkable change in these pieces?

One of a PAIR of Grant Pattern platters

I hope you have taken a minute to contemplate this photo and noticed the exceptional design change.

While  panels or medallions radiate from the center, they are unique in that there are six and each is a slice of mellon!  Notice the shape of the medallion and then the stem at the top of the medallion.  Exquisite.  And the medallions are separated by elaborately painted and gilded motifs again of exceptional quality.  Were this a 16″ bowl like the Rose Canton example, it would be at least four to six times more valuable.

Good   Better   Best

Think in such terms and you can value anything from antique to newly made, from porcelain to silver to furniture–every object can be judged by this mental structure.


In a few days I will share some comparisons between new objects and antique/vintage pieces I spotted at market.


Fall High Point To Open

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

The International Furniture Market opens in 7 million square feet of buildings this weekend, with soft openings beginning tomorrow in the Antique and Design Center in Historic Market Square.  Our 600 square feet is a spec in the sea, but a most exciting one.  I have had fun setting up some eye catching vignettes!  Here are a few teasers and I will provide much more as the show, lectures and parties begin!

Center View

A Pile of Bamboo!

Flying Chairs

A Stack of Garden Tables and Copper

Report from Birmingham–All Great News!

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

As usual with antiques dealers the run-up to show opening had much griping that the show was too much about design and not enough about antiques dealers (see last year’s blog from Birmingham) and again the show opened in a blaze of excitement and buying!  This year the committee has continued to explore new ideas with a Thursday afternoon first day, a Friday full day, a Friday night black tie party (200 more than last year which was jammed!), and the weekend of normal hours.  We were all having fits at first, then realized this might work–and it has so far.  Thursday afternoon was jammed with buying so strong I simply stood for one hour long period writing sales slip after sales slip as people brought me tags from things they  wanted.  Friday was equally busy after Thursday night furniture deliveries.  Friday night black tie was simply huge with more sales.  And now it’s the weekend with couples shopping everywhere.

Here are a few photos with comments about the design booths (called Tastemaker Booths) for this year–a complete new group from last year.  They have simply blown us all away!  And Veranda magazine is shooting every Tastemaker for a feature article–lots of inspiration as some of the Tastemakers are regulars in every shelter magazine and others hope to be discovered.  Setup photos are followed by completed photos.

Outdoor entry under construction

Within the Entry Bower

The Inner/Outer Entrance

Everything seen here was created–massive wooden walls, stone paths, dining spot and garden alcoves, etc!  All will be gone in a week!

Construction of Chateau Domingue

Stone floors and walls under construction–the wood walls still have their stucco drying and you can see the drying mortar as well in the walls.  From Houston, Texas, Chateau Domingue has been the talk of the show with a staff of 12 men to construct their set–all to be torn down and removed beginning Sunday afternoon when the show closes!

A Fait Accompli!

And by the opening bell the last piece was in place.

Another view--the water fountain to feed the livestock!

More views of my favorite “Tastemaker” booths with credit under each photo:

"A Well Edited Home" by Paul Bates and Jeremy Corkern with Betsy Brown

Iris Thorpe in her "Weeks to the Ivory Coast"

"Fireside Chat" by Dana Wolter and jeff Dungan of Dungan-Nequette

"Texture in Time" by Alex & Jeannie Krumdieck, lori Fine, Adrienne Retief & Erin Graves

Love the 1970 Danish rosewood bar than slides open and closed–saw a fabulous one recently in an area estate.  This is the type of piece that Paul Hrusovsky’s “Studio Design Gallery” will be featuring along with Paul’s art works for sale and an area where he will paint–all in The Courtyard on West Franklin opening in two weeks!

"A Well Traveled Life" designed by Andrew Brown

There are a total of 12 Tastemaker booths and all are fascinating.  This is a great compliment to the antiques and fine art booths of the show.

