Q: Why did the chicken cross Park Avenue?

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.

Mark your calendar for the 60th next year!

Mark your calendar for the 60th next year!

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.

Dedicated in 1880 as headquarters for the "Silk Stocking Regiment", the building occupies an entire city block and is the only armory in the US to be built and furnished by private funding.

Dedicated in 1880 as headquarters for the “Silk Stocking Regiment”, the building occupies an entire city block and is the only armory in the US to be built and furnished by private funding.

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.

This 1910 miniature of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, was offered by Elle Shushan (image from artfixdaily.com)

This 1910 miniature of Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, was offered by Elle Shushan (image from artfixdaily.com)

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.”

Osborne's "Feeding Chicken"s (image from auction publicity.com)

Osborne’s “Feeding Chicken”s (image from auction publicity.com)

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:

I believe these are roosters, hence the fanciful coloring. (image from winterantiquesshow.com)

I believe these are roosters, hence the fanciful coloring. (image from winterantiquesshow.com)

Here is a closer look from a similar piece.

Here is a closer look from a similar piece.

More chickens from China

More chickens from China

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:

It looks like wood but the body is actually made of molded copper. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

It looks like wood but the body is actually made of molded copper. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

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.

My bet is on the rooster.

My bet is on the rooster.

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.

The sculptor Wheeler Williams (image from americanart.si.edu)

The sculptor Wheeler Williams (image from americanart.si.edu)

It's hard to get a sense of the scale of these behemoths...(image from askart.com)

It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of these behemoths…(image from askart.com)

...until you see one in relation to the CE.

…until you see one in relation to the CE.

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!

Thanks to Katherine for this one!

Thanks to Katherine for this one!

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in All Things Poultry, Chicken Facts, Music/Art/Literature/Culture, New York city, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Q: Why did the chicken cross Park Avenue?

  1. dizzyguy says:

    The idea of blending the Winter Antique show in NYC with the chicken theme can only be implemented by a Crazy Chicken Lady. If I ever happen to meet one of those I will inform Pollo Player immediately. In the meantime, plans are being made to sell our primary residence in order that Osborne’s “Feeding Chickens” painting can be hung over the dashboard of the 1984 RV that will then be our home.

  2. Katherine says:

    That Osborne painting is beautiful! Go for it.

    So the Irish are really going with that sweet story? Can’t help but think the actual story went a little more like: after crawling in from the pub at 4 am, O’Malley fried up some bacon to try to get some fat in his system to counter-act the booze. His long-suffering wife got up in the morning and found him asleep at the table with a smile on his face and realized that he’d reached for an egg instead of the salt shaker to season the bacon.

  3. Emily says:

    hi! how are you? I just wanted to tell you I have a sign that says the same thing about the chickens crossing the road! Except mine has a picture of a rooster on it. Got it in a little shop up on the North shore!

  4. pollo amigo says:

    Can’t help but thinkin’ that the wee Irish lassie Miss Katherine might be right on the nose ’bout the wee bit o’ pub crawlin’ and eggs and all. Gotta watch the step ’bout those Irish ya know!

  5. emily says:

    Hi! Been meaning to tell you that sadly Casino left us last june. 😦 she had just hatched someone else’s egg and cared for it for a week. But after that first week we never saw them again. After a few weeks and no sign of her I had to assume she was gone forever. I let her sit and hatch that egg hoping it would stop her ovulation and extend her time a little. Cause the vet had ultrasounded her and found the fluids in her abdomen were gelatinous and couldn’t be drained and more lupron wouldn’t help. So I had resigned to her fate of limited time left. Sad not to know her exact fate but maybe also a blessing in disguise cause seeing her go downhill and suffer would have been painful too. I just lost my cat on dec 16. Whenever I think about her last days and hours in the hospital it really makes me sad that she didn’t get to spend her last moments in the comfort of home. Guess either way of losing a beloved pet is bad. No way of making it better.

    It was a tough animal year last year. There will never be another like Casino. There are others around still but we all loved Casino the most.

    • polloplayer says:

      So sorry to hear this, Emily. It has been a tough animal year here, too. We lost two of our cats in six months after losing Autumn at the beginning of the year. Very difficult good-byes, all of them. Casino had a MUCH better life thanks to you than she ever would have otherwise so hopefully that makes it all a bit easier for you.

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