Would you like to see the chair Abraham Lincoln sat in when he was told the Republican Party had nominated him for president? What about plaster models of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt used by the sculptor and 10-year Stamford resident Gutzon Borglum in creating Mount Rushmore?
Perhaps autographs by Lincoln, Roosevelt, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, Daniel Boone and cartoonist Charles Schulz (underneath a drawing of Snoopy that Schulz drew)? Are stock certificates signed by J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Robert Todd Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln's only surviving son) more your fancy?
Those historical items and autographs are all on display and for sale (except for the plaster models, bought up last week) at C. Parker Gallery, a new art gallery at 17 E. Putnam Rd. in downtown Greenwich (see attached map).
The pickings, however, can be pricey: Lincoln's chair goes for $145,000 (don't let the kids play on it). The plaster models already went for a five-figure sum, and many of the other prices, including the largely Impressionist artwork on the walls, are in the thousands, as well. But you can see it up close for free.
Lincoln liked to catch up on the news by visiting the offices of the Illinois State Journal in Springfield, IL, and it was there that he was first told that he had won the nomination for president at the National Republican Convention in Chicago on May 18, 1860.
At the time, Lincoln was sitting in a bent hickory chair in the newspaper's office.
"We shall be happy if you can find some man to sit in it who is anywhere near as great as Lincoln," an editor wrote in 1886 when the chair was donated to the Lincoln Memorial Collection.
You know they're still waiting.
Plaster models of Lincoln and Roosevelt
Artist Gutzon Borglum lived in Stamford for 10 years (from 1910 to 1920) and later worked on Mount Rushmore. When he did, he would carry around small plaster maquettes, or rough models of the faces he wanted to put on the mountain. Each one is about 4 3/4 inches tall by about 3 inches wide.
According to one story, said Stephen Rockwell Desloge, owner of the six Rockwell Galleries in Fairfield County, "He literally carried them around in his pocket as he was constructing Mount Rushmore."
In fact, Desloge said, there's a ring attached to the top of the Lincoln head maquette that may indicate Borglum may have attached it to his belt instead of keeping it in his pocket. The gallery has been displaying them on small metal stands.
The Roosevelt head is thought to have been made later, as a copy of an earlier head that Borglum might have carried around with him, Desloge said.
"The exact date and circumstances under which these two small plaster casts were created is uncertain," according to a description from Seth Kaller Inc., which sold the maquettes.
"They were likely made by Borglum to help raise funds for the project, which was beset with financial difficulties from the start. (Borglum signed a contract in 1934 in which he agreed to make signed plaster casts of the heads, to be used in the production of souvenirs.) Or they may have been created for display in the 'Sculptor’s Studio,' the on-site atelier used by Borglum during the creation of Mount Rushmore.
"In a 1984 article, the editors of the Lincoln Herald [Summer 1984, vol. 86, no.2, p. 123] related another, intriguing story. They noted the sale offering of 'a one-of-a-kind item … a five-inch long brown clay or plaster head of Lincoln signed on the back ‘Gutzon Borglum’ and initialed on the left cheek "G.B."’ The piece had been left to the current owner, Beverly Keller by an uncle, Harry Mole, a member of the Army Corps of Engineers at the Fourth Cavalry Post in Fort Meade, South Dakota. 'Mr. Mole knew Borglum who, according to Ms. Keller, used to carry this head model with him during his work on Mount Rushmore.' Perhaps one or both of these small casts were used by the artist as touchstones during his long years on the mountain."
A customer who wished to remain anonymous already snapped up the maquettes, Desloge said, so if you were hoping to stuff somebody's stocking with them, well, maybe the gallery could interest you in some signed autographs or artwork.
Tiffany Benincasa, who has been running her art dealership out of her home for years after leaving the finance industry, has filled the new gallery with her 19th and 20th century artwork, mostly Impressionist paintings and work by internationally recognized artists. Most of the artists in the gallery are contemporary.
This exhibit is a collaboration between Benincasa and three autograph and collectibles dealers in Fairfield and Westchester counties: Seth Kaller of Seth Kaller, Inc. in White Plains, John Reznikoff of University Archives in Westport and Stephen Rockwell Desloge, owner of Rockwell Galleries (located in New Canaan, Stamford, Ridgefield, Westport, Wilton and Fairfield).
"It's not often you get to have this all under one roof," Desloge said.
Benincasa hopes that her gallery fills a gap in the art market in Greenwich.
"I don't know of people selling more traditional art in Greenwich now," she said.
She hasn't decided whether to make her new gallery a pop-up store or keep it in a storefont on a more permanent basis. Right now she's waiting for the feedback.
"I'll have to see the feeback on whether maybe I should stay," Benincasa said. "I have to think about it."
C. Parker Gallery is open on 17 East Putnam Rd. through sometime in early 2013 and possibly later. Special showings can also be arranged by appointment. For more information call Tiffany Benincasa at 203-253-0934 or email email@example.com.