Exploring China’s Gem in the Chinese New Year

February 8th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Delicately carved from jade with elaborate designs in bas and high relief, the present piece is a wonderful example of an truly ancient form.


Crafted of hardwood with fine foliate silver inlay and five white nephrite jade insets, the rare x-shape of this scepter symbolizes “two blossoms growing from one stem.”

It has been cherished for millennia, heralded as a ubiquitous symbol of beauty, luxury and royalty in China: Jade. Without question, this stone has surpassed every other with its enduring importance and rich history. Valued for its beauty and symbolic powers, jade is pervasive throughout Chinese decorative arts, considered the most valuable of all precious stones. Today, Asian and non-Asian buyers alike are drawn to jade as never before. And in this Chinese New Year, jade holds a special importance as a symbol of prosperity, success, and good luck.

The use of jade extends to ancient times, with jade objects having been found as early as 5000 BC. The stone is deeply rooted in Chinese culture – the longevity of its value stems both from its beauty and remarkable symbolism. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius wrote a thesis on the eleven virtues of jade, which came to serve as a metaphorical standard of living well. Its polish and brilliance symbolize purity, its soft angles justice, its compactness intelligence, its flaws sincerity – thanks to Confucius, jade became extolled for its virtue.


Jadeite archer’s rings dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries were used in the creation of this one-of-a-kind dining accessories service by Carvin French of New York

Because of this virtuosity of character, jade was at first used to form only the most important of objects. Special designs executed in jade were used in ceremonial pieces and furnishings, as well as in jewelry for the Imperial family. Funerary statuary and incense censors were carved from the stone, as well as important gifts to bring good fortune.

With the advancement of society, the economics and the functions of jade began to change. Symbolic meaning combined with a more practical utility – jade was no longer seen just in the spiritual and Imperial realms, but also in everyday objects, including inkwells, vases, archer’s rings, and belt hooks, among others. Truly the stone of both emperors and men, jade pervaded Chinese culture, and persists yet today.

As sumptuous ornamental objets d’art or functional domestic pieces, the creation and design of jade in China fully mirrored the pure and superior qualities of the material and its association with clarity of mind and purity of spirit.

View all jade objects online

For the Love of Porcelain: Meissen’s Cupid

February 1st, 2016 | posted by James Gillis

Part of the company’s beloved “Cupid Mottos” or “Devise Children” series, cupid admires a single flaming heart with the motto “Un me suffit” (“One is enough”) inscribed on the base

Chocolates, flowers, cozy candle-lit dinners – these ordinary words gain a special significance this time of year around Valentine’s Day. This season of grand romantic gestures and proclamations of love is often personified by its most popular mascot – the mischievous young Cupid. The name alone conjures an image of a chubby-cheeked cherub wielding his infamous bow and arrow. Yet, the plump young cherub that today adorns Valentine’s cards and chocolate boxes is actually older than the holiday itself.


Cupid is depicted as being the ultimate breaker of hearts as he stands with a heart raised in one hand and a knife brandished in the other with the motto “Je les punis” (“I punish”) inscribed on the base

Cupid first makes an appearance in Ancient Greece under the guise of Eros, the god of desire, attraction, and love, and also the son the goddess Aphrodite. Eros was often portrayed in Greek art as a handsome, slim immortal who toyed with the hearts and emotions of different gods. It was during the Hellenistic period and into Roman times that the dashing Eros became the chubby young Cupid we know today. His mother Aphrodite became Venus, and he became the perpetually youthful young god that toyed with the hearts of mortals and immortals alike. The myths and legends surrounding this winged young boy have subsisted throughout the centuries. From Renaissance paintings to Shakespeare’s sonnets, the youthful god has inspired artists as a symbol of the invincibility (and sometimes irrationality) of love.


