Editor’s letter, January 2009

Editorial Staff Opinion

Several years ago I visited the Reverend Peter Gomes, Harvard University’s chaplain and professor of Christian morals, to interview him about the way he had furnished Sparks House, the residence Harvard provides for its preacher. I was struck by the exuberance of his rooms, their voluptuous colors—golds, reds, and greens­—their antiques—Yankee, French, Scottish, English—the dramatic spiral stairwell lined with wallpaper …

Celebrating the exotic and the ordinary

Editorial Staff Opinion

I first encountered the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in the 1970s, when I was a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire. Wanting to learn more about the material world of seventeenth-century New England, I signed up for an architectural tour led by Abbott Lowell Cummings. It must have been in the fall. I remember …

Vintage finds for the holiday season

Editorial Staff Opinion

Who can forget the excitement of seeing Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker as a child? The magical “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” in Act II left an indelible mark on me that still stirs up fond memories from my childhood. First performed in 1892 in St. Petersburg (illustrated above), the ballet’s popularity did not spread to the United States until …

Editor’s letter, December 2009

Editorial Staff Opinion

There is a great deal of fretting these days about the future of collecting and the dearth of young collectors. Were there ever many young collectors? Probably not. It takes the perspective of age (as well as the accumulation of capital) to do what the best antiques collectors do: value a folk art painting or a tall-case clock for the …

Editor’s letter, November 2009

Editorial Staff Opinion

Here is a point that had somehow eluded me until now: eighteenth-century American furniture—a John Townsend chest-on-chest, a Philadelphia tea table—was already bold, original, and world class while American painting was still struggling for stature and its own voice. This discrepancy dawned on me while reading Carrie Rebora Barratt and Barbara Weinberg’s article in this issue about the stories American …

Editor’s letter, October 2009

Editorial Staff Opinion

A few months ago Eleanor Gustafson and I spent a day as guests of Historic New England. We had wanted to see what I like to think of as the bookends of that organization’s historic houses­—the 1938 Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, with its spare, modernist decor and bracing use of industrial materials, and the rambling, mysterious Beauport in Gloucester, …

Editor’s letter, September 2009

Editorial Staff Opinion

One of the things I admire about Electra Havemeyer Webb was her instinctive sense that the cultural designations of high-, low-, and middlebrow were silly.  I do not mean to suggest that Webb was a prophet of late twentieth-century multiculturalism or that she could have argued for the relative merits of a beautifully carved duck decoy vis à vis a …

A Director’s Vision: The Legacy of Anne d’Harnoncourt

Editorial Staff Opinion

To celebrate the memory of its former director, Anne d’Harnoncourt, the Philadelphia Museum has arranged a special tour through its galleries, A Director’s Vision (on view through July 19), which highlights special acquisitions made throughout d’Harnoncourt’s tenure at the museum—as curator from 1982, and as director from 1982 until her sudden death in 2008. Her colleagues at the museum have …

Tips for the Brimfield Antique Show

Editorial Staff Opinion

This week (May 12-17) more than 5,000 dealers will set up camp at the thrice-annual Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts (near Sturbridge). Anyone who loves antiques—from Americana to bric-a-brac—will surely find something to treasure at this behemoth of a flea market, but Brimfield’s large size can be overwhelming.  To that end, some great resources are available on the web—dealer …

Endnotes: Money in the bank

Editorial Staff Opinion

The banking system’s near collapse has damaged everyone, from “Madoffed” investors to many more whose savings simply evaporated. But while a down market is traditionally a time for snapping up bargains, frustrated antiques dealers say that lately it has been the worst of both worlds: not much great stuff to buy and few to sell to. Ironically, one good place …