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Archive for May, 2013

Lebasque in the Summer

May 31st, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
Lebasque embraces the techniques of the post-impressionists, the Nabi painters and the fauvists.

Lebasque embraces the techniques of the post-impressionists, the Nabi painters and the fauvists.

Summer is in full bloom here in New Orleans and has been for some time. As the temperature rises and the Creole tomatoes appear, our thoughts turn to the carefree days of vacation – maybe a quick trip to the Gulf Coast for a weekend or, if you’re lucky, a proper holiday to the south of France.  The vibrant feeling of summer days is captured perfectly in a painting we just acquired by the artist Henri Lebasque that depicts a mother and daughter in an intimate embrace looking out toward a vivid Mediterranean sea. Colorful and sentimental, this work embodies the myriad influences on Lebasque’s technique and the absolute beauty of coastal France.

Lebasque and his family first went to Saint-Tropez in 1904 at the invitation of fellow artist Henri Manguin, who had taken to painting there part of the year. By the 1900s Saint-Tropez had become well established as a destination for Parisians seeking sun and relaxation and had attracted a number of artists, including the post-impressionist painter Paul Signac. Under Signac’s influence Lebasque adopted the post-impressionist technique of dividing color into complementary tones which created greater tonal brilliance in his paintings.

Promenade a Saint-Tropez was painted a year before Lebasque’s first solo exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris and exactly one year after the famous Salon d’Automne show of 1905.  We can see some of the influence of fauvism in the present work with the artist’s use of juxtaposed color to suggest light and space as well as his bold, frenzied and passionate brushstrokes. The subject matter of domestic life in natural surroundings is quintessential Lebasque, a result of his time spent with the Nabi painters, Vuillard and Bonnard, and the contrasts of deep purple and mauve tones with brilliant greens recall the palette favored by his fauvist contemporaries, Matisse and Manguin.

Just about everyone who walks by this painting in our gallery has a strong reaction to its beauty. If you are in New Orleans, you simply must come by and see it in person. The dramatic brushstrokes and color will transport you to the magnificence of the Mediterranean in an instant. Click here to see more of M.S. Rau Antique’s fine art collection.

The Mystery Within

May 24th, 2013 | posted by Susan Lapene
The flicker cane is ready for danger at the flick of a wrist.

The flicker cane is ready for danger at the flick of a wrist.

What provocative objects can be hidden inside a cane? Man and his ingenuity have managed to come up with thousands and thousands of tools, personal necessities, and weapons to defend themselves…all tucked neatly away inside an unassuming cane.

At first glance, the flicker cane looks like a fine, old walking stick. A polished, knotty wood shaft culminates in a bird-shaped handle, giving the cane a sturdy, but handsome look. With the flick of a wrist, the cane reveals

Two-sword cane conceals a pair of swords.

Two-sword cane conceals a pair of swords.

its hidden purpose: a blade darts out of the top of the handle, sharp, and ready to be used as a weapon. And just as quickly as you can snap the very base of the cane onto the ground, the blade disappears without a trace.

Hidden within this demure and substantial cane are not one, but two long, narrow blades. The two-sworded cane, or “sword stick” as it is often called, became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as a bold accessory. A clever disguise, these canes have roots in ancient Rome and Japan, where similar style weapon canes were carried mainly for ceremonial purposes.

La Diabolique cane hides spikes in the shaft.

La Diabolique cane hides spikes in the shaft.

La Diabolique is a captivating cane, with an equally intriguing history. Known as a notorious weapon used against French authorities by rioters in the famous 19th century street riots, La Diabolique quickly transforms from a simple walking stick to a harmful weapon. With the twist of the handle, spikes jut out of the shaft allowing the owner to inflict brutal wounds upon opponents.  It is no wonder these canes are so valued by collectors!

We have had the opportunity to acquire hundreds of interesting canes over our 101-year history, and yet, each new walking stick we acquire is even more fascinating than the next! Please visit our website to see the range of these beautiful collector’s items. Maybe you will be enticed to start your own collection!

The Write Stuff: Beautiful Antiques That Celebrate The Art of Writing

May 16th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate
Burma Ruby and Diamond Fountain Pen

Burma Ruby and Diamond Fountain Pen

It is easy to forget the pleasure of the quickly disappearing art of writing.  Away from the distractions of technology, and more capable of infusing your personality and character into your work than

Paul Storr George III Silver Inkstand

Paul Storr George III Silver Inkstand

the modern alternative, hand writing anything is epically more satisfying.  I wanted to share with you some of my favorite pieces that I hope will inspire you to once again return to the pen.

Of course, we must start with this stunning triumph of precision and unbridled elegance, a Burma ruby and diamond encrusted fountain pen. More than 150.00 carats of invisibly set Burma rubies and 15.00 carats of diamonds embellish this one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Putting ink to paper from this piece is to deposit a perfect line from a nib and body crafted of platinum and 18K gold.