A charming young Cupid strikes a philosopher’s pose in this delightful porcelain figurine by Meissen

Artisans of the Meissen porcelain manufactory similarly fell under Cupid’s spell. The celebrated company’s much admired Cupid series stars the young god of love, and figurines such as Cupid Enchained epitomize his playfulness in relation to his fellow gods. Other decorative pieces present Cupid as the harbinger of an eternal love, while others depict him as a tyrant over tender hearts. Smaller figurines represent a more human aspect of the winged god, depicting him in moments of contemplation and exhausted rest. Nearly 100 of these extraordinary porcelain figurines were crafted by Meissen, each bringing to life just a single strand of the complex centuries-old myth surrounding Cupid.


The Richness of the Garnet: January Birthstone

January 25th, 2016 | posted by Susan Lapene
These stunning drop earrings boast 17.58 total carats of radiant Mandarin garnets

These stunning drop earrings boast 17.58 total carats of radiant Mandarin garnets

The deep crimson hue of the garnet isn’t the only thing dramatic around this ancient stone – it also possesses a rich history that spans centuries. In ancient times, the garnet was adored by Egyptian pharaohs and queens, who blanketed themselves in the lavish red jewels. These highly prized stones were even buried with theme to accompany their souls into the afterlife, serving as an eternal status symbol. In ancient Rome, Clergy and nobility used impressive garnet signet rings as personal stamps for official documents. Today, the crimson jewel is popularly known as the January birthstone, renowned for both its luxurious color and brilliant refractive index.

While the garnet is best known for its crimson hue, it can also be found naturally in a wide array of colors. Vibrant oranges, heavily saturated greens, intense yellows – the garnet can be found in nearly every hue. Furthermore, garnets are also rich in rarities, including star garnets and color changing stones.

Displaying a fiery orange hue, this trilliant-cut gem absolutely dazzles

Displaying a fiery orange hue, this trilliant-cut gem absolutely dazzles

Of all the colors of garnets, Mandarin orange is one of the rarest and most exotic. First discovered in Namibia in 1991, the stone quickly rose in popularity, becoming one of the most coveted hues in this extraordinary stone and grabbing the attention of the international gemstone market. Buyers, connoisseurs, and all else clamored for a sighting of the fiery-orange.  With a personality all its own, the rich, vivacious hues of a deep orange garnet make a bold statement.

This pair of 17.85-carat Mandarin garnet earrings are comprised of two perfectly matched gemstones that are highlighted by dazzling white diamonds. Embodying the radiance for which these gemstones are coveted, these Mandarin garnets contain no heat treatment, making the gemstones completely natural in appearance: a rarity. Exemplifying the strong refractive rating typical to the Mandarin garnet, this gemstone sparkles to its fullest potential even in the dimmest light conditions.

A radiant and rare 15.01-carat Mandarin garnet is the star of this eye-catching pendant

A radiant and rare 15.01-carat Mandarin garnet is the star of this eye-catching pendant

This stunning Mandarin garnet pendant is the perfect match to the earrings. The monumental 15.01-carat trilliant-cut stone is encircled by a halo of white diamonds, all set in platinum. The pendant’s remarkable color is completely natural as the stone has not undergone any heat treatment, making this stone’s beauty as rare as it is brilliant.

A jewel of marvelous variety, the garnet is an exceptional gemstone that commands great consideration and boasts high admiration. Other garnets, particularly of the warm, rich red color variety also hold a tradition and history that is as important to that of the mandarin garnet. Often worn as a talisman and protective stone in ancient times and heralded by Noah’s use of a warm red garnet lantern to steer his ark through the night, garnets of this red hue spark immense enthusiasm and attention. Those garnets displaying sumptuous color, vibrancy, and size found in M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of rare jewels are some of the finest colored gemstones to be found.

