Archive for January, 2013

The Art of Fine Dining

January 31st, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

The shining element to any dinner party is great flatware. A table set with fine silver becomes a bit of historical theatre rather than just a meal, and the guests, players in the art of dining. M.S. Rau Antiques has been privileged to have many fine flatware sets in its 101-year history, with time-honored patterns by makers like Tiffany & Co. that never go out of style. Dining with antique flatware is more than just an elegant experience, it is a continuation of the fascinating history of food, artistry, and the appetites of the elite.

With the profound economic impact of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, individuals of high social stature sought the finest silver to grace their dining tables. The advent of serving meals as separate courses at this time meant that each guest was given utensils for every type of food served at the meal, giving way to more specialized and highly developed pieces, from ice cream forks to gumbo spoons. Tiffany & Co. catered to this phenomenon with some of the most exceptional silver flatware services ever created.

Tiffany & Co. English King Flatware

Tiffany & Co. English King Flatware

English King is considered one of the firm’s greatest achievements still in production today. Tiffany & Co.’s flair for sophistication and craftsmanship is imparted in every element of this splendid service, an undeniable testament to the firm’s reputation as the standard of American elegance. Popular in England for over 100 years, it is easy to see why this intricately beautiful pattern was preferred by Britain’s King George II. Our 108-piece English King set, offers service for 12 and is set in a beautiful suede-lined case.

Tiffany & Co. Winthrop Flatware

Tiffany & Co. Winthrop Flatware

The Winthrop pattern epitomizes Edwardian elegance, with demure traditional motifs and a graceful silhouette. Nestled right between the great design periods of the Victorian and the art deco eras, Edwardian objects like this Tiffany & Co. Winthrop patterned set are highly sought-after by collectors.  Our 220-piece service for 12 is housed in its original three-tiered fitted case – a practical and lush presentation for this fine flatware set.

Tiffany & Co. St. Dunstan Flatware

Tiffany & Co. St. Dunstan Flatware

The spartan and refined St. Dunstan pattern by Tiffany & Co. is named after the patron saint of gold and silversmiths. Designed  at the height of the art deco period, St. Dunstan possesses the wonderfully understated aesthetic so valued at this time. This 177-piece set for 12 features gilt detailing on many of the pieces, providing an added opulence to the already impressive service.

Tiffany & Co. Chrysanthemum Flatware

Tiffany & Co. Chrysanthemum Flatware

Chrysanthemum is Tiffany & Co.’s most popular pattern and also one of its most costly to produce. The lush, swirling flora motif, punctuated by the namesake flower, is a wonderfully baroque design. Our set is dated to 1880 and is in pristine condition, with all 208 pieces nestled in a handsome mahogany case.

Antique silver sets are refined additions to any table. With many patterns to choose from, it is easy to select a design that will live with your family’s dining traditions for generations to come.

A Loving Rendition

January 25th, 2013 | posted by Susan Lapene

This is not the first time Renoir’s adopted daughter had her portrait painted.

It’s November in 1904 and the young Jeanne, Mrs. Paul Valery, now 27 years old, receives a note from Pierre-Auguste Renoir.   “Would you care to come [to my studio] starting Tuesday morning, if there’s not too much fog?” A gentle request from one of the best loved Impressionists of all time. The result of that sitting and those to follow would yield the remarkable composition you see here.

Madame Paul Valery by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Madame Paul Valery by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

The story of how Jeanne Gobillard became the ward of Renoir is quite the story; a story of love, friendship, and a commitment to both.

Berthe Morisot and her sister Edmé (the mother of Jeanne) were students of art.  Berthe even went on to study with Corot and was great friends with Édouard Manet, marrying his brother in 1874. She was the only female that exhibited in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874.   However, unlike most of the Impressionists, Morisot’s works were favorably critiqued by the Salon. Her most famous, The Cradle, was a painting of her sister Edmé gazing at her new born daughter Jeanne.

Jeanne's First Portrait

Jeanne’s First Portrait

A string of tragedies befall the family leaving Julie, the daughter of Berthe, and her cousins Jeanne and Paule orphaned.  Renoir volunteers to adopt all three of the girls and raise them as his own.  The four became very close and the tenderness Renoir felt for Jeanne is evident in this work of art.

Displaying Renoir’s spectacular skill for utilizing light and color, this composition is truly representative of his body of work.  Moreover, this portrait represents an intimate chapter in the artist’s life and gives a glimpse of who he was beyond the canvas and the brush.  The importance of their union in this masterpiece, as well as the fact that this is the first documented portrait Renoir completed of Jeanne, cannot be overstated. View this portrait on our website here or come visit us in New Orleans and see it for yourself!

Windows Into a Lost World: Pre-Columbian Pottery

January 18th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
This incredible Nayarit Warrior Figure represents a highly respected chieftain, as indicated by the horns, staff and seated posture.

This incredible Nayarit Warrior Figure represents a highly respected chieftain, as indicated by the horns, staff and seated posture.

The peoples of Central America used animal symbolism in their pottery, such as this Veraguas Feline Figure, which most likely illustrating a spiritual transformation

The peoples of Central America used animal symbolism in their pottery, such as this Veraguas Feline Figure, which most likely illustrating a spiritual transformation

While much of Europe was in the throws of the artistic and social decline known as the Middle Ages, across the Atlantic, the ancient cultures of the Americas were experiencing a vibrant cultural period distinguished by fascinating works of art, particularly pottery.The Pre-Columbian era generally refers to the span of time in the Americas prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1492. However, the term more accurately describes the history of Native American cultures before significant contact with or conquest by Europeans.