Signed Furniture

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013


Rare in the world of antique furniture–with the exception of pre-revolutionary formal French, mainly Parisian, furniture–is the signed piece.  In England and America such pieces may constitute less than one percent of all that was created until the 20th century when labeling became the norm.  So it is exciting to have three pieces of signed furniture at one time–and pieces that display the three dominant forms of marking in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In France the method was to use a steel stamp and drive the maker’s name deep into the wood, usually in a discrete spot such as the vertical stile under the marble of a commode, on the bottom rail of a chair, into a drawer edge or apron bottom for a table.  In the 18th and 19th centuries in England and America paper labels were popular and in the 19th century inked stamps became popular as well.  The three pieces we currently have on offer each employ a different one of these methods, so it seems interesting to create a small article about these pieces and their stamps.  It is also instructive as the labels could be so easily overlooked.

This charming marquetry (floral inlay) and parquetry (geometric inlay) veneered table banded in brass with brass sabots (cuffs) was made by Escalier de Cristal, Paris.  The stamp is concealed on the bottom of the apron on the left side of the table and here follow both the table and its mark.

The Escalier de Cristal was founded in Paris in 1840 and continued successfully until 1923, this table dating from the Pannier Brothers period of ownership, 1880-1923.  Winning awards at every major international exhibition, this luxury business was world famous, selling to the Royal families of England and Europe as well as the business tycoons of America.  Typical of the firm is the perfection of design and selection of marble harmonious with the purplewood and other inlays.

Indicative of the luxury of the two signed English pieces, both dating to c. 1835, is the use of rosewood in each and the use of mahogany as the secondary wood in each.  Each maker clearly took pride in his product and hoped that marking his pieces would secure future business.

The first is the William IV serving cabinet of inset breakfront form (and discussed in an earlier blog which you may also wish to read).  Here the cabinetmaker, Thomas Treherne, 39 Oxford St., London, was in business from 1835-39 and he is listed in the great Beard and Gilbert compendium of furniture makers on page 903.  The inked circular stamp is in the right hand drawer and was not seen by the dealer from whom we acquired this piece in the southeast of England.  You can see how difficult it is to discern–it took several days of eyestrain and every trick to be able to read enough to research the maker!  Worth the effort–Christie’s sold a fine stool with the same mark on 3/17/2011 at their London King Street house for $16,852 including the premium!  In pristine condition we feel our price of $7,500.00 constitutes the value for which our firm is known.  Here are the photos of the piece and the mark.

It reads:   From,  T. Treherne,   Cabinetmaker,   & Upholsterer,   39 Oxford St.,   London

Funny how obvious the mark seems once one knows what it says!

The final example–with a paper label of John Kendall and Company, Leeds–is a very early example of the revival of the designs of Thomas Chippendale which began in c. 1835 and raged on forever!  It is a single drawer writing table again in rosewood with a finely cast gallery and fully developed with a full drawer and an opposing faux drawer.  The understated rosewood pulls are an interesting homage to the newest design twist of the era–limited, understated or no hardware so that the wood and design made all of the visual statement.  Chippendale would absolutely have used gilt brass pulls. Once I show you the photo of it and the label, I want to also draw your attention to the pair of chairs beside it which speak to a very different revival.

This company was important in Leeds from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century.  Intriguingly in 1833 or 1834 Kendall began to label every piece his company produced!  We do not know why.  Was it due to fierce competition with the Gillows firm, so pervasive.  Did he loose a commission based on some other cabinetmaker either claiming his work or copying his work?  Did one of his masters set up in competition?  We may never know but for whatever reason it is clear he labeled his production.

This gorgeous piece exemplifies–unusually–a hallmark of the original rococo period rather than what we commonly find in rococo revival–the stretcher incorporates asymmetry!  Astonishing!

In the next photo we are currently displaying the writing table juxtaposed with a pair of American Colonial Revival Chippendale Style arm chairs dating after 1885–in our friend and well know paintings dealer John Dennison’s booth.  Unlike England where all sorts of revivals of 18th century styles became the rage from 1835 or so onward, America had zero, zippo interest in old styles.  Only with the Centennial did collecting of old stuff become popular–and it took another 10 years for the rage for making revival styles to sweep through America’s furniture making factories.  The Colonial Revival in America is basically at its peak from 1885 to the beginning of World War II (see my book on the subject available at our show booths, at the shop and on Amazon, etc.)

