That Was Then Antiques: The Evolution of an Antique Dealer ... cont.
inNovember 10, 2010 - 4:32pm
Who knew that my mother's love for antiques would rub off on me? Or that it would play such a significant role in my life? It was such a subtle thing. When I was a child, she took me to small neighborhood shops along Coney Island Avenue and Church Avenue in Brooklyn. She took me up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we lingered over vitrines full of miniatures. We spent hours walking through the rooms at the Brooklyn Museum. A favorite part of going there was looking at all the wonderful things in the gift shop. We often bought gifts for friends there. So many of the jewelry items became highly collectible - especially those from Mexican makers like Sigi, Antonio Pineda, and Spratling. I'll never forget the exquisite display of ivory netsukes or the Egyptian relics or the Early American furniture displayed in vignettes.
We took trips to the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Strolled down Madison Avenue and checked out the shops in Chelsea. I remember spending an afternoon in the antique malls on 57th Street and I think on 2nd Avenue. Somehow we managed to get a desk home from 57th St. all the way to Brooklyn. I think we took it in a taxi!
My parents did not have a lot of money, but my mother had an eye for antiques and about once a year she would find a real treasure for very little money. Like 25 cents for a wonderful Austrian miniature bronze. Or $1.00 for a Choisy-le-Roi handpainted plaque. I even remember getting an early lesson in the art of the trade. She'd trade a piece of antique jewelry for another piece of jewelry. Once she did that in order to buy me a ring I had admired.
In the early 1960s my parents were able to move into a wonderful house they found. It was built in the late Victorian period by a wealthy family. It had had only 2 owners in all those years. The dining room contained a humongous mahogany dining room table, chairs and two servers. It filled the room. It was oppressively heavy. It turned out that the set was custom made for the original owners and the table was built on-site! My mom hated the massive table and chairs and that style of furniture was wildly out of fashion at that time (mid-century moderne was "in"). Noone wanted it. Not even the Salvation Army! They had to pay someone to come in and saw the table into pieces to remove it! Because of the great storage in the sideboards, my mom kept those pieces until I moved into my own apartment. I took one of those pieces. My roommate at the time had a great suggestion which was to remove the clunky (massive) reeded ball legs. We did that and wound up using that piece to surround a built-in mirror in our pre-WWII apartment and the sideboard sat low on the floor and made for great extra seating and wonderful storage! In the early 70's I moved the two pieces into another apartment and eventually sold both pieces separately to someone looking for period Victorian pieces! The same buyer bought both pieces, but I doubt she ever figured out that they literally "belonged" together! They're probably in that same Park Slope brownstone to this day.
Later I got a formal Art History and Fine Arts education. However, I think the biggest influence on my love and understanding of antiques came from those early excursions with my mother. She did not live long enough to see me become an antique dealer. I think she would have loved it! My Dad did get to see me working in the trade and he did say that my mother would have loved to be a part of it. Actually this article assures that she is part of it! I think she's smiling...