A: To get to the Winter Antiques Show!
If you needed a compelling reason to visit New York City in the dead of winter, this was the ticket: the 59th Annual Winter Antiques Show was a veritable treasure trove of the rare, exquisite and – especially – expensive.
We had never before attended, so we weren’t sure what to expect when we climbed the steps of the historic Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street.
We came for the art and antiques, which were plentiful, but we stayed for the chickens. As we wandered through the seventy-plus exhibits at the show, I was pleasantly surprised to see that chickens have arrived on the Upper East Side. Nestled among the art and artifacts from the ancient to the mid-20th-century were several friendly fowl holding their own with Tiffany, Lalique and Consuelo Vanderbilt.
If I could have brought one thing home to decorate our coop it would have been Irish painter Walter Osborne’s “Feeding the Chickens”, being offered at a mere $900,000 by The Fine Art Society of London. Osborne discovered what every flockkeeper knows: the difficulty of documenting chickens that simply refuse to stand still for the sake of art. In 1884, Osborne wrote to his father about his work on the painting, saying “The fowl are very troublesome, and I have made some sketches but will have to do a lot more as they form rather an important part of the composition.”
I’m not absolutely certain, but I believe that is a flock of very well-fed Light Brahmas in the painting. Did you know that according to legend, it was the Irish who invented the combination of bacon and eggs? According to the Dublin Institute of Technology, “An old Irish peasant woman was frying bacon for her man when a hen roosting on the cross-beams above the open fireplace dropped an egg, hitting the side of the pan and spilling its contents into the sizzling fat.” Her husband so enjoyed his breakfast that he spread the word about it at the monastary where he was employed, and the tradition of bacon and eggs spread from monastary to monastary and forward through the ages to every short-order cook in the Western world. If you’re ordering the “American breakfast” from the menu this morning, thank the Irish!
But back to the Antiques Show. We rounded a corner, leaving Ireland behind and moving on to China, which is where those Brahma chickens first clucked. Most of the items on display from Ralph M. Chait Galleries were from the 18th and 19th centuries, so the age and excellent condition of these items suggests that they can’t be purchased for chicken feed:
Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques offered up a rooster from closer to home. This rooster weathervane hails from New England and is dated 1875-1900. He can be had for a mere $12,500:
From the same era comes this sweet rug entitled “Friends” and listed at $22,000. The description card from the dealer, Elliott & Grace Snyder Antiques indicates that the rug probably came from late 1800’s Pennsylvania and depicts “the family rooster surrounded by two cats”. I suspect that if the cats had designs on being anything other than “friends”, the rooster would win.
From Hirschl & Adler Galleries in NYC came the big daddies of the show, poultry-wise. We hit the jackpot when we came upon a pair of gatepost roosters, dated 1932 by the sulptor Wheeler Williams. I wish we could have brought them home to add to our flock, but they were listed at $95,000 for the pair.
If you go: The 2014 Winter Antiques show will be held Friday, January 24 – Sunday, February 2. Well worth the price of admission! You will be able to purchase advance tickets from the web site but we just purchased tickets at the door on an uncrowded afternoon.
More to come from our NYC trip – we were lucky to get out before the big storm!