On a more traditional, but no less elegant note, we have this George III Silver Inkstand by the preeminent silversmith Paul Storr. Although the three cut glass jars set upon an elevated pen tray once served as an inkwell, quill stand and pounce pot, these versatile items are still useful for modern necessities, whether in the home on a vanity or on your office desk. This set also boasts the rare inclusion of a chamber stick and snuffer.

If doré bronze is more to your taste, however, than you may appreciate this opulent turn-of-the-century inkwell.  This fine antique desk accessory retains its original clear glass insert and its top is set with a large malachite cabochon.  The vivid green of this mineral, which was prized by the most elegant homes of the time, provides a wonderful contrast to the doré bronze body.

Important French Bureau a Cylindre and Fauteuil de Bureau

Important French Bureau a Cylindre and Fauteuil de Bureau

Malachite Cabochon Inkwell

Malachite Cabochon Inkwell

If there is one piece certain to invite you to sit down and write a while, it is this absolutely stunning French Restoration-era roll-top desk.  The finest ormolu fixtures swathe rich Cuban mahogany in this matching pair of desk and swivel chair; these exquisite details elevate this piece from merely functional to a work of art.  Just as with the ormolu adornments, every aspect of the desk itself is crafted with the utmost care.  In fact, the interior drawers and compartments are crafted of quarter-sawn oak, which is harvested from the inner most sections of the oak log. This intensive and costly process produces sections of wood that resist warping and help ensure that this desk will maintain its beauty for generations to come.  The desk is appointed with a fitted interior of compartments, lockable drawers and a retractable red leather lined writing surface. For added security, the lower right compartment contains a hidden, lockable coffer to store precious valuables.

Any of these pieces, alone or paired with the others, would serve as a welcome step back from the ever-extending reach of technology, if only for a moment. Click here to view more of our writing-related antiques and reminisce about the lost art of writing.

We Simply Cannot Contain Ourselves!

May 10th, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Container 1This has been an exciting week at M.S. Rau Antiques. Every spring we receive a shipment from our latest buying trip in Europe, which sent us to the very best estates and collections to find the rarest and most fascinating antiques and fine art available on the market. After a whirlwind buying excursion, all the objects are carefully packed for freight and then sent to New Orleans on a ship. With great anticipation, we await the delivery of our container, and once it clears customs, the fun begins.

The staff gathers before the gallery opens and unpacks the container’s boxes, which provides the first glimpse for many of us of our newest acquisitions. This year’s first container held a trove of fascinating objects – from a majestic onyx and doré bronze clock to a gleaming art deco bar. Although the newly acquired items have not been through our research and photography departments, I have a few pieces I would love to share with you.

We have had many desks over our 101 year history, but a Thomas Chippendale desk we just bought really captivates in both size and design. The desk is a stunning example of Chippendale’s late Container 218th century aesthetic, with demure neoclassical design and excellent detailed workmanship unique to Thomas Chippendale pieces. Crafted of lavish mahogany and doré bronze fittings, this desk possesses an outstanding patina that intrigues with its evident use by a dedicated businessman.

Container 4A very heavy and very secure crate contained an impressive early 17th century safe. With a robust design, and clever locking mechanism, our newly acquired Italian safe would have provided the utmost safety in storing precious documents and possessions. Three locks on the front of the safe require three separate keys and three different turning methods to gain entry to the interior. An additional lock inside provides extra security. The back of the safe allows for wall mounting, further securing this monumental, 400 year old safe.

Dozens of other pieces accompanied the above treasures. We can’t wait to share with you all the newly acquired items, and we will be sending an email in a few weeks showing you even more. Better, yet, why not come down to the gallery on Royal street to see them for yourself?

Beauty Set In Stone: The Art of Pietre Dure

May 1st, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Pietre dure was used to adorn important objets d'art, such as these magnificent plinths.

Pietre dure was used to adorn important objets d’art, such as these magnificent plinths.

Pietre dure is one of the oldest decorative arts. With a meticulous eye and steady hand, a master of this hardstone inlay technique can literally “paint” a picture in stone.

This incredible pietre dure plaque is comprised of numerous hardstones intricately inlaid to create a "painting of stone."

This incredible pietre dure plaque is comprised of numerous hardstones intricately inlaid to create a “painting of stone.”

The art form developed in ancient Rome in the 4th century where the technique was known as opus sectile (“carved and cut work”). Much like mosaic, this new process utilized larger sections of materials such as marble and glass inlaid into floors and walls to compose an image or decorative pattern. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the technique was brought to Byzantium, where it was used to grace the interiors of churches. It wasn’t until the Italian Renaissance that we find the first mentions of pietre dure.

In 1588, Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici established in Florence the Grand Ducal Workshop