If you are in New York and a fan of garden antiques, stop by at the Barbara Israel Garden Antiques booth at the famous annual Winter Antiques Show, which is at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street through Jan. 30.
Her stuff is amazing! When I was there at the preview last week, the show stopper was a 19th century bas relief carved marble Italian wellhead with a bronze overthrow of floral design. Planting containers included a pair of mid-19th century Versailles urns by the Paris based Durenne foundry, on pedestals. and a terra-cotta planter ornamented by entwined serpents from traditional Celtic design which was designed by Arts & Crafts Symbolist Mary Seton Watts and exhibited at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago. The always popular animal sculptures included a cast iron Newfoundland and stone panther, both life size. And amusing giant stone frog was from the 1950's but most articles more made in the 19th century and brought over from Europe by garden lovers on the Grand Tour.
The garden ornaments and artwork was selling fast and the price tags were hefty. But Barbara Israel Garden Antiques has also come out with a line of affordable reproductions of its treasures, called Garden Traditions. Visit the website at www.gardentraditions.us for information. The Massachusetts dealer is Tracker Home Decor of Pease's Point Way in South Edgartown. Original antiques can be viewed by appointment at Katonah, NY., where Barbara Israel also puts out a scholarly newsletter, Focal Points.
Barbara Israel has long been a leading expert on the subject of garden antiques and ornaments. Her 1999 book, "Antique Garden Ornament; Two Centuries of America Taste," was a groundbreaking work, noted Ronald Lee Fleming of the Townscape Institute in Cambridge, who also attended the opening.
"I wanted people to realize it was a serious academic art," Israel said when we talked at the show, which is the most prestigious of its kind in the country. She traces her interest to childhood. "One of my grandmothers would take me to an estate in New Jersey which had nine foot tall statues of the first 12 Roman Emperors. My sister and I would play and peek out around them. I was curious why they were there."