VERY RICH & HANDSOME is the name of an exhibition at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries in the Crown Building at 730 Fifth Avenue, New York. As part of my museum and antiques show hopping in New York in January, I especially wanted to see this extraordinary group of American Neo-Classical decorative arts. The title of the show was extracted from an 1820 document by Abby Breese Salisbury who described a group of furniture she had commissioned from the Boston cabinet making firm of Issac Vose & Son in the early days of the 19th century. While great furniture was made in Boston at that time, other cabinetmaking centers were well established New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The show has examples from all of these centers and each piece is more refined and elegant than the next.
The inspiration for these elegant, ornamented, carved and gilded pieces came from England and the Continent. And, indeed, they were very rich and handsome. In addition to great pieces of furniture, the exhibition features rare and extraordinary pieces of silver, lighting, porcelain, glass, paintings, watercolors and drawings all exposed to give context to the period and to this important moment in the history of American art. The decorative arts of the period from the last years of the 18th century until about 1830 were influenced by various design books; a leg from here, a cornice from there and decorative molding from yet another source. This slightly random approach gave the cabinetmaker his own specifically American interpretation.
Exhibitions such as Very Rich & Handsome, the Winter Antiques Show and museums are often the catalyst for our best design thinking. Whether modern art with bold colors and graphics or 18th century American furniture and decorative arts, we use our observations to identify objectives and process new ideas.
Authors: Stuart P. Feld and daughter, Elizabeth Feld Publisher: Hirschl & Adler Galleries; 1st edition (December 19, 2014) ISBN-10: 193794104 ISBN-13: 978-1937941048
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