An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 145

Clinton Howell Antiques - Sept. 6, 2021 - Issue 145

An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture

A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

The revelation that comes with finding another small, high quality museum is akin to finding another food combination that works exceptionally well. I actually found both of those on visiting Hanover, NH, when I went to hike with my brother, David, for a day on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail is another kind of discovery altogether. If you are used to walking the loop in Central Park everyday as I do--paved as it is--the roots, mud, rocks and other impediments that you need to be careful about on the AT make everything more exciting and a lot slower. But there were lots of interesting things to see, mostly great fungi, but also the woman who was running the trail--we passed her coming and going so lord knows what she was doing as she was so out of breath and struggling when she passed us the second time--and the six hikers who had started in Georgia in March and who were together but a good mile apart from each other--they were bearded and terse and, need I say it, determined. For this pair of seventy plus year olds, the fact that there were people out there moving at a considerable pace was exciting in itself. (Maybe we could do that, I thought. And then I re-thought--no we couldn't.)

Hanover was a nice surprise despite the essential realization that I would never walk the length of the Appalachian Trail, nor the Pacific Trail and a whole lot of other trails.  The Hood Museum of Dartmouth was one of those surprises and houses six reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.E.) at Nimrud--I think an Assyrian relief or sculpture to look at every day might be equal to a morning cup of coffee.  Dartmouth's reliefs were acquired in the 1850's after the two colleges, Williams and Amherst had already set the pace in acquiring Assyrian reliefs. Indeed, Assyrian reliefs seem to be everywhere as you can find them in Paris, London and Brooklyn, NYC and, I suspect, a lot of other museums. (Indeed, a private school in England had an Assyrian relief in their tuck shop which eventually sold for seven million pounds at Christies auction house.) The slabs are cut in alabaster and were originally about a foot thick and then reduced by purchasers prior to shipment to about four inches in depth. Notwithstanding this, dare I say it, mutilation, the slabs have an artistic power that seduces the eye. (I might add that I went to an exhibition at the British Museum on Nineveh, the capital of Assyria during the reign of Ashurbanipal which was amazing from beginning to end and, in my opinion, equalled anything I have seen from Egypt.) The figures in the reliefs combine caricature yet also a naturalistic portraiture--if I were to compare them to a piece of furniture, I would call the lines being used by the carvers, baroque. (This link takes you to the reliefs,  Most interesting is the writing across the figures which suggests graffiti to me,  but which was likely important information about something. (The British Museum translates this writing and in a recent FB posting by the BM, one tablet they have translated talks about toothache which the Assyrians believed was caused by a worm.)

Did I mention that there is art at the Hood, as well? There is, of course, with a few old favorites such as a Maxfield Parrish landscape and a fabulous Rockwell Kent landscape. I fear that a listing is not enough so you can either visit their site or visit in person. The exhibitions were also of interest, particularly as one of the exhibits was focused on English caricaturists, the most famous being William Hogarth whose biography I read last summer. Furthermore, for those of you who are regular readers, there was a Frans Hals portrait (I recently visited the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, The Netherlands, and wrote about the experience.) I like Hals and feel he is not given quite the same acclaim as other artists although it is duly noted that he worked in an era of a lot of very highly talented painters. But without further ado, regarding the Tapas Bar we found in Hanover, Candela, which we ate at twice, I have nothing but good things to say about their tacos and how sublimely seasoned they are. I am not a food critic, but rest assured, if you are going to Hanover, take my word for it and eat there. And know that Hanover is worth a visit. Happy trails to you!