An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 161

Clinton Howell Antiques - December 27, 2021 - Issue 161
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts
The rise of the new Covid variant, Omicron, has caused the Winter Antiques Show (WAS) to postpone next month to an unspecified future date. I was asked to come back into the show after an absence of ten years--the show is under new management from when I was last involved and the new manager, Helen Allen, is superb. The work she puts into the show is largely unseen and even though her employer is the East Side House Settlement, the charity that owns and operates the show, she groks the dealer dilemma that is a melange of inventory, cash, risk assessment and, in the Covid world, infection. My desire for being back in the show has a lot to do with my obsession with English furniture--it is hard not to buy the stuff when I think the price is open to a decent profit. So my inventory has grown and grown and I need to be in a position to sell some of it. I also have to say, however, that the WAS is a very high quality show with dealers from around the globe who are experts in their respective fields. Covid looks like it once again will have an impact this year, but with luck, it will be minimal and the show will happen later on in the year.

As hard as it is for those of us who want to show our goods, I am sorry for the people whose lives are vastly affected by the virus--mostly parents with school age children, but certainly shops and galleries and city life in general. The exodus to the countryside around New York City is palpable and although it doesn't diminish the value of being in New York City, there is a sense of diminished excitement. Although, as I found this last summer when I was in Amsterdam and Haarlem, it makes the museums more accessible when you aren't being jostled by large crowds. From a selfish standpoint, it is quite wonderful to be alone in a gallery looking at something without distraction. The Frick Museum was like that when I was a teenager--there seldom seemed to be anyone there.  

But one of my great excitements which has been to visit country houses--I still have more to get to in this blog post--has been curtailed quite severely by this virus. There are houses that I haven't seen that l would like to visit that have been impossible to go to since I haven't been able to get to Britain for the last twenty-one months. The buzz that I get when I find things I haven't seen before or see spaces, or things in spaces, that are special such as the pietra dure cabinets at Alnwick, or the extraordinary follies and outbuildings of Stourhead in Wiltshire, the Montacute long gallery or the water clock at Cotehle in Cornwall or William Kent's self portrait in Kensington Palace. The list is really long and my memory flashes on a multitude of things sparked by who knows what from the last fifty years of looking. Oh, and don't forget those floorboards at Knole, or the...., I hope to see you at the Winter Show some time in the near future.