Regardless of the location in either North, Central or South America, archeological evidence proves that all of these cultures were incredibly proficient in ceramics. Since many Pre-Columbian cultures lacked formal writing systems, pottery became their history books–a visual vehicle to express and pass on their knowledge of the world, encompassing religion, cosmology, philosophy and even astronomy.

M.S. Rau Antiques’ collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts was assembled by a private collector in the 1960s and covers various cultures throughout Mexico and Central and South America from about 1800 B.C. to A.D. 1530. Many of these wares were used to venerate important figures in society, while others served more mystical purposes by depicting shamanistic rites and spiritual awakenings. This West Mexican Nayarit Warrior Figure with Staff was crafted in honor of a great warrior chieftain. Imagery including the baton, large horn-like extensions atop the head and seated posture are notable symbols of high social standing.

The peoples of Central America had a particular affinity for animal symbolism, as illustrated by this Veraguas Feline Figure from Panama. Most likely used as a ritual vessel, these animal-centric forms often referred to shamanistic transformations, giving animal qualities to individuals undergoing a spiritual transformation.

This Incense Burner, or Incensario, was likely used in a ritual and filled with a hallucinogenic herb that allowed for spiritual awakening.

This Incense Burner, or Incensario, was likely used in a ritual and filled with a hallucinogenic herb that allowed for spiritual awakening.

These ceramics are more than remarkable works of art, they provide unique insight into the fascinating ancient cultures that shaped our history.

Click here to view M.S. Rau Antiques’ entire collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts.

A Classic Beauty

January 12th, 2013 | posted by James Gillis

Venus a La Tortue, after Antoine Coysevox

Collecting art is one of the most enjoyable pastimes. The thrill of the hunt for your next favorite piece is matched only by the joy of watching your collection grow. Collectors tend to have two different philosophies: the encyclopedic approach and the focused approach. Those who favor encyclopedic collections will carefully select examples from the spectrum of art history so they have a dynamic timeline of periods, artists and mediums. Focused collectors hone their tastes and collect intently on just that subject.

We have a sculpture in the gallery that would be an impressive piece for both a classical or encyclopedic collection. Venus á La Tortue depicts the captivating goddess of love as she kneels in a stream accompanied by a tortoise, a classic symbol of fertility. Sculpted in beautifully polished bronze, and resting atop a base of Rouge Griotte marble and ebonized wood base, Venus embodies the idealized female with her perfectly sculpted face and delicately proportioned body. Created after the artist Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720), a similar piece is housed in the Louvre.

Coysevox was one of the most important court painters under Louis XIV, executing many official portraits for the king and court. He is known for a mix of styles – the ornate baroque admired by the king and the classical, which resonated with aristocrats who liked the association to the great Roman Empire.  Like all art students of his time, Coysevox became skilled at copying classical sculptures to develop his talent. He later progressed into what would become his greatest legacy: portrait busts. His profound ability to capture both the physical likeness and the intangible ethos of his subjects won him many commissions, in addition to the king. He created the official tomb carving for the Cardinal Mazarin, now housed in the Louvre, an honor that would have only been bestowed on the preeminent artist of the period.

This statue particularly appeals to me for its still beauty. The Roman goddess Venus is one of the most captivating figures in mythology and one of the most depicted by artists of the ages. The sensuality depicted in this sculpture is subtle, certainly an influence from Coysevox who used nuance as one his greatest tools. Classical sculptures like this one bring new understandings each time they are viewed, and this is certainly the case with Venus á La Tortue. Every time I present Venus to clients in the gallery, I am drawn to new elements, whether it’s her soft musculature, the lovely drapery or the detailed adornments.

If you are in the New Orleans area, I invite you to come see this lovely depiction of Venus. You can also view this sculpture and the rest of our collection here.

Tracking The New Year, Antique Style

January 4th, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

French Marble Weight Driven Table Regulator

People have been preoccupied with measuring and recording time since ancient civilizations first relied upon the sun, moon and stars to gauge the passing of days. As each age advances in technology, so does the humble clock, born of the rudimentary sundial and elevated to mechanical and design triumph, as seen in this majestic French regulator clock. Crafted of opulent Carrera marble, and powered by an intricate weight-driven mechanism, this rare regulator clock is noteworthy in its accuracy, which is, amazingly, maintained today. Brosse of Bordeaux designed this complex and beautiful regulator clock around 1820, and its success helped fuel the rise of French clockmakers after years of Dutch domination in the clock industry.

While the exterior is elegant and intriguing, the interior mechanism of this clock is even more interesting.  A steel frame supports the ormolu-spired marble canopy from which the clock descends. These rods also anchor the lines from which two silvered, pear-shaped weights are suspended. These weights, the clock’s motive force, propel the mercury jar pendulum that swings above the clock on a spring suspension, triggering the detent escapement with a ruby impulse pallet. Blued steel hands mark the time on the silvered dial with champleve Roman numerals, with a seconds ring at the apex.

Revolutionary for its time, the clock is effortless and complex, straightforward yet fascinating. This piece is as intriguing today as it was when it was first produced. To see more of our clock collection, click here, or better yet, come to our gallery on Royal street to see them in person! We can promise you will be right on time.