Gary Sullivan's Antique Clocks and Furniture Blog


Antique Clocks and Furniture

Opening Gala
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Thank you to those who were able to make our opening event. A great night was had by all. It is always great to have such a big group of enthusiast together at one time. It was a thrill to host and a rewarding chance to showcase our extensive inventory. Of course we are glad to receive anyone who did make the event. To give an idea of the space I have posted some of the photos and included a link to some coverage we received from Antiques and Fine Art magazine. Johanna McBrien was kind enough to include a slew of photos. Follow this link to view that story at InCollect. We expect more stories in related press and I will be sure to post them when there are in.

Gallery Grand Opening
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Update: The Canton, MA. Gallery is now closed, but we continue to operate the business from the same Sharon, MA. location where we have been for almost 30 years. This location is by appointment only. Please call or email to discuss your interests.

2014 recap blog
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I looked at our last blog over the weekend and I was embarrassed to see that it was posted over a year ago. Well that is certainly not due to lack of effort. 2014 was the busiest year I can remember. Now we are headed into 2015, which will be my 40th year in the antiques business. It seems fitting that I start by recapping 2014 and highlighting some of those things which have kept Matt and I too busy to blog. Then I promise to keep up with events and maybe sprinkle in some “best of” stories from the past 40 years.

The last blog was prior to the opening of an exhibit of Early American Musical clock that I curated at the Willard House and Clock Museum. The exhibit was a massive success. The clocks all played their music beautifully and it was impressive to see all these masterpieces together in one space. Thank you to all who participated. The catalogs are still available at the Willard House.

You can take a video tour of the exhibit here. The exhibit placed a spotlight on the project and on Musical Clocks in general, prompting the discovery of some missing and unknown examples. I have made great progress on the related book and have completed the manuscript. Matt and I have visited almost all of the clocks that will appear in the book, which promises to have nearly 400 illustrations. We are very excited to go to print and hope to be published by mid 2015.

I just recently had the privilege of visiting the extraordinary collections at The White House and the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. I was there to examine and photograph two clocks that will be in the book. An amazing Effingham Embree from New York is in the White House collection and a rare Thomas Harland from Norwich, Connecticut is at the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department. What a privilege to be up close to these important examples and to have the opportunity to view such significant collections of early American material culture.

I can’t believe I am doing this, but I have already begun my next research project. A year ago, I was asked by Patricia Kane, the Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Yale University Art Gallery to write a section on clocks for her forthcoming project. Pat has been compiling information for the Rhode Island Furniture Archive, which is a comprehensive catalog of all known examples of Rhode Island furniture. The culmination of this massive, multi-year project will be an exhibit and related catalogue. I am delighted to have the chance to work with such a talented and dedicated scholar and as Matt put it, “When Yale comes knocking, you let them in”. So currently, Pat and I have been making selections of noteworthy Rhode Island clocks to include in the catalogue and then I’m off to catalog them (in my spare time). Thankfully, Pat has already done much of the legwork. I am very excited, particularly since Rhode Island furniture is near and dear to me.

Last January was the first time in many years that I did not do a show in New York City during Americana Week. My focus on the Musical exhibit did not permit it. This was fortuitous because on January 1st, my 2-year-old golden retriever ran into me at full speed, breaking my leg just below the knee. I spent antiques week in a wheel chair. With Matt’s help, we managed to view each auction and attend the opening of the East Side show. Some of you may remember the major snowstorm that fell mid-week last year, which added to the drama. All and all it was great though, I got to slow down, look at everything and connect with many people.

A highlight of 2014 was examining a tall case clock for Historic Deerfield, with Deerfield President, Philip Zea. This important clock, which was being offered at Sotheby’s Auction in New York was made by Boston clockmaker, Aaron Willard and Dorchester, Massachusetts cabinetmaker, Stephen Badlam for Asa Stebbins, one of Deerfield’s wealthiest and most respected citizens. Stebbins purchased the clock around 1799, when he built a remarkable home, which is now part of Historic Deerfield and is open to the public. Phil was hoping to return the clock to its original home. I’ll save the details of that story for another blog. Hint, it has a happy ending.

After an invitation from Winterthur, Matt and I took a booth at the Delaware antique show for the first time. For years I had been encouraged by various colleagues to try the show. It was a complete success. The clientele who visit this show are enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable. The vast majority of the people visiting my booth knew exactly what they were looking at, so the conversations began at a much higher level. We sold great things and had our best show ever. We will absolutely be returning next year. Maine Antique Digest did a nice write-up of the show. Follow this link to view the article.

Well that’s a good start, not all that went on but I will fill in the details over the coming months. I promise.

Keeping Time exhibit on schedule
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We have been working day and night transporting musical clocks and installing the new exhibit at The Willard House & Clock Museum. This has been an all consuming process for the last several months, so if I failed to return your phone call or respond to an email, please forgive me. My antiques business has definitely suffered during this project and Matt is just as busy as I am. We hope to soon get back to locating great pieces and spending the proper amount of time working with our clients to place those things in the proper collections.

