Stories from generations past are shared through distinctive artifacts and antiques during the Washington Winter Show.
By Sheila Mulhern
Amid the winding hallways and rising levels of America University’s Katzen Arts Center, over 40 premier art dealers gathered to showcase their finest antique collections for the highly anticipated Washington Winter Show.
Inside, an enchanting champagne reception of the Georgetown: 200 Years of Style themed event greeted guests with a long red carpet for a glamorous evening co-chaired by Debbie Winsor and Kate Chartener with presenting sponsor PNC Bank, which benefited charities Starlight Children’s Foundation, The Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, THEARC and St. John’s Community Services.
The abundance of works from fine art, period textiles and furnishings, porcelain figures, Victorian and Georgian jewelry and more could have initially overwhelmed even the most seasoned collector. There were three levels of collections from across the country which was a welcome departure from a traditional collector’s row-lined layout. Just beyond the entrance, Sallea Antiques of New Canaan, CT displayed a glittering trove of gold-embellished wooden boxes, vases and frames which popped from a vibrant, red accent wall. Around the corner, McNaught Fine Art shareed the expressive works from Henri Ottmann and a grand assortment of European and American portrait and landscape paintings.
Tudor Place Executive Director Leslie Buhler was on hand to present historic objects and archived material from the Peter family. Their generations dated back to Thomas Peter, son of the first Mayor of Georgetown, and his wife, Martha Parke Cutis Peter, the step-granddaughter of George Washington. Original letters, vases and jewelry were on loan for the exhibit titled Six Generations of Style with items made in early nation era Georgetown shops. Examples included the Charles A. Burnett and John E. Rigden’s created silver beaker engraved “Martha Peter” (ca. 1796 -1810) and a chair made by William King (ca. 1815-1820).
The story behind each piece gave viewers a much-valued glimpse into a looking glass of history. Along the first level, small porcelain figures crowded layered shelves. Every so often, one piece called out to a viewer’s attention. In the case of James M. Labaugh Antiques, the Staffordshire Group of John Heenan and Tom Sayers (England, ca. 1870, $1,850) stood out and a tale of the legendary boxing match between the bare-knuckle prize fighters American, Heenan and pint-sized Brit, Sayers. The only 9 in. high and 5.75 in wide figure of the famed match, regarded as boxing’s first world championship, took place on April 17, 1860 in Farnborough, Hampshire. It gained attention from across the Atlantic with both fighters carrying significant handicaps; Sayers fought one-handed. After over a grueling two hours and 42 rounds, a hostile outbreak ensued among the crowd and the match was stopped by police with the referee ruling a draw. Controversy and collusion accusations grew as public opinion argued the true winner or potential outcome had the match not been stopped. Once the boxers reconciled, each were awarded the championship belt.
If Georgian tables and 18th century English oak furnishings were more to one’s liking, Running Battle Antiques hosted their collection on the second level. An oak dresser from Southern Wales stood with opened, sectional bases and scalloped trim, a popular style for the area during the mid-seventeenth to early eighteenth centuries. Maine-based collector, Helen Meserve tells that during the William & Mary and Charles II periods in England, traveling to visit additional country homes or family for extended periods of time was commonplace. Furniture was often made to be easily collapsible and transportable to carry to each destination. Important documents were stored in a Bible Box, of which they show a chip carved fall front oak piece with tulip motif, initials T.H., and dated 1694 ($3,200). Inside reveals storage for documents and small compartments for other valuables.
The weekend continued with a variety of events including lectures, luncheons, a jazz night and an appraisal opportunity for guests’ most prized antiques items much like Antiques Road Show.