The unforgettable meets the unimaginable at the Winter Show
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The unforgettable meets the unimaginable at the Winter Show
The Winter Show, 2020. Photo: BFA / Zach Hilty.

by Will Heinrich

NEW YORK, NY.- This year’s Winter Show, back to its longtime home in the Park Avenue Armory after a brief pandemic dalliance with the former Barney’s building on Madison Avenue, is full of treasures, as usual — offering casual viewers as well as collectors a scattershot wealth of surprising objects. Sixty-eight dealers have converged for this edition, exhibiting art and antiques from around the world to benefit the East Side House Settlement. Themes and repetitions pop up here and there: Both Hirschl & Adler (B9) and Bernard Goldberg (C1) have brought works by German American modernist Winold Reiss following his show at the New-York Historical Society.

Tiffany glass is well represented by Lillian Nassau LLC (B2), which has a lovely “lily” table lamp, among other things, and Macklowe Gallery Ltd. (C9); a portrait of a woman by America’s earliest known free Black painter, Joshua Johnson, joins a group of paintings by women at Robert Simon Fine Art (C10). And alluring vignettes abound, as organized by the fair’s own designers or by exhibitors like Steinitz Gallery (B10). The main event, though, is in the details, like the glass Lalique hood ornament on a 1930 Isotta Fraschini Commodore Roadster (Kelly Kinzle, B15); an 18-karat gold cast of supermodel Veruschka’s lips (Didier Ltd., D6); or a striking 250-year-old faience casserole dish shaped like a turkey (Michelle Beiny, D1). Here are a few booths to focus on.

Cove Landing (A1)

Among the eccentric objects in this distinctly eclectic booth is a near life-size skull carved out of Portasanta marble after the rediscovery of an ancient quarry on the Greek island of Chios in the late 19th century. The stone, whose name refers to its use around the door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, looks like an Italian confection, with white, pink and maroon chips in a reddish-brown ground. It makes for an unusual memento mori — though not, perhaps, as strange as a 19th-century yellow-glazed redware flask in the shape of an English outhouse.

Bernard Goldberg (C1)

Three 20th-century bronzes get things going with a clang in this booth located right by the entrance. First there’s Jacques Lipchitz’s towering gray “Lesson of a Disaster,” 1961-1970, in which an almost comically cheery phoenix feeds her young atop an elaborate tower of flames, hoops and globes. A reclining figure by Henry Moore (1984) has wrinkle-like scratches in its valleys, a rare nod to the realities of flesh amid the English sculptor’s surging, idealized curves. And a miniature Pierre de Wiessant, the most famous of Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais,” was cast in 1905 when the sculptor was still alive. With moss green patina on his forearms and hair, this de Wiessant looks as if he were petrified while waiting for the Resurrection.

Hill-Stone (D3)

An enthralling library of antique drawings and prints showcases the extraordinary graphic powers of hatching and crosshatching. From the grain of wooden ceiling beams in St. Jerome’s study, as rendered by Albrecht Dürer, or the saint’s vigorous, corona-like halo, to the furry little curlicues on a “wild man” and woman printed in the early 1800s from three-century-old woodblocks, parallel black lines seem able to do almost anything. But they reach their protean peak in a bucolic cliché-verre, 1855, by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. In this lovely example of an early photographic process analogous to etching, the French master used the same loose scribble for foliage, grass and sky — and all with perfect lucidity.

Didier (D6)

In 1957, Salvador Dalí commissioned 99 sets of gold-plated silver tableware from French artist and designer Claude Lalanne and then sold them without crediting her. The salad fork, at least, a rigid sea serpent with four braided tongues for tines, did come from Dalí’s own drawing. Whatever their intellectual provenance, though, all six pieces of the sets — two of which can be found here — are unforgettable, at once extravagantly imaginative and surprisingly elegant. Purple and yellow enamel turns the misshapen bowls of the spoons into flower petals, while little glass beads hanging from the knives might have been secreted by the snails on their handles.

Eguiguren Arte de Hispanoamérica (D10)

The centerpiece of an exhibition rich with Potosí silver and saints dressed in mother-of-pearl is “The Battle of the Siege of Los Angeles,” a lush late-19th-century treatment of the Mexican-American War by British-born painter James Walker. Blue- and red-coated Yanks seem, at first, to have taken the field, so densely are they clustered in the middle — and then you realize they’re surrounded by Mexican cavalry. Rich with gun smoke, dust and a hundred different expressions of dismay, the painting feels more like an old Hollywood war epic than anything else in the building.

Curious Objects (D16)

Ben Miller, host of the Curious Objects podcast from The Magazine Antiques, had his pick of other exhibitors’ treasures to highlight in this cooperative booth, and his eye turned to silver — a silver statue of Prince Albert’s favorite greyhound commissioned by his wife, Queen Victoria; a pair of elaborate coffee cups made by Tiffany for a “silver king” of Nevada. But nothing is so curious as a pair of “silver mounted horse ears” from S.J. Shrubsole (A4), produced in 1790 “in remembrance of a black gelding” reputed to be “the fastest chaise horse in England.” As Miller notes, with due circumspection, in a wall label, “We are not aware of any other example of taxidermy animal parts encased in silver.”

Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh (E5)

Exquisite wooden objects displayed here include oblong shields from Australia and New Guinea, spiraling European walking sticks and a striated, black and white Luba Kifwebe mask from central Africa. But what most delighted me was the perfect marriage of ornament and function in an 18th-century ironwood club from Fiji. The raised bumps on its mushroom-like knob are unmistakably decorative, but must also have been excellent for skull cracking, while the intricate carved handle, a testament to some long-dead artisan’s concentration, would have helped warriors keep their grip with bloody hands.

Spencer Marks (E10)

In a show full of glittering silver, Spencer Marks stands out for both the variety and the sheer quantity of its wares. Look for the rectangular punch bowl encrusted with repoussé roses, survivor of a 64-piece set made by Graham for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago — one of only three “Rose” pieces that dealer Mark McHugh has seen in his 30 years in the business — and for an 1877 Tiffany ice bowl decorated with removable walruses.

Imperial (E11)

In cream shoes with red heels, white satin stockings and a luxurious blue robe embroidered with oversize fleurs-de-lis, Louis XIV looks dapper, if not especially attractive, in a recently rediscovered portrait from the workshop of Hyacinthe Rigaud. (Notice how the dimple in his chin lines up with the cleft in his nose and the part in his enormous pile of black curls.) This canvas, which belonged to the family of the Duke of Noailles for 300 years, is the only version known to date back as far as the two originals hanging in the Louvre and at Versailles. A portrait of Napoleon in court dress, giving the Sun King the side eye from one wall over, serves as an entertaining complement.

The Winter Show 2023

Jan. 20-29, Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave., Manhattan; $40 adults/$25 students.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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