The exhibit is coming together nicely and most of the clocks are in the building. It is entitled Keeping Time, Musical Clocks of Early America and will include 38 functioning musical clocks (mostly American).  The image is a graphic from the table of contents and really gives an idea of how amazing these clocks are. The exhibit will be open on Sunday, October 6th and will run only six weeks, until November 17th. The museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10-4:00. Visit the Willard Museum for more information by clicking here

Early American musical clock project in high gear.
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It’s been a while since I have given an update on the progress of my American musical clock book and exhibit. Matt and I have been working nearly full time on the project for the past 6 months. Thus far we have visited and photographed about 70 clocks in private collections and institutions and have been welcomed with enthusiasm at each stop. What initially appeared to be a daunting task is proving to be quit rewarding.

Due to the extraordinary cost of these rare musical clocks, the original purchasers usually chose exceptional cases that represent the very best examples of their period and form. Not only that, they preserve the recorded music of our ancestors just as they heard it 200 years ago. They have been likened to an original iPod.

We have begun to gather the clocks that will appear in an exhibit at the Willard House & Clock Museum in North Grafton, Massachusetts. It will take place this fall from October 6th-November 17th and will include approximately 36 pre-1830 musical clocks. They will all be running and playing their music.

Thanks to the generosity of several donors and the cooperation of a number of lenders, the public will have a chance to hear these masterpieces play once again. This will be a unique opportunity to see and hear approximately one quarter of the early American musical and chiming clocks that are known to survive.

Some of these complicated movements have not functioned in decades. We are proud that, with the help of some very skilled clockmakers, some of these movements will be returned to a fully functional condition. Their music will be heard once again for the first time in generations.

Here’s an example of why this is so rewarding. Matt and I recently picked up a very important Aaron Brokaw clock from the Newark Museum in New Jersey. With the help of my colleague, clock specialist, Steve Petrucelli, we were able to coordinate a visit to the New Jersey Historical Society, just around the corner. Steve had tracked down an important Leslie & Williams musical clock, housed in a magnificent case bearing the label of cabinetmaker, Matthew Egerton Jr. The clock had long been in storage and was documented only by black and white photos from the 1940’s. We arranged to have the clock moved to the main facility for examination and photography. When we assembled the clock for the first time in years we all gazed in awe at what may be the finest New Jersey clock I have ever seen. It is a monumental clock with perfect proportions, fantastic inlay, a signed musical movement and a cabinetmaker’s label. Wow! This is what keeps us searching. Please be sure to join us at the exhibit, so you too can say “Wow” too!

Gary interviewed by V & M [Vintage and Modern] at 2013 Metro Show
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Click here to Follow the link to watch a series of video interviews from this year's Metro Show in New York City.

The interview was done by V&M (Vintage and Modern). V & M is the leading online source for unique vintage furniture, antiques, art, jewelry, fashion and design from around the world. They have done a nice job, the filming and production is pretty good and it has a very upbeat feel.  It gives a good sense of the energy on the floor at this show.


The Paris Time Capsule Apartment
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A Parisian apartment left untouched for over 70 years was discovered in the quartier of Pigalle a few summers ago.  The owner of this apartment, Mrs. De Florian left Paris just before the rumblings of World War II broke out in Europe. She closed up her shutters and left for the South of France, never to return to the city again. Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91. It was only when her heirs enlisted professionals to make an inventory of the Parisian apartment she left behind, that this time capsule was finally unlocked.  The team that had the honor of opening what must have been a very stiff old lock for the first time in 70 years, likened the experience to ‘stumbling into the castle of sleeping beauty’. The smell of dust, the cobwebs, the silence, was overwhelming; a once in a lifetime experience.

There is a further twist to the story. In the apartment a painting of familiar style was discovered of a beautiful woman in pink. One of the inventory team members suspected this might be a very important piece of treasure. Along with the painting, they also found stacks of old love letters tied with colored ribbon.

With some expert historical opinion, the ribbon-bound love letters were quickly recognized as the calling card of none other than Giovanni Boldini, one of Paris’ most important painters of the Belle Époque. The painting was his. The beautiful woman pictured in the painting was Mrs. de Florian’s grand-mother, Marthe de Florian, a beautiful French actress and socialite of the Belle Époque. She was Boldini’s muse. And, despite him being a married man, she was also his lover. The art world went a bit nutty for the whole story and the painting was later sold for $3 million at auction.

What I find so intriguing about this story is not so much the discovered painting and the revelation of a love affair between a great Italian painter and the beautiful actress in an enchanting era, but more the story of Mrs. de Florian and why she stayed away from Paris for so long.

