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Archive for April, 2011

An Image is Worth 1000 Words: The Triptych

April 20th, 2011 | posted by Bill Rau

The Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots triptychs illustrate how the medium was perfect for telling a story

Whether it’s meant to tell you what to wear, what to eat or what to admire, images surround us in our media-rich society. But not that long ago, images served a much higher purpose. Images were a visual representation of the world and its principles of both order and morality. Various forms of ecclesiastical art emerged primarily to convey these principles to the masses, and the triptych was one of the first of these stunning art forms.

Often referred to as the “traveling icon,” the triptych, whether painted or carved, was a portable, convenient, and often times breathtaking work of art that told some sort of story of religious significance. In times when the ability to read was truly a luxury, even those untutored in letters could understand the incredibly detailed images artists created. Even the use of the three panels was significant in representing the Christian Holy Trinity. This beautiful Austrian Ivory Triptych depicts the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. The central panel is the primary focus, with the flanking panels supporting the theme.

As years progressed, the triptych evolved and became used for depicting secular stories. Take these Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots triptychs. With the Elizabeth triptych, her hinged skirt opens to reveal a courtly scene with two panels depicting two pivotal figures in the Queen’s life, Mary Queen of Scots (who tried to have Elizabeth dethroned) and Lord Robert Dudley, the love of Elizabeth’s life. Within Mary’s triptych, the queen’s skirt opens to reveal a scene of the Catholic queen and her supporters above the inscription “Maria Stuart.” This scene is supported by the images of a court musician, and the other, the queen’s masked executioner (Elizabeth did not take the dethroning attempt very lightly).

Without saying a word, the triptych has the power to tell a story–to enlighten and bring to life events from our distant (or not so distant) past. Regardless of the tale being told, these exquisite little rarities will continue to fascinate and delight collectors for generations to come.

To view M.S. Rau Antique’s selection of triptychs, click here.

To view M.S. Rau Antique’s selection of religious art, click here.

For the Love of Tiffany: Silver and Jewelry by Tiffany & Co.

April 20th, 2011 | posted by Bill Rau

 When Charles Lewis Tiffany opened his stationary and fancy goods shop in 1837, he could not have imagined the indelible mark the name “Tiffany” would leave on the history of American decorative arts. Its mere mention conjures images of the timeless elegance and refinement seen in every work of silver and fine jewelry the firm ever created.

A magnificent 10-piece Chrysanthemum tea service. Introduced in 1878, Tiffany & Co.'s Chrysanthemum pattern is one of the most magnificent and celebrated sterling silver designs of the 19th century.

Tiffany and his partners John Young and J.L. Ellis recognized early on the importance of becoming prominent force in silversmithing. The great increase in demand during this era for both presentation and household silver convinced the trio to open their own silversmithing department, employing the greatest American silversmiths of the day. Headed by the famed John C. Moore, and soon, his son Edward C. Moore and grandson John C. Moore II, Tiffany became the leader of American silver craftsmanship. Their innovative designs spoke to the prevalent Victorian taste for extravagant dining and living, so much so that in 1878, the company became the only American silver firm to ever win a gold medal at the Paris Exhibition.

While silver was earning Tiffany world-acclaim, so was the firm’s penchant for exquisite jewelry. The company had sold faux diamonds procured by Young on a European buying trip. The pieces sold so well that an executive decision was made to only deal in the real thing. As early as 1848 New York City newspapers were referring to Charles Lewis Tiffany as “the King of diamonds.” Young went on a buying expedition to Paris later that year that happened to coincide with the rise of the French Revolution. The French nobility saw the need to liquidate many of their holdings, which included fabulous collections of gems and jewels of all sorts, including the French Crown Jewels. Needless to say, Young jumped at the opportunity to acquire the legendary collection, forever cementing the firm’s reputation as a purveyor and authority of the finest jewels.

Tiffany & Co.’s 165-year legacy is one of elegance and sophistication. Every single piece created in the firm’s renowned workshops is a tribute to the history, superiority and skill of the American craftsman.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ collection of Tiffany & Co. silver, click here.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ collection of Tiffany & Co. jewelry, click here.

The Royal Treatment

April 13th, 2011 | posted by Susan Lapene

Faberge Flatware 103 pieces; Silver, 12 place setting and serving pieces.

How would you really like to astonish your friends at your next dinner party? It’s easier than you think. All you have to do is to serve dinner or brunch using your best sterling silver flatware. That’s right, no plastic, not even stainless steel…..but your finest sterling silver flatware. You know, the one that was left to you from your grandmother, the one you registered for at the time of your wedding or the one you bought from M. S. Rau Antiques. Your guests will immediately take note, sit up straight in their chairs and wonder what they did to be so honored. Don’t wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas, have a “Let’s Celebrate Spring” Sunday Brunch! Don’t even worry about what to serve. You can order from the local deli. They are going to be so impressed with the silver, no one will notice the food!

What did you say? You do not have a sterling silver flatware set…..well I know exactly where you can get a fabulous set. One in a fitted box, polished, pristine and with all the pieces! I think you know.

I happen to have a favorite flatware set, at the moment. Its a 103 piece set by Faberge, manufactured in Russia specifically designed and created with the Czar in mind. Its absolute elegance, simplicity and superb workmanship, represents the epitome of Russian decorative arts. Your guests will feel like royalty because they will truly be eating like royalty.