For nearly 70 years, the Winter Show — formerly the Winter Antiques Show — has been raising money for the East Side House Settlement in the Bronx. This year, a late wave of Covid pushed it from January to April, knocking it out of its usual home in the Park Avenue Armory (where it will return next year) to a one-off residence at the former Barney’s building on Madison Avenue.
This new location couldn’t be more appropriate as, despite the broader new focus, visiting the Winter Show still feels more like visiting a luxury department store than visiting a conventional art fair. Individual dealers have their specialties, but overall the event is a crazy collection of offerings – from Tiffany lamps to 15th-century crossbows; photos by Frida Kahlo †Throckmorton Fine Art, Inc.3-04) and books about Bob Marley †Thomas Heneage art books, 4-11) to 19th century “water spray rings” †Les Enluminures, 1-11); of a memorable tapestry by Sonia Delaunay (Boccara Gallery† 4-19)to Nils Fougstedt’s incredible “Diana Chandelier” (Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts1-17); by John James Audubon †Arader Galleries4-16) to Chinese maps †Daniel Crouch rare books, 1-10)†
So instead of approaching it gallery by gallery, I enjoyed my chance to come across unusual objects that are rarely available to the public, like this 13 – listed from the first booth on the fifth floor (5-01) back to the lobby.
1. First there is a wooden Punu mask from Gabon (Tambaran5-01) with sharp features, a diamond of ritual scars on the forehead and hair clad in two round blades reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. Although the face was originally painted white with kaolin, enough color has worn off to make it look like an actor sweating through her makeup – a perfect balance of delicacy and passion.
2-3. The insect-like bronze of the English sculptor Henry Moore “Working model for thin figure” (Bowman sculpture5-08) appears to lie in all directions at once, with legs horizontal, torso vertical, and a protruding rectangular navel. Behind it, also in bronze, is a family of what looks like huge paper dolls come to solid, sensual life, with elegant faces drawn in their flat heads, by the Russian artist/sculptor Ossip Zadkine (1888-1967).
4. When they bought this 19th century Tiffany coffee pot in chased silver and delicate floral champlevé enamel, it was polished to a high shine. But after finding a review of its debut at the 1893 Columbian Exposition that referred to the “muffled tone of oxidized silver,” the dealers decided SJ Strut sole (5-11) used “liver of sulfur” to bring the pot back to a smoky gray.
5. Some may prefer the dewy blush of Edouard Vuillard’s roses in this booth †Richard Green5-13), or the pink haze that hangs around a landscape by Pierre Bonnard. But neither grabs you by the collar like the thick black outline and arrested perspective that Suzanne Valadon used in her 1932 painting “Bouquet de Fleurs sur une Petite Table.”
6. The intricate carvings on this 19th-century Austrian hunting horn (Peter Finer, 5-14) shows the medieval trickster hero Reynaert de Vos on the gallows. Though more than a dozen anthropomorphic animals have been crammed onto a horn less than 10 inches high, their histrionic expressions are all perfectly clear, from Reynard’s trickery to the lion’s somewhat silly indignation.
7. To serve wild boar in style in 18th-century Holland, you had a mind-blowing terrine of faience boar’s head (Michelle Beiny, 5-15) like this one, with finely painted tufts of purplish-black fur, resigned eyes, and a skull that pops up when it’s dinner time.
8. This beautiful blue-white baluster-shaped flower pot, approx. 1680 †Aaron of Amsterdam, 4-01), is one of only two known examples of the manufacturer’s type. Look closely under the bouquet: each flower rests in a separate hole.
9. In the early 1820s, an English silver firm called Rundell and Bridge cast five editions of a “Shield of Achilles” designed by John Flaxman. Each ten-foot-tall gilded silver bowl had rows of shepherds, warriors, cattle, and lions crowding around one rim, while Apollo himself raced out of the center in a four-horse chariot. One shield, bought by George IV in 1821, has been the centerpiece of English coronations for nearly 200 years; this (Merchant Rare Art4-03) belonged to the king of Hanover.
10. The Pre-Raphaelite Painter John Brett’s 1859 portrait of his brother Arthur (Lowell Libson & Johnny Yarker, Ltd., 4-08) is notable for the vibrant specificity of its textures. The loose flop of the younger Brett’s bow tie, the starchy white surface of his shirt, the fluff of his russet hair, and the reflective gleam of moisture on his lazy left eye are all eerily vivid.
11. In a booth full of Wyeth, Man Ray and Cassatt, it’s 1882 by John Singer Sargent “Portrait of Henri Lefort” (Adelson Galleries, Inc.4-18) he wins the day with his unusually loose background, Lefort’s direct gaze and the sharp jabs of red Sargent in his signature and the bridge of his subject’s nose.
12. A beautiful mid-century necklace (Macklowe Gallery, Ltd., 4-20) with diamond-centered florets of green peridots and colored citrines of cognac and yellow comes with a matching bracelet.
13. For the carpet dealer Peter Pap †Peter Pap Oriental carpets1-03) rediscovered Frida Hansen’s “Southward” in Maine last year, the majestic tapestry of 10 red-haired girls riding swans across a highly stylized, Japanese-looking sea hadn’t been seen since a 1931 apparition at the Brooklyn Museum.
The Winter Show
Until April 10 660 Madison Avenue, Manhattan; 917-420-0669, thewintershow.org. $30 for a day pass. The event benefits the East Side House Settlement.