Magnificent Meissen: Porcelain Urns

July 27th, 2015 | posted by Susan Lapene
These incredible Meissen porcelain urns depict the themes of Summer and Autumn

These incredible Meissen porcelain urns depict the themes of Summer and Autumn

While the exact details of the development of porcelain are a mystery, its lasting influence and prestige in the realm of the decorative arts remains a constant. Beloved by aristocrats and kings to the bourgeoisie and common man, porcelain has held an integral place in palaces, galleries, museums and homes throughout history. It is the material of the elite, of beauty, and of years of fascination; it remains the definition of versatility, elegance and classic style.

Such grand creations would only have been crafted for Meissen's most affluent clients

Such grand creations would only have been crafted for Meissen’s most affluent clients

Originating in China during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BCE), porcelain fast became an integral part of Chinese decorative arts. It wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), almost 2000 years later, that Chinese porcelain hit the Western world, when the Chinese export business reached its heights. Western Europe quickly developed a fervor for this fashionable new material, and European craftsman longed to reproduce the popular material.

While experimenting to achieve hard-paste porcelain as magnificent as the Chinese, a small 17th century town called Meissen, located in Germany, set the stage for successful porcelain creation. Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, imprisoned the alchemist, Johann Friedrich Bottger, in order to use his talents to recreate the formula for hard-paste porcelain. It was upon his success three years later that Bottger was freed. Soon after, the Meissen factory was established, becoming the first European center for hard-paste porcelain. Their products evoked delicacy, elegance, and the highest level of craftsmanship that set the standard for porcelain creation in Europe.

The detailing of each urn is explicit, down to each individual flower petal

The detailing of each urn is explicit, down to each individual flower petal

Of the many different types of porcelain pieces Meissen produced, urns remain among the most important and prestigious. This pair of large Meissen urns exhibit all of the trademarks of the Meissen approach. Standing at a towering 50 1/4” high, these urns are a true hallmark of Meissen design. The base of each urn creates a slate for true craftsmanship; flower stems encircle the surface and foliage is scattered throughout. Atop, the middle of the urn is wrapped in a swirl of colorful applique flowers and symbolic female figures that all protrude from the surface in an extraordinarily realistic manner. Completing each urn is a wild bouquet of different types of flowers and greenery. These highlights emerge from the top, swirling through the mouth of the urn as though blossoming from within. Each urn presents an ideal botanical garden; every aspect is shown in full bloom and strength. From the extraordinary details to the profusion of color throughout, these porcelain urns are truly a work of art.

The Power of the Ruby: July Birthstone

July 21st, 2015 | posted by George Peralta

 

Twelve no-heat Burmese rubies weighing 22.85 carats are the stars of this beautiful bracelet

Twelve no-heat Burmese rubies weighing 22.85 carats are the stars of this beautiful bracelet

Power and desire. The rich crimson red of the Ruby gemstone is said to stir passions and enhance emotions. With their blood-red beauty, people of ancient times believed rubies held the power over life and death. Other cultures deem the stones symbols of wisdom and beauty. One of the most culturally important colored gemstones, the ruby retained its importance with the birth of the western world and has become one of the most sought-after gems on the market. The ruby, with its fine hardness, durability, and luster, is a mark of rarity, importance and paramount quality.

Approximately 9.09 carats of white diamonds accent the rubies

Approximately 9.09 carats of white diamonds accent the rubies

Because rubies can range in color from bright, striking red to darker hues and reddish-browns, there exist different variations of the gemstone. The most rare and valuable of this gemstone is the Burmese ruby. Burma, a Southeast Asian nation, is a location marked by richness in mineral resources, ethnicities, and most importantly: gemstones. Existing as a source of exceptional rubies since 600 AD, the Burmese ruby has a long-standing history in this region. For centuries, Burma has been associated with the world’s finest rubies, though by edict of the King himself, the finest stones were never allowed to leave the kingdom. Due to increasing political unrest, the country closed itself to the world in 1962, further restricting trade and increasing the rarity of these magnificent stones. Burmese rubies are spectacular examples of the most sought after deep, rich red color and are widely considered among the rarest of all gemstones. Because of their coloring, composition, and history, they are simply considered the best.

Natural Burma rubies and sparkling diamonds create a dazzling display in these stunning earrings

Natural Burma rubies and sparkling diamonds create a dazzling display in these stunning earrings

This exceptional coloring marks rarity and importance, and compromises some of the finest rubies in the world. This ladies’ Burma ruby and diamond bracelet is a spectacular example of the vibrant coloring of the rare Burmese stones. Compromised of twelve untreated rubies that total 22.85 carats and 9.09-carats of marquise cut diamonds, this bracelet is truly one of a kind. Set in 18K gold and platinum, the rubies pop and are enhanced by each aspect of the stunning bracelet. It is nearly impossible to find untreated Burmese rubies of this caliber.

