Treasure Hunting at Delaware Antiques Show

 Antiques, like the ones seen here from last year's show, will be on display (photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum)

Antiques, like the ones seen here from last year's show, will be on display (photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum)

Don Cresswell is a history detective. He scours the land for the earliest printed views of colonial Philadelphia and commercial lithographs of the post-Civil War period.

At Cresswell’s Philadelphia Print Shop you will find original Americana prints and maps; a rich collection of historic political cartoons catch your eye. Nearby, stunning illustrations of the glorious birds of John James Audubon are displayed along with scores of Currier & Ives.

A trim man with a distinguished gray beard and easy smile, Cresswell might look a tad familiar. You’ve probably seen him in his role as expert appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow over the past fourteen years.

Cresswell is among sixty of the nation’s most distinguished antiques dealers who will bring their treasures to Wilmington’s Chase Center on the Riverfront, Nov. 8-10, to entice both collectors and the merely curious with captivating exhibits of American furniture, paintings, rugs, porcelain, silver, jewelry, and a spectacular showcase of art, antiques and design.

Expected to attract more than 1,200 visitors, in recent years the Delaware Antiques Show has broadened its scope to include more English and Continental furniture, books, a wide array of ceramics and folk art such as early American painted signs, early 20th century toys and artwork from the Brandywine School of Painting. The show raises funds for educational programming at the Winterthur Museum. 

Organized by Winterthur, the Delaware Antiques Show is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. It also offers an added incentive to buy — three days of tax-free shopping.

“We’re very anxious to bring younger people into the show, to develop them into collectors,” said Tom Savage, Wintethur’s director of museum affairs. “They are the collectors of the future and they shouldn’t feel that the show is a rarified air that appeals only to their parents or grandparents. Our goal is to add to their appreciation of the country’s material culture.”

In something of a coup, Savage has enlisted Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill as the keynote speaker and honorary chair. She grew up in legendary Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, a 187-room palace considered one of the most important Baroque houses in England. The eldest daughter of the eleventh Duke of Marlborough, she specializes in renovating historic British country homes, including her family’s estate.

A noted authority on period homes and historic styles, Lady Henrietta is the owner of two interior design firms, including Woodstock Designs where she works on projects worldwide. Blenheim is the birthplace of such notables as Winston Churchill, and also was occupied by Lady Henrietta’s colorful and illustrious great-grandmother, Consuelo Vanderbilt, a close friend of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his wife Ruth.

Somerville Manning Gallery will be showcasing American Masters paintings from the 19th and 20th century, including works by Andy and N.C. Wyeth featuring Chadds Ford.

“We’re exhibiting everything from the Wyeths, to impressionists to modernists,” noted the Greenville, Del. gallery co-owner Sadie Sommerville. “Being in that venue with all of these renowned antique dealers from all over the country, it really is a perfect fit for our paintings. You might see these works in a museum, but nowhere else.  It’s an exceptional show and brought us wonderful exposure to many new folks.”

A warm, down-to-earth speaker with a deep passion for antiques, design, and historic architecture, Lady Henrietta is scheduled for a lecture on Friday, Nov. 8, at 10 a.m. On Sunday, Nov. 10, lovers of the traditional English garden will be captivated by speaker Barbara Paul Robinson beginning at 2:00 p.m. Robinson’s own home, Brush Hill, is an 18th-century farmhouse in northwestern Connecticut surrounded by her interpretation of the English garden. It is included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens.

Robinson’s lecture will focus on the life of English garden legend Rosemary Verey who achieved international recognition for her devotion to the “English style” on display at her home at Barnsley House in the Cotswolds of England. Verey has been a garden adviser to clients from Prince Charles to Elton John and is a beloved and popular lecturer in America.

The show also will feature a special exhibition, “Collecting Treasures.” From a gothic patterned bedcover and an armorial porcelain plate to an anti-slavery seal and an Uncle Sam figure, this exhibit will highlight treasures that celebrate 50 years of the Delaware Antiques Show.

The Delaware Antiques Show raises funds for educational programming at the Winterthur.  

Terry Conway is a Delaware Arts and Culture writer.  You can view more of his work:

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