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Doris and Stanley Tananbaum loved their collections of English ceramics and Americana. The objects, as well as the people they met through them, gave them great pleasure and comfort. And far more than most, the Tananbaums understood the important role played by museums – the scholarship and public access they provide – in the continuing relevance of their collecting interests. That’s why they bequeathed to Winterthur certain curator-selected ceramics; and that’s why they endowed a grand suite of mid-18th century rooms in the American Wing of the Metropolitan. It is for these thoughtful and generous decisions that they will be remembered and revered.
Curator Emeritus of the American Wing
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Collecting the American Experience
Doris and Stanley Tananbaum
On a wooded road in Westchester County, just fifteen miles north of Manhattan, a tavern sign displaying a white horse welcomed curators, collectors and friends to the home of Doris and Stanley Tananbaum. Approaching the estate, guests were met by the sight of a bronze spreadwing eagle, the emblem of the American republic, perched in the center of the circular drive’s lawn. After being greeted by Doris and Stanley at the front door, guests entered a simple colonial entrance hall furnished with two David Wood, Newburyport clocks and a New England country Queen Anne side chair with pierced heart splat. As one was ushered into the living room, the Tananbaums’ love for Winterthur Museum- its formal furniture, historical paintings, ceramics and lighting devices, was apparent. From the living room, guests entered the equally large tavern room, furnished with eighteenth century New England country furniture, folk art, primitive lighting and a small corner devoted to the pastimes of an early New England tavern. With refreshments in hand, visitors made their way to the solarium, filled with weathervanes, windmill weights and folk art – American eagles and race horses given pride of place. Stepping outdoors, the view included beautifully landscaped grounds which were the setting for more of the Tananbaums’ collection of period eagle sculptures, watched over by the 9-foot tall zinc figure of an elk.
Doris and Stanley Tananbaum were married in November, 1941 and soon after purchased the estate that remained their home for almost sixty years. Like so many collectors, they decided their first acquisition would be a canopy bed. A shop clerk suggested they visit Ginsburg & Levy, where they made their first purchase. From that moment on, they were bitten by the collecting bug, and for over fifty years avidly sought pieces to add to their collection. Doris, who liked more formal styles, furnished the living room and dining room with Federal furniture and silver, complemented by English ceramics of the period. Doris and Skip, as Stanley was known, both became passionate collectors of ceramics. Doris was fond of English canary yellow ware, while Skip preferred the more subtle tortoiseshell glazes of Bennington and Rockingham. A patriotic World War II Navy pilot raised in the Bronx, Stanley was drawn to images of the American eagle, which were displayed everywhere throughout the house and grounds.
The Tananbaums were true philanthropists, giving generously back to their community. To thank the curators who helped them with their collecting, they made major donations to the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum and left Doris’s collection of yellow ware to Winterthur Museum. Winterthur carefully selected pieces, allowing Historic Deerfield and Colonial Williamsburg to obtain their own examples in memory of the Tananbaums. A large portion of the remaining collection is offered in this auction to benefit the Ceramics Acquisition Fund of the Winterthur Museum. This group is the “icing on the cake” added to the other pieces from the Tananbaum collection, allowing today’s collectors to acquire pieces that Doris and Skip treasured in their own little museum celebrating the American experience.