A lovely .81-carat untreated Burma ruby displays wonderful color in this stylish ring

A lovely .81-carat untreated Burma ruby displays wonderful color in this stylish ring

Similar to the striking ruby and diamond bracelet, this pair of elegant Burmese earrings displays the coveted “pigeon blood” hue. Used to describe the unique color of the Burmese ruby, the pigeon blood hue is marked by deep crimson tones of the richest level. These earrings total 2.64 carats of rubies that nearly explode against the encirclement of white diamonds. Like the striking crimson color of these earrings, this 0.81 carat Burmese ruby ring is also exceptional in hue and composition. Each set in platinum, these pieces mark some of the most significant Burmese rubies available.

Music for the Soul

July 10th, 2015 | posted by Deborah Choate

It is a treasure, conjuring the purest of sentiments and eliciting the truest and deepest forms of emotion: music. Infinitely provoking and universally compelling, spanning cultures and generations, music is widely enjoyed by all who encounters it. It brings peace to the soul, light to our lives.

Coutan's singular vision is both classical and naturalistic in style

Coutan’s singular vision is both classical and naturalistic in style

Throughout the history of art, artists have sought to join the universal experience of music with the visual arts. One such artist was French sculptor Jules-Felix Coutan, who sought to enhance the public’s interaction with beautiful music through his remarkable sculptural works. His bronze work, Music (1880), in particular, truly exemplifies Coutan’s unique approach. In his characteristic naturalistic style that nods back to Classical taste, Coutan captures the personification of music itself. A striking ninety-two inches compromises this exquisite bronze sculpture of an elegant female figure, torch in one hand and instrument in the other. Graceful in proportion and fluidity, Coutan successfully evokes the essence and spirit of music. Earning international reputation, the works of Coutan are highly revered, and his style left a lasting impression on students following him.

The taking of snuff was a highly regarded social ritual among the European elite

The taking of snuff was a highly regarded social ritual among the European elite

Small, yet powerful, music can also be found in exquisite objets d’art such as this Swiss musical snuff box. Also called “carillons à musique,” these small, portable music boxes were highly coveted among European elite and often served as a sign of status and prestige. Crafted in 1820, this intricately decorated box is covered in ornate gold foliate that speaks to the swirling musical tones that the box creates when opened. This rare objet d’art would have easily fit in a gentleman’s waist pocket.

The box plays 15 1/2” disks and retains the incredible sound quality for which Regina was celebrated

The box plays 15 1/2” disks and retains the incredible sound quality for which Regina was celebrated

 

More monumental in size are the upright music boxes that pre-dated the modern day jukebox. The Regina Music Box Company of New York was one of the foremost successful and creative artistic producers of these mechanically-complex music machines. Carved in all over incredible detail, this Regina oak music box would have served as a pleasant alternative to live music in a home or business. In peaceful melodies, this music box plays up to 15½” discs with the incredible sound quality for which the Regina Company is known. Completing the piece is an exquisite lithograph of the company’s namesake, Regina, under the lid, venerating her as the “Queen of Music.” Set on a beautiful table to complete a room, this statement making rare music box is truly one of a kind.

 

This Art Deco period Orchestrion dates to the very first years of Arburo operations, circa 1928-29

This Art Deco period Orchestrion dates to the very first years of Arburo operations, circa 1928-29

Much larger, though equally inspiring, is the Arburo Orchestrion Organ by Bursens and Roels. Crafted entirely by hand, this Art Deco-style cabinet was once a common fixture in popular, bustling dance halls. Exhibited at the Arburo Centennial Exhibition in 2008, this hand-crafted, made to order piece is unlike any other – no two were ever alike. What is most interesting and unique about this piece, however, is that it incorporates the beauty of stand-alone instruments with the fascinating realm of mechanics. A 168-pipe organ, triangle, drums, and accordion are included within the mechanical system. Once started, electrical power reads perforated music rolls which are then read to control each instrument inside. The organ allowed the musical volume to be clear and loud enough for even the most lively, busy venues. The music produced is extraordinary, a delight to one’s ears. Today, very few examples of these musical marvels exist, especially in the exceptional working condition of this Orchestrion.

The Marquess of Londonderry’s Portrait of Napoleon III

July 8th, 2015 | posted by Sue Loustalot
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Winterhalter was a favorite of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, and completed numerous commissions for the royal couple. (M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans)

M.S. Rau Antiques has spent the past 103 years searching the world for objects that are both incredibly beautiful and one-of-a-kind.  Every now and then, we come across a piece that has that “it factor” of also having a fascinating story to tell…a work of art that’s provenance sounds as if it were taken from an epic legend  rather than the pages of history.  This exceptional Portrait of Napoleon III is just such a historical masterpiece.

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This portrait (upper left) is shown hanging opposite the portrait of Emir Abd-el-Kadr (a part of the same commission) in the Marquess’ ballroom. (Scan from “Londonderry House” by H. Montgomery Hyde, plate IX)

Attributed to renowned royal portraitist Franz Xavier Winterhalter, this portrait of Napoleon III was commissioned and given by the Emperor to the Marquess of Londonderry, Charles Vane, as a gift for his efforts in securing the release of Algerian Emir of Mascara, Abd-el-Kadr. The Emir was unjustly imprisoned by French forces under the rule of King Louis Phillipe after the Algerian ruler led a retaliation against North African invaders. Abd-el-Kadr surrendered in 1847, believing the French would allow him his freedom for defending his homelands. However, the Emir soon found himself behind bars.

