May-June 2013 | PAST PERFECT

Charlene Upham & Steven Blumenauer



A vast collection of rare, historical antiques, art and artifacts live on at Charlene Upham Antiques

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

Some people have to travel vast distances to revel in the breathtaking beauty of antiquity. But you don’t. For you, it requires nothing more than a pleasant excursion to Mardela Springs, where Charlene Upham Antiques off Rte. 50 has a timeless ocean of history’s exquisite treasures waiting just for you.

According to the business’s namesake, “I’m 54 years old, and I’ve been in this business 55 years,” whimsically suggesting that her mother, who was also a major antiques dealer, had passed along a portion of her experience to her daughter prenatally.

And perhaps there’s something to that. About 30 years ago, Upham was strictly a dealer but had evolved into a prominent appraiser after her friend, eminent Princess Anne dealer Elizabeth Hall, asked Upham to take over her business. Soon, numerous attorneys and CPAs were requesting her expertise in the disposition of personal property, estates and collections for hundreds of cases involving probate, divorce, estate settlement, insurance claims and fine-arts insurance coverage.

In 1996, she was joined in the business by her husband, Steven Blumenauer, who himself has amassed 27 years’ experience as both dealer and appraiser. Together, they have performed countless appraisals for auctioneers, institutions and museums, including many dozens for charitable organizations and events.

Their store, meanwhile, is a swirling gallery of historic and historical relics, treasured keepsakes and original objets d’art sufficient to make even the most cynical citizens swoon with emotions that range from fascination to awe. There are, for example, 19th century Chinese Cinnabar vases (especially sought-after lately because of the emerging Chinese economy), intricate repoussé sterling silver from legendary Baltimore silversmiths, antique estate jewelry at a wide range of price points (want to get your truelove an engagement ring of unmatched beauty that is also one of a kind?), modernist Mexican and Native American sterling silver and jewelry from the 1940s, and a treasure chest full of gold and silver coins for both expert and novice collectors.

Charlene Upham Antiques also has stirring works of fine art — not the least of which is a signed original of Homage to Sargent by world-renowned painter Nelson Shanks, whose notable commissions include President Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II, and Luciano Pavarotti. Other rarefied rarities include an 18th century gold-and-tortoise singing bird box by Swiss master-watchmaker Patek Philippe (some of whose products sell for more than one million dollars); Leroy watches (one of which was worn by Napoleon); Meissen porcelain figurines from Germany and Carrier-Belleuse bisque porcelain from France; an Art Nouveau-era embossed washbowl and pitcher from the Jackson mansion in Salisbury; a carved, illuminated Carrara marble nightlight from the Italian Art Deco period; even a signed Gustav Stickley 2-over-3 chest of drawers in quartersawn oak — to say nothing of copious European Grand Tour items, Baltimore album quilts and various ephemera.

Perhaps the best thing of all is that despite how exotic or esoteric Upham’s inventory may appear, the truth is that 
virtually all of the items currently packing her 1,500 sq. ft. show space on Rte. 50 come from people and estates on the 
Eastern Shore. So, for those who revel in the eternal echoes of things past yet preserved, call for a private showing at Charlene Upham Antiques, a shop that may just boast the most exquisite 1,500 sq. ft. on the Lower Eastern Shore.


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