In This Issue:

  • Chinese boxes in carved cinnabar lacquer
  • A history of stickpins and hatpins
  • Asia in Amsterdam
  • Andrew Wyeth

And much more…


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In My Opinion
“The Old Order Changeth…”

John Fiske 

I feel as if I’ve lived my life in two completely different worlds – and I don’t mean my whole life, I mean just the last third of it spent as an antiques dealer and commentator.

Our old world doesn’t seem all that long ago: We were doing more than 20 shows a year, and I was writing about how to pick good shows over the less good. Do you remember that common rule-of-thumb that we had to gross 10x booth rent for the show to be considered acceptable – not good, mind you, but acceptable? I’ve no idea what the acceptability threshold is today, but I hear more dealers talking about “making expenses” than about “making 10x a booth.”


C2Luxury in Lacquer
Chinese boxes in carved cinnabar lacquer

Melody Amsel-Arieli

Cinnabar carved lacquer is a uniquely Chinese art. Lacquer, a sticky, caustic, toxic substance derived from the Chinese Lacquer tree (toxicodendron vernicifluum) is dark brown in its natural state. From the sixth century BC on, however, artists tinted it black, yellow or red by adding powdered carbon, orpiment (deep orange-yellow colored arsenic sulfide) or cinnabar.


Pinpointing Pins
A history of stickpins and hatpins

Pins-2Melody Amsel-Arieli

Before there were pins, people secured their simple, draped garments with natural materials like thorns and sharp pieces of bone. As technology and metal-working skills developed, people began using straight, sharp pins made of metal. Wealthy Egyptian women closed their robes and shawls with bronze pins featuring decorative heads. Greeks, Etruscans and Romans secured their tunics with gold, silver and bronze bow-shaped clasps called fibulae. These brooch-like fasteners, though evocative of today’s safety pins, were not solely utilitarian. Many featured highly embellished gold, silver, brass or ivory upper plates that revealed their wearers’ milieu and social status.


Beyond the Glass Case:

A2Joy Hanes visits Asia in Amsterdam: The Culture of Luxury in the Golden Age at the Peabody Essex Museum

I decided to do a Google search on “How museums can attract more visitors,” and came up with nearly 37,000,000 listings. Some of the articles discuss improving staff attitude, others talk about changing the museum’s hours to better fit the typical work week. Some say expanding the museum attracts more people. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do believe that the Asia in Amsterdam exhibit at the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., has gone a long way to engage the museum visitor, using a variety of techniques to enhance the show so that it goes far beyond “pretty things in glass cases.” The exhibit tells the story of the Asian trade in Amsterdam and its effect on the rest of the western world. The show is a collaboration with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which was founded in 1798, just a year before the Peabody Essex was founded, and has items on loan from over 60 collections including British, Swedish and Dutch royal households.


Clutter, Mess and Art
Andrew Wyeth at home

W8Barbara Miller Beem
Images by Barbara Miller Beem

Just to the west is Kennett Square, the “Mushroom Capital of the World.” To the east is the Brandywine Battlefield, site of a crushing blow for George Washington and the American army and a decisive victory for the British. And in the midst of these landmarks, in this bucolic countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania, lies Chadds Ford, winter home and source of inspiration for generations of the Wyeth family of artists.

As preparations are made for the centennial anniversary of his birth in 2017, there is no better time to become reacquainted with – or perhaps introduced to – Andrew Wyeth.


Yours Sincerely

YSJune-1bJohn Fiske

Antiques that bleat – now there’s a category of antiques that I bet you’ve never thought of. But Strawbery Banke in Portsmoth, N.H. held an exhibition recently in which they were given pride of place, along with antiques that honked, mooed and chirped. Called “Barnyard Spring,” it was an exhibition of heritage breeds of farm animals held under a big tent on the museum’s grounds. Each breed was represented by mothers and newly born offspring. The kids loved it, and so did Lisa and I.



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