This is an interesting juxtaposition as the English writing table is essentially a handmade piece with fine hand dovetailing, mortise and tenons, etc. whereas the American chairs are primarily the result of all of the finest and most expensive machinery augmented by some hand work.  From steam driven saws and planers to doweled joinery, these chairs are only a reflection of the great Philadelphia chairs of the mid-18th century upon which they are based.  The carving lacks depth, the shoe for the backsplat is integral, there is no silhouetting to allow the cut-away design of the back to have grace and seem to be made of the thinnest wood possible.  All good chair makers carefully cut away wood on an angle on the backside of each chair splat–called silhouetting–so that the open areas of the design being thinned at the back did not obstruct the view through the design when seen from an angled sight-line.   These are very good factory work but a poor imitation of either benchmade (frequently silhouetted) copies or of the authentic antiques. It makes a wonderful historical study.  And of course the chairs are $750.00 the pair when the 18th century ones would almost certainly top $50,000 even in today’s depressed market!


Antiques At The Gardens, Birmingham, A

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

One of my favorite shows opens Thursday and runs through Sunday with great antiques, design booth concepts, lectures and parties:  Antiques At The Gardens, to support the educational programs of The Botanical Gardens.  (http://www.bbgardens.org/antiques.php)

Yesterday I drove the nine hours down and today I set up the entire booth–I had no idea I could still do it!  I felt like a 35 year old, not a 65 year old Senior Citizen!  It was made easier by a fine team to unload the truck form Bart MacCorquodale’s  great staff and Elizabeth not only laid out a great booth design but set the pieces with accessories, photographed them and then I packed them.  So there was little to think about–just doing it.  Only a few pieces required moving around as wall dimensions here are never what are listed!  Keeps one on one’s toes.

Here are a few shots of the booth–hope you enyoy them.

As you can see the marvelous Jansen mid-century steel and bronze and glass coffee table sold today to a designer during the set-up–a nice start to the show!

Problem Wall

The right side of this photo shows how one rolls with the little surprises such as too short walls!  The long mule chest was to be on the 7.5 right end wall which turned out to be only 6′ and the chest on chest on the long wall with a cornered tall case clock.  So I switched them and in the next photo you can see the tall case (grandfather) clock has become a welcoming entry to our room and our booth as well.

In this view are several interesting pieces–oh well, they are all interesting.  The pub sign for The Stags Head has at the bottom the words Free House.  This denotes a pub able to sell any beers it chooses as the pub is not owned/franchised by a brewery.  Free houses often simply have the name and nothing else BUT brewery owned pubs always indicate the beer company.  Check our website with all of our pub signs and you will find several with both the pub name and the brewery name.

Hanging over the signed William IV Serving Cabinet with the mirrors and the Grant design Rose Medallion platters (see my earlier blogs on both the cabinet and the Grant pieces) is a delightful Victorian three panel folding screen created from twelve 18th century hand colored prints–a decoupage piece.  The next photo will remind you of this decoupaged screen as we have a marvelous artisan in England who decoupages the ruined surfaces of antique bamboo furniture to give them a new lease on life!

Thanks to taking this photo I realized the arrangement of bamboo–awaiting art work from John Dennison as it is the outside of his booth–did not work.  The angles and gaps seemed interesting but when standing back I realized they needed more fluffing.  When John has hung the wall I will take another shot!

Another piece showing in the photo above is a pannetiere–a hanging bread cabinet–which is a hard sell.  Elizabeth spotted this painted one from Provence in Paris–it is later in the 19th century than most we find.  She had the idea of converting it to a rally nifty cane, stick or umbrella stand (we have pool cues, bagatelle cues, a drum major’s baton and a walking stick in it.