The French have a saying: “the smaller, the finer.” I am quite excited to share my admiration for a piece, recently acquired by M.S. Rau Antiques, that flawlessly illustrates this sentiment. This item, or “objet d’art,” is a 150-year-old hand-crafted box by Maison Tahan of Paris. Its maker, Jean-Pierre Tahan, was known to produce the most elegant display pieces for vanity tables and became the favorite of The Empress Eugenie.
Measuring 5 inches by 3 inches, the present box is a perfect example of the superior workmanship achieved by Maison Tahan, and exhibits some of the finest craftsmanship of the 19th century. From the intricate scrolling designs, with subtle nuances of gilding and chasing, to a very charming group of putti (cupids) playing at the very top, it is obvious that this box is of spectacular quality.
In addition to these extraordinary attributes, Bill Rau and I made a discovery while examining this box that left us speechless. While appreciating its beautiful quality, we discovered that the malachite on each side is, in fact, faux malachite! How amazing! Our finding actually increases the quality of this piece quite a bit. The maker, in an effort to optimize the interior compartment and to save extra weight, decorated the box by hand painting the malachite “trompe l’oeil” (“trick to the eye”). The technique of the artist who worked on this piece is so remarkable that it would fool the vast majority of expert eyes!
Please click on the image above to learn more about this important object.