What kept her away even after the war? Was she running away from someone or something other than the Nazis? For all those decades, her rent on the elegant apartment in a flourishing city had been faithfully paid, but it was left to freeze in time. It all sounds like the perfect mystery…
This story was discovered at Messy Nessy Chic

Gary interviewed by syndicated columnist in a series estate antiques. #3 available
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Gary has been interviewed by syndicated columnist Marni Jameson for an ongoing series on evaluating and managing Estate antiques.  Marni has connected with Gary via his appraisal work on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.  Gary offered Marni practical advice, that only an experienced antique expert knows, as she handled her parents estate. Follow each installment here on our blog by clicking each of these links.

Third Article: March 22nd, 2013.

Second Article: March 16th, 2013.

First article: March 9, 2013.

Marni Jameson is a nationally syndicated home design columnist, and author of the best-selling The House Always Wins. Marni’s hugely popular syndicated column, “At Home With Marni Jameson,” appears in more than 30 newspapers throughout the United States and Canada reaching 7 million readers each week. Marni's column offers advice and guidance filtered through her personal experiences.

Antiques Week Update
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We have been very busy the last several months and the blog has been an unintended casualty. Preparing for the only show that we do in January each year is a tremendous amount of work. This year was no different. We brought a number of fine pieces of Americana to the Metro Show which took place during Antiques Week in NY City. This was only the second year for the show, which replaced The American Antiques Show (TAAS), often referred to as the Folk Art Show. Like last year, the turnout for the Metro Show preview party was tremendous (see photo). At some points in the show, it was about impossible to move through the isles.

Metro is a nice venue and the promoters put on a first class show, but it has moved a bit toward the modern-art side for my taste. The show featured some up scale and very edgy art, which is great, but I wish it included a few more American furniture dealers like myself. Despite encouragement from me and in some cases, free passes, a large number of good dealers and collectors just never made it to the show. I think it was a mistake for so many Americana enthusiasts to skip Metro. I realize that it was brutally cold the first few days, and not conducive to moving about the city, but we had some excellent dealers offering some special pieces of Americana.

Many of the show goers were twenty and thirty-somethings, which is exactly what the promoters were looking for. It was definitely a happening event! Sadly, the younger crowd did not show my offerings very much love. I was disappointed that the show was promoted strictly as an art fair and that the word ”antique” appeared nowhere in their advertising. That certainly didn’t help me. I ended up having a good show, because two of my regular clients bought expensive pieces, but sales were off from recent years.

This is where I part ways with the Metro show. I will attend in the coming years, but not as an exhibitor. It is no longer the right fit for my “antique” merchandise. I wish them and their exhibitors great success.

The joy of discovery
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Discovering and exploring the virtues of a newly acquired antique is the great joy of this industry. Examining the aesthetics of a piece and comparing it against the ideal of the form is an important and subjective aspect of an evaluation. In contrast, investigating the history of a piece to establish a firm provenance contributes in a more concrete manner and lends a more tangible value. Unraveling this history defines a piece beyond its dimensional form, but as a specific portion of history. This is always a gratifying effort, yet once in a great while a discovery is made that elevates a piece to historical significance.

I had the great pleasure of linking a tall clock to its original owner who was a major figure in the early anti-slavery movement. The clock was made by the well-known Quaker clockmaker John Bailey Jr. who had gained notoriety in New Bedford for his strong anti-slavery views. Bailey produced the clock for a fellow abolitionist John Anderson Collins of New Bedford. The clock is a monumental example in a rich Classical style and the oversized dial is marked “Warranted for John Collins”.

During the second quarter of the 19th Century, Collins was a primary and radical member of the anti-slavery movement who figures prominently into the inception of the cause. As the general agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, he worked with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, organizing lectures, editing the monthly periodical and gathering support. He and Garrison attended a convention in Nantucket, at which the recently free Frederick Douglas lectured for the first time about his life as a slave. Impressed by his skill and convictions, Collins urged Douglas to become a full-time lecturer for the organization. Douglass accepted and soon became on of the most prominent orators and leaders of the Abolitionist Movement. This alone can be considered the most meaningful contribution Collins provided to this momentous cause.

A true radical, Collins shifted his focus from abolition to more sweeping reforms. He viewed slavery as a symptom of the larger malady of a Capitalist society. He followed these convictions and in 1843 established the Society for Universal Inquiry and Reform for which he purchased a large farm in Skaneateles, New York. This upstate location became the site of his utopian social experiment. The society was founded on an egalitarian communist principle. Although it was an economically viable community, the experiment would eventually succumb to internal struggles. Collins is undoubtedly one of the amazing characters that have contributed to the greatness of our Nation.

What a story. The history of these pieces can be so captivating. Remember this is a blog about discovering provenance. It leaves me breathless to be in the presence of such significance. My advice is to carefully document any histories that are tied to your possessions. Also bring them to the attention of your heirs. With a provenance an antique has more than just three dimensions.