When I was in seventh grade, I had a rather precocious friend named Maxine, who one day at school sported an antique ring she’d purchased at a thrift store. A friend’s mother complimented her and Maxine’s cheery response was “I just love things with a history.”
Our friend’s mom smiled knowingly and proclaimed her to be a Romantic.
If those of us with a love for antiques are Romantics, then New Orleans itself is a Romantic’s paradise. And with Independence Day, Bastille Day and the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Inaugural Antiques Forum occurring these next few weeks, now’s a good time to reflect upon our history and learn a little more about antiques. Local antique dealers will also be getting new shipments in, so check them out, too!
Why We Like Them
Caroline Robert, who owns Perch on Magazine Street, says that perhaps New Orleanians are fascinated by antiques because our city itself is antique. “So many different cultures have settled here,” she says. “This has led to an amazing number of antiques in the city.” Burl Salmon of the Historic New Orleans Collection says, “ I think New Orleanians are very antique savvy. We have a high concentration of antique stores, auction houses, and galleries here and are known the world over as one of the top places to shop for antiques.”
A New Orleanian’s love of antiques might also be genetic: Caroline Robert says she’s grown up with antiques because her mother was a collector before her. “It grew on me,” she says. Joshua Broussard, gallery director at Agora Galleries offers his take. “I think New Orleanians are fascinated by antiques because, for a lot of folks, things have been passed down in the family.” He says that modern day collectors in the city often have an “overall view of history and nostalgia.”
What’s Popular Here
Some of the most popular antiques in the city are those of early Louisiana settlers and those with European origins.
Broussard of Agora notes that his business has been selling a lot of French and Italian items. “People tend to gravitate toward that now,” he says. “People are looking for more clean lines, fresher designs; it’s not necessarily more modern but just more straightforward.”
French furniture, made for royal patrons, is distinguished by “gilding, exotic woods and bronze mounts” as well as “the occasional use of fine French porcelain,” says Neal Auction Company’s Bettine Carroll, while Italian furniture is more diverse. “Most is inspired by Greek and Roman antecedents mixed with Renaissance and Baroque architectural prototypes and often incorporates an exuberance of execution,” she says.
On the other hand, furniture that’s been passed down from early Louisiana settlers is “mostly French inspired,” says Carroll. “”It includes the use of both imported and indigenous woods, [such as] mahogany, cherry, walnut, Spanish cedar and cypress.” She says the quality antique American furniture has attracted collectors, “due primarily to the fact that there were so few quality makers around during the 200-odd years it was being produced. It is this very reality of its rarity that has lent American furniture an appeal that surpasses any other furniture collecting category.” A Louisiana piece that’s survived and is in pristine condition is, says Carroll, “a truly remarkable item and one which has tremendous appeal.” Louisiana pieces reflect the influences of France, Canada, the Caribbean, and later American design, says HNOC’s Burl Salman.
What’s Hot For Summer
Of course, the antique shops are heating up for the summer, keeping in tune with a cool, Romantic theme: Many of the shops around town are selling patio furniture, fountains and a lot of “garden items,” says Broussard.
He continues, “This is a place where time stands still. People really take pride in understanding where something came from and how it was handed down.” Then, he says, “People just get addicted to it!”
To Learn More
Next month, the Historic New Orleans Collection will host its inaugural
New Orleans Antiques Forum, Aug. 7-10 in the Williams Research Center. Featuring four days of lectures and tours, the forum will explore the study of Southern decorative arts. Scholars from esteemed institutions will discuss topics to peak all interests: interior design, furniture, miniatures, porcelain, Southern landscapes and more. Register by calling 523-4662.
In addition, Neal Auction Company will be hosting a Summer Estates Auction, offering a variety of fine art, furniture and decorative art on July
12-13. For more information, call 899-5329.