M.S. Rau's Le Salon Commemorates Napoleonic Era with Decor Inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte

May, 2011
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Emporer Napoleon Bonaparte's bee emblem was a fitting symbol for his tenacious behavior, almost as steadfast as the expression "bee in a bonnet", that won him conquest after conquest. Revived by Napoleon for its heraldic symbolism, the honey bee allowed the Emperor to associate himself, even without royal blood lines, with the long lineage of sovereigns from centuries past, rather than the more recent Capetian and Bourbon kings.  Honey bees signified immortality and resurrection and according to Virgil, the Greek poet, honey was "the gift of heaven".  In keeping with the heraldic theme, MS Rau Antiques is curating a special exhibit in its elegant Le Salon gallery on Toulouse Street that pays homage to the Emperor's love of decorating and collecting.

Le Salon is a 4,000 sq ft townhouse gallery located around the corner from the original MS Rau galleries. It is the perfect setting for clients to visualize what antiques and objets d'art look like in a home environment.  For this particular event and exhibit, MS Rau will furnish several rooms in the townhouse with furniture and décor that hails from the Napoleonic era, or is inspired by Napoleon.  This unique home-as-gallery concept enables MS Rau to curate a series of different period rooms throughout the year, drawing from its vast inventory of museum-quality antiques and fine arts. 

The building where Le Salon is located has a vivid history of its own, in fact.  In the 19th century, 610 Toulouse Street was formerly the Orleans Hotel where wealthy sugar farmers would stay off season.  After a reconstruction, it became known as the "Ice House" because it came under the ownership of several ice houses in the 1900's.  In 1906, it belonged to Cosmopolitan Ice Company, which boasted a capacity of 120 tons of ice.  Panama Ice Company bought the building in 1913, and then sold it to Marine Ice in 1943.  After 1953, the building was bought by different banks and finally by MS Rau.

To celebrate the opening of Le Salon, an invitation-only VIP event in May is being organized around the Napoleon theme and will feature Bee's Knees cocktails and a Napoleon-clad character to greet invited guests.  Rau is the largest antiques and fine arts gallery in the US and is located in the historic French Quarter of New Orleans-another legitimate angle that highlights the city's French heritage.

Some of the Napoleon and Napoleon-inspired treasures that will be on view in Le Salon's residential-like setting are detailed below.

Camel Saddle for Napoleon's Dromedary Regiment, Egyptian Campaign (1800, 51 inches long, $19,500) This fascinating piece of military history is a camel saddle created for and used by one of Napoleon's infantrymen from the Dromedary Regiment during Napoleon's Egyptian campaigns between 1798 and 1801 and was created upon the onset of Napoleon's arrival in Egypt in January, 1798. These soldiers were hand-selected infantrymen who actually fought dismounted.

"Napoleon Entering Cairo" is an exquisitely rendered bronze and ivory sculpture by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1897, 16.5 inches high, $198,000).  Gérôme portrayed his subject in the gilt bronze and ivory medium known as "chryselephantine." This Greek sculptural technique was developed in the 6th cent. B.C.E. Sculptures, especially temple colossi (the large sculptures of gods found in Greek temples), were made with an inner core of wood overlaid with ivory, to simulate flesh, and gold, to represent drapery. This sculpture is based on Gérôme's captivating bronze sculpture, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1897, and subsequently bought by the French government for the Galerie du Luxembourg. The great Parthenon Athena, now lost, was chryselephantine, as was the statue of Zeus at the temple of Olympia. Sculptors of the Art Nouveau and Deco periods embraced this technique, creating figures of subtle beauty. In employing this technique, Gérôme emphasizes the near-god-like and blessed status of the future Emperor.

Clock with Painting of Napoleon (1825, 23.5 inches high, $29,850) is a French mantel clock featuring a beautifully painted porcelain plaque after the well-known portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David. This decorative time piece is richly mounted in ormolu and signed, 'André à Paris.'

M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans has been a destination landmark since 1912 with its 30,000 square-foot French Quarter galleries offering the finest antiques shopping in the world, backed by an unwavering pledge of quality and customer service. Third generation owner Bill Rau manages and catalogues one of the world's most extensive collections of rare antiques, fine art and stunning jewelry, featuring silver by Paul Storr and Paul Revere, works by artists including Monet, Bouguereau and Pissarro, and pieces by Fabergé and Tiffany, among countless others. Gallery hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information call 1-877 315 8653. www.rauantiques.com

Regiment des Dromedaires Camel Saddle.<br /><br />Bonaparte Entering Cairo by Jean-Léon Gerome.<br /><br />A commanding French mantel clock featuring a beautifully painted porcelain plaque after the well-known portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David.

Regiment des Dromedaires Camel Saddle.

Bonaparte Entering Cairo by Jean-Léon Gerome.

A commanding French mantel clock featuring a beautifully painted porcelain plaque after the well-known portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by Jacques-Louis David.