Art and Antique Dealers League of America Spring Show NYC
By KEN JOHNSON
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue, at 67th Street
The great thing about fairs like the Art and Antique Dealers League of America Spring Show NYC is you’re bound to encounter something the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Carlton Hobbs, for example, offers a group of satirical portraits in the form of early-19th-century miniature reliefs exquisitely carved in ivory. Based on a series of engravings published in 1691 to protest the anti-Huguenot policies of Louis XIV of France, the reliefs represent members of the king’s court with delightful, comic savagery.
A rather different set of objects is at Yew Tree House: more than 200 thin, flat pieces of birch wood in a wide variety of curvy shapes. They belonged to an early-19th-century Swedish woodworker who used them as templates to make parts for ships. Displayed altogether on one wall, they have an elegant, proto-Modernist simplicity.
A curious echo of the Yew Tree House presentation is at Clinton Howell, where two dozen curvy, flat objects resembling fans with slender handles are arranged on the wall in a radiating composition. Made of wood or papier-mâché and decorated Rococo-style with floral, avian and Asian motifs, they were used as face screens by 19th-century British aristocrats to keep wax-based makeup from melting in front of fireplaces.
Naturally there are many fine examples of more familiar genres offered by the more than 60 exhibitors, including a beautiful portrait of a child in a pink dress by the American itinerant portraitist Ammi Phillips at Jeffrey Tillou and, at Phoenix Ancient Art, a strikingly lifelike, third-century marble head of a Roman man who gazes upward with an expression of sleepy-eyed resignation.