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New England launches antique reproductions program

The latest entrant in the historic-reproductions market focuses exclusively on New England antiques. To launch its new program to the public, the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) displayed the reproductions and original antiques side by side.

Among the pairs shown at the Paine Furniture Company last week were two mahogany blockfront chests. The original was made in 1770 by Boston cabinetmaker George Bright. The reproduction closely followed the original in details such as identical brass handles and the swirl of wood grain on the drawer fronts.

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As one of the largest regional historical preservation organizations in the country, SPNEA has a vast number of antiques to draw from. Its collections include nearly 100,000 pieces of furniture, decorative arts, and domestic objects.

''We hope to make people more aware of their New England heritage in the decorative arts,'' says Shirley Marsten, coordinator for the reproductions program. ''We see the program as educational as well as a source of funds.''

SPNEA initiated the program a year ago with the Henkel-Harris Furniture Company in Winchester, Va.

''We showed them our best 18th-century piececand they decided which would be marketable,'' says Brock Jobe, chief curator and director of museums for SPNEA.

The initial collection features seven pieces: a small Queen Anne drop-leaf table, a Newport card table with a serpentine skirt and fretwork brackets, a slant-top desk, a candlestand, a mirror with a carved gilt border and pierced shell, and a Chippendale corner chair.

New pieces will be added each year to reach a total of 20. This fall SPNEA is introducing upholstered furniture, including a Queen Anne armchair and side chair made by Southwood Reproductions in Hickory, N.C. The society is also offering a special collection of wallpapers and borders by Brunschwig and Fils.

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