Decorative Arts Forum explores the 19th century South and its changing palate

October 24, 2009 8:21:00 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


In the genteel dining rooms of the 19th century American South, many families entertained at polished tabletops adorned with some of the most exquisite decorative service hand-crafted abroad. Dining customs, as well, reflected changing times and European influences. 


With the 2009 Decorative Arts and Preservation Forum and Antiques Show and Sale Nov. 5-8, the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation explores all this and more with gala events, illuminating talks and a glittering array of antiques. 


"Pass the peas, please" is the theme chosen for this year''s event. 


"We''re very excited about this year''s forum, show and sale," said Nancy Carpenter, manager of the Cultural Heritage Foundation. "We wanted a topic that could be engaging and fun. We really want to encourage new collectors to enjoy everything the event has to offer; we want them to feel completely comfortable joining in." 




Highlights, tickets 


The forum and show annually draw visitors from multiple states, as well as aficionados here at home. Highlights include a preview opening, a floral program with internationally-known designer Ralph Null, a shrimp-and-grits brunch, musical program, ticketed dinners in antebellum homes and talks by recognized authorities in the antiques world. 


And then, of course, there are the dealers. Filling Trotter Convention Center''s upper level with everything from sterling silver to fine linens and jewelry, they attract the collector as well as the simply curious. 


Carpenter noted several new vendors will be attending for the first time this year, including a linen dealer who earned laurels as the most beautifully-designed booth at the well-known Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas.  


The four-day extravaganza kicks off Thursday, Nov. 5, with a gala preview featuring heavy hors d''oeuvres, champagne and entertainment. Tickets to the 7-9 p.m. event at Trotter Convention Center are $25 per person. 


Columbian Ralph Null, recipient of the 2007 Award of Design Influence by the American Institute of Floral Designers will conduct a floral design program Friday, Nov. 6, at 9 a.m. at Trotter. The $20 ticket includes a shrimp-and-grits brunch and multi-day admission to the antiques show. 


Tickets into the antiques show and sale throughout the weekend are $5, available at the door. Show hours are from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 6-7 and from noon-5 p.m. Nov. 8.  


An all-inclusive Grand Patron pass is $150 and admits the holder to all events, including a Nov. 6 buffet dinner at Lehmquen, the 1838 home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Ivy, and a Nov. 7 cocktail buffet at Bryn Bella, the 1849 home of Mr. and Mrs. Keith Heard. 


In a special musical presentation, pianist Jim Gibson of Atlanta, Ga., will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 6 in Carrier Chapel. 




Speaking of peas 


Speakers sharing insight Saturday, Nov. 7, are among the most experienced in their fields. 


John Keefe, curator of decorative arts for the New Orleans Museum of Art, presides over one of the finest collections of Paris porcelain in the country and will addresses attendees at 9:15 a.m. Keefe has missed very few of the annual Columbus forums. 


Old Paris porcelain, or Paris porcelain, refers not to a single manufacturer, but to more than 30 porcelain sources based within the city of Paris between the mid-1700s until around 1870. 


"Antebellum society loved things French and had close ties to France; lots of that porcelain was imported to the South," said Keefe. "As it''s gotten better known and more esteemed, it''s been disappearing off the shelves and prices have risen. It''s more popular in the South than any other part of the United States because of its long tradition of ownership here."  


At 10:45 a.m., Carolyn Bercier, deputy director of the Herman-Grima/Gallier Historic Houses in New Orleans, La., will share insight into 19th century table settings and dining customs. 


"There were two types of dining popular in the 19th century," explained Bercier, referring to the French style of service and dining à la russe. French style called for a number of dishes brought to the table at the same time, with the table set in a very specific way.  


"The important thing was how the table looked," explained Bercier. It was very convivial and esthetically pleasing, she added, but dishes would linger on the table and chefs would at times complain their dishes were not all at their peak by the time diners partook. 


By the time of reconstruction, dining à la russe, influenced by Russia, was emerging in Southern dining rooms. Diners were served a prepared plate. "Your dish was served at the right moment and was hot, but you didn''t have this extraordinary array on the table that you would see with French service." 


At 1 p.m., noted preservationist, collector and antiques dealer Zac Abramson of Florence, Ala., will discuss dining rooms of the 19th century. 


Following the talks, a driving tour of Columbus'' historic architecture is scheduled for 2:15 p.m 


"The Columbus forum and antiques show and sale is of unusually high quality," stated Keefe. "I think it reflects a great deal of the care that''s taken on the part of organizers to make sure everything is correct. There is an extraordinarily wide range of things that a lot of shows don''t have." 


For advance tickets and additional event information, contact the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at 662-329-1191, 662-547-2036 or 800-920-3533 or visit

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.