Last weekend I had a bee in my bonnet. Actually, most weekends and even week days I have this same bee in my bonnet, but last weekend the bee was really buzzing. Buzzzz, buzzzz, buzzzz was all I heard. Well, all I wanted to hear. It was, of course, the NEED-TO-ANTIQUE Bee. I did not swat.
It had been on my calendar to attend two Antique shows. One in Concord and one in Needham. I love antique shows, because the dealers usually bring their best stuff to show and be seen with. When one stands there on display with one's offerings, it is much preferred to be associated with better items. This is as opposed to multi-dealer shops or even one-dealer shops where dealers might keep everything and anything, even the much less desirable junk, just in case some fool wants it, and often some fool does. I like Junk just as much as the next guy, but I am getting pretty picky about which junk goes home with me, and lately, I am looking for only Amerciana, and, most often, antiques. Shows give me the best bang for my buck, time-wise.
As is often the case, I had trouble getting out of the house early on Saturday to make it to the Concord show. But, I had discovered just the day before that there was an auction scheduled that day right here in Needham. And, as it turns out, I actually knew the auctioneer from years ago, and I knew she had a great eye for old things. So off I went to the auction, instead of to Concord. Besides, less $$$ spent on gas, means more to spend at the auction!
The item that drew me to the auction is the lovely winter painting above, which was pictured on the auction web site. It is oil and unsigned. I love these anonymous winter scenes. There is something very pleasing about these detailed paintings, done by some unknown, at some point, often many years ago, and obviously with love. Even if signed they are usually amateurs, but those paintings are often just as nice as any done by the pros I have seen. And, more often than not, even nicer. The less-sophisticated hand is my preference, by far. I'd take a Grandma Moses over a Hudson River school landscape any day --IF I were even in a position to afford one, which I most certainly am not!
I had almost passed up the auction because, I thought, I do not really need another snow scene, as nice as this is, but when I checked the site one more time and saw that the painting was 50 inches wide, I couldn't resist. I had to have it; I had the perfect place for it. I ran out the door in a cloud of dust, heading to the auction, after it had already begun, praying that I didn't miss the painting lot coming up for bid.
If you have never been to an antique auction,well, let me tell you--it can be nerve wracking. Those who are smart enough know to get to the preview for a close-up look at the lots before bidding, because it helps mightily and keeps one from going home with the wrong stuff. Auction lots are often not as nice in person as they are on line, or even as nice as they are from in-person, 30 feet away. I am usually not that smart, of course, and have gone home with the wrong stuff from auctions several times because I did not attend the preview, nor could get a really good look at it from my seat in the audience.
When I got to the auction, I could see the object of my desire up front. I loved the way that painting looked from my seat, but I did try to sneak up and see it a touch closer. I asked the women behind me if it had come up yet for bid and they said it had not. Thank goodness! I thought. And then I sat. And I waited.
Here is the danger of having to sit and look at the item you came to bid on for any length of time: other auction lots come up. Lots of other lots ("lot" is the term for a specific auction-bid item). Temptation is very great, and my reistence is very weak. If you put money on the fact that I won other bids, then you win. I did. I went home with some toy trains (above) and an antique game board (also above), neither of which was more than $25 And a strange bronze lamp that looked like a felled log, which cost just a touch more.
The other danger is that as I sat there looking at the painting, while winning my few other lots, it became even more desirable. With the extra time to desire, I mentally calculated just how high I would go. And the longer I sat there, the higher the figure. I shocked even myself at the figure I was contemplating and I am not easily shocked.
After what seemed like forever, my painting was close to coming up for bid. This is the the other thing about auctions: you actually feel physically edgy. Your heart beats a little faster. Your senses are heightened. Your blood pressure probably goes up (you know, it's funny-- I just realized that I experience the same thing when I am going to bid on an ebay item that I am determined to get...). All of that was true for me. I was poised and ready to duke it out.
The auctioneer introduced the painting. She started it out high, and waited to see what kind of interest there was, then brought it down to try to get the bidding going. This is often what happens at antique auctions, so it is wise not to jump in right away; you might pay much less than you thought. One thing had me worried though--this auctioneer was actually "passing" lots if she really thought they were deserving of better prices and no one was willing to start at levels she considered reasonable. I knew that if I waited too long to jump in, I might lose it altogether. A dilemma!
It looked like only one other bidder was as eager as I to own the winter landscape. The bidding began. I sat behind her and raised my number in rapid-fire style every time she raised her number card. I prepared to battle it out; I was determined to go home with it. Take no prisoners! My competition must have sensed that my testosterone level was way up, for she surrendered much earlier than I expected. Happy day! I was going home with my painting, and, thank goodness, it was a bargain. It was a great, CHEAP day! Which was good. I should not really be doing this at all. My husband has a thing or two to say about this buzzing bee. Well, more than just a thing or two.
Besides, there was always the Needham Antique Show the following day....
EDITED TO ADD:
Just after I finished posting I open the Times with lunch to read about this auction of the late Dominick Dunne's estate. These things are surely out of my price range and I am here ands the auction is there (although I suppose phone bids are possible) but one can dream of course!