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Attributed to famed royal portraitist Franz Xavier Winterhalter, this painting of Napoleon III was commissioned by the Emperor and given to the Marquess of Londonderry, Charles Vane.

The Marquess of Londonderry, who was an ally of the Emir, heard of this mistreatment and asked the King for assistance and was refused. Once Napoleon III took power, and having been a close family friend, the Marquess approached the new Emperor with the plight of Abd-el-Kadr, and together, successfully arranged the Algerian’s immediate release. Abd-el-Kadr would go on to become a great political ally and maintain close ties with Napoleon III and the Marquess.  Napoleon III then commissioned two paintings, one of himself and one of Abd-el-Kadr, to give to the Marquess for his famed Londonderry House. These paintings are well documented and pictured in the house on Plate IX of LondonDerry House by H. Montgomery Hyde.

Napoleon III was a tremendous patron of the arts, and Winterhalter, in particular, was a favorite of both the Emperor and his wife, the Empress Eugénie. The artist completed numerous works for the royal couple.  His most famed is currently housed in the collection of the Chateau de Compiegnes in Oise, France entitled Empress Eugénie, Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting. In terms of stylistic similarities and his masterful treatment of the subjects, the attribution of this portrait to Winterhalter is quite strong.

Beauty, rarity and history. It’s the magic recipe that every collector strives to acquire. To find a work that encompasses all three of these components, especially one of royal provenance, is to find a true treasure.

Made in the USA: American Brilliant Period Cut Glass

July 1st, 2015 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

We have inevitably all seen it and grown familiar with its brilliance: American Brilliant Period cut glass. Whether it is adorning a well-laid table at a holiday meal or gracing the shelves of a curio cabinet, American cut glass has remained one of the most luxurious and elegant pieces for the dining table.

While cut glass can be traced to Ancient Egypt, it was established as a modern day tradition in Europe, and soon crossed the Atlantic to invade the decorative arts of the young New World.

A field of twinkling hobstars, fans and stars are interspersed amongst ribbons of strawberry diamond in the delightful and intricate design of this T.B. Clark Punch Bowl.

A field of twinkling hobstars, fans and stars are interspersed amongst ribbons of strawberry diamond in the delightful and intricate design of this T.B. Clark Punch Bowl.

Beginning in the 18th century, these early American cut glass enthusiasts began the early period of American Brilliant Period cut glass.

It was in the 19th century that American glassmakers came into their own style, displaying their own ingenuity in design and creation. A distinctively American style developed, remembered to as the  “Brilliant Period” of cut glass. These remarkable craftsmen would excel beyond all others worldwide, producing and designing original patterns, styles, and artistic talent.

Complex, intricate cuts cover the entire surface of this stunning cut glass basket featuring the exotic Persian variation of the Russian pattern.

Complex, intricate cuts cover the entire surface of this stunning cut glass basket featuring the exotic Persian variation of the Russian pattern.

Yet, how was it that American craftsmen were able to surpass their European counterparts? For one, copious amounts of high-grade silica, used for creating glass, was discovered in America. Culturally, glass in America became a symbol of elegance, luxury, and wealth. To own a fine piece of cut glass was a representation of affluent character and class. Because of this strong desire by consumers, intense competition and creativity thrived within the industry.

A perfect example of the extreme talent of American cut glass is the company, T.B. Clark & Company established in 1884. Thomas Byron Clark, the pioneer of the highly successful company, was known for his incredibly diverse and unique patterns.  This magnificent two piece cut glass punch bowl is an impeccable example of the talent behind late 19th century American glass cutters. Displaying dazzling detail, the popular and intricate Hobstar pattern is enhanced by ribbons of strawberry diamonds, fans, and stars. The signed tulip shaped punch bowl features an elegant, matching cut glass base.

This captivating American Brilliant cut glass mayonnaise bowl was crafted by the revered Libbey Glass Company.

This captivating American Brilliant cut glass mayonnaise bowl was crafted by the revered Libbey Glass Company.

Along with the Hobstar pattern, numerous other patterns were utilized and improved upon by American cut glassmakers. This Persian variation of the Russian pattern, for example, features hobstars on its hobnails. Creating a detailed, elaborate design, this pattern was highly sought after for its exotic effect. This cut glass basket is a unique example of the beauty of the Russian pattern. Measuring at an elegant nine inches tall, this piece displays the sophisticated and timeless luxury of American Brilliant Period cut glass.

Like T.B. Clark glass manufacturers, Libbey Glass Company is also an ideal example of cut glass craftsmanship that achieved high praise and worldwide superiority. From its inception, the Libbey Glass Company assumed and maintained a prominent position, considered second to none in the production of premium American glass. This American Brilliant Period cut glass bowl exhibits an elegant mixture of the hobstar and cane work pattern. Combining these two revered patterns creates a rare design of high quality. Today, examples of Libbey cut glass are considered the best of the best. Their fire and radiance remain unmatched and are highly sought-after by collectors.

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