View more exquisite garnets here


Bouguereau and the Art of the Academy

January 20th, 2016 | posted by George Peralta

“For me a work of art must be an elevated interpretation of nature. The search for the ideal has been the purpose of my life. In landscape or seascape, I love above all the poetic motif.” William Adolphe Bouguereau


This exquisite portrait is the work of French academic great William Bouguereau

In the age that saw the birth of Impressionism, an emerging group of artists that began to see the world around them in new ways, William-Adolphe Bouguereau stood as one of the most influential and popular upholders of traditional Academic art values in his day. A student of the great classical painters, such as Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Dominique Ingres, Bouguereau possessed  a remarkable talent for his craft. Along with his contemporary Alexandre Cabanel, Bouguereau dismissed the new Impressionist ideals in favor of the traditionalist methods of the old masters and valuing, above all else, the beautiful.


Deeply influenced by the classical tradition, Bouguereau is renowned for his portraits

The French Academy stood as a symbol of classical art, accepted motifs, and as an overwhelmingly unofficial mark of proper painting instruction.  Seeped in motifs of the ancient classical past, the European tradition, and historical subjects, works accepted into the Academy embodied the utmost conservatism with their precise rendering of nature. Renowned artists such as Jacques-Louis David and Sir Joshua Reynolds peppered every corner of the exhibition walls of the Salon, conveying dynamic sincerity and clarity to their subjects and scenes.

The devotion to these earlier classical motifs in the works of William-Adolphe Bouguereau is undeniable. His extensive oeuvre paid tribute to the values of the French Academics: attention to beautiful detail, strict adherence to anatomy and perspective, and a high level of finish and clear meaning. By translating distinctly classical motifs in his own taste of peaceful, pastoral landscapes, Bouguereau not only succeeded in maintaining the French Academic tradition, but also in creating enduring compositions that directly spoke the personality and mood of his subjects. Highly admired by both the eye and the Academy, he consequently dominated the Salons of the Third Republic so consistently that the official Salon became known as ‘Le Salon Bouguereau.’


Signed “W-Bouguereau-1895” (lower right)

Like many artists, Bouguereau observed many of the same subjects, yet each of his work possesses subtle nuances that give them a personality distinctly their own. Throughout his long career, he consistently looked to his choice subject, adolescent peasant girls, who came to reflect an idealized window into a serene, pastoral world.

As a quintessential model for Bouguereau’s choice subject, this full-size portrait perfectly epitomizes the skill of Bouguereau’s hand. Set within an idealized outdoor landscape, Bouguereau infuses his work with tranquil simplicity. Dominating the work is a young peasant girl, leaning against rock and enveloped by the detailed foliage behind her. Smiling coyly outwards at the viewer, the girl’s delicate head bends slightly right in a movement of both admiration and observation. With this technique, Bouguereau almost allows a conversation between the viewer and the young girl, who engages the viewer with a coquettish charm.

The beautifully finished composition portrays a young shepherdess with a coy smile

The beautifully finished composition portrays a young shepherdess with a coy smile

In a talented display of photographic-realism, Bouguereau renders the young girl’s entire visage with the utmost amount of detailed accuracy. Fully anatomically precise, the soft bends of the girl’s arms and the luminescence of her skin expose Bouguereau’s genius for communicating human anatomy. The modest girl’s full skirt sits at her waist, topped by a purple sash that sweeps to her side, falling in ripples. The result of these exquisite details is an idyllic landscape that expresses beauty, purity, and hope.

Bouguereau’s work epitomizes the highest degree of taste and refinement, expressing every important hallmark of French Academic painting. Within this portrait, every ethos of Bouguereau’s career is present: his preferred idyllic subject, an unsurpassed degree of finish, luminous color, and remarkable attention to detail. Read more about the unsurpassed career of Bougeureau:

Expand your knowledge and admiration for the work of Bouguereau by exploring the careers and work of his contemporaries and students. Emilie Munier, for example, is regarded as one of the most important students of Bouguereau. While his portraits also show a homage to the same Academic techniques as his great master, Munier succeeded in creating language all his own that combined detailed, clear compositions with the vivaciousness of his own taste.


A Scholarly Space: Objects for the Desk

January 4th, 2016 | posted by Peter Hernandez

Whether you are an architect or a writer, in business or law, your desk should exude the same importance as the work that it accommodates. Objects for the desk that are both decorative and practical can lend aesthetic appeal and functionality to the study, whether it be in the office or the home. This new year, bring both organization and timeless style to your work with desk items that evoke the classic urbanity of the gentleman’s study.

The art of writing reaches epic heights with this exquisite, limited edition Montblanc fountain pen

The art of writing reaches epic heights with this exquisite, limited edition Montblanc fountain pen

An attractive fountain pen is a necessity for any desk, and there is no better maker than Montblanc. Considered the premiere name in exquisite writing utensils for centuries, Montblanc’s fountain pens are known to be the finest in the world. Both aesthetically beautiful with streamlined designs and magnificent in terms of performance, Montblanc pens appeal to both the writer and the connoisseur. The Four Seasons Collection, to which this rare pen belongs, was a limited edition design by the firm to commemorate the opening of three one-of-a kind boutiques in New York, Hong Kong, and Paris. Crafted of 18K Gold, the entire surface is adorned with a delicate vine motif that is accented by brown and cognac diamonds. The piece is highlighted by a spectacular diamond drop, allowing the pen to sparkle from every angle. A mother of pearl plaque bearing Montblanc’s exquisite name completes the piece, which is one of only a handful from this coveted collection in existence.

Each figure is mounted in its white onyx base

Each figure is mounted in its white onyx base

An eye-catching pair of bookends is a necessary addition to the study in order to keep one’s favorite texts and references organized. This charming pair of English bookends are crafted from exquisite cream colored onyx in the Art Deco style. A young girl sits at the base of one bookend, entrenched in a book, while a young boy stands and peers over in charming curiosity on the other. With the perfect contrast of materials and colors, these bookends are a timeless addition to one’s favorite bookcase, mantle, or desk.30-2590_1

Necessary to complete the center of any desk, this 19th century Gothic-style Regency inkwell evokes nostalgia of earlier times and speaks highly to the skills of its creator. Like other workspace items, this piece is as functional as it is visually appealing. Fine bronze ormolu covers the elegant stand of the inkwell and is highlighted by rich, cranberry colored glass that form the well. Fascinating and unique, the two inkwells are removable to use with further ease. The center of the piece is highlighted by a gilt lion finial and the pen tray and handles all characteristics of the Gothic style: ornate, regal foliate designs and sumptuous scrollwork.

Fine bronze ormolu is beautifully contrasted by cranberry cut glass in this Regency-period inkwell

Fine bronze ormolu is beautifully contrasted by cranberry cut glass in this Regency-period inkwell

The combination of aesthetic beauty and functionality in these exquisite pieces imbues them with both personality and importance. Complete the learned atmosphere with an extraordinary desk, the perfect writing and reading area. A desk by Sormani would certainly be both an elegant and eye-catching centerpiece to any gentleman’s study. 19th century ébéniste Paul Sormani crafted furnishings that received high acclaim at numerous international exhibitions. His pieces, highly celebrated, evoke the elegance and restrained sophistication for which French artistry was renowned. This important Sormani partner desk represents the luxury for which his work was known and praised. Adorned with stunning ormolu bronze and intricate marquetry of amaranth, this unique and spacious furnishing offers a large leather writing space with multiple frieze drawers. A timeless addition to any study, this partner desk offers aesthetic beauty and functional appeal. Similarly, desks crafted in the Chippendale style of carved paneling and molding suggest a studious and luxurious environment. This expansive, refined Chippendale partner desk of exquisite Cuban mahogany is unrivaled in size and quality, and stands as an impressive accommodation to any library or office. Likewise, master designer Andre Gilbert crafted this remarkable late 18th century secretaire that opens to reveal a delicate leather green writing table and multiple storage areas. This piece, both a work space and room accent, is completed by delicate exterior panels with exquisite marquetry of inlaid green wood and mother of pearl.

View more exquisite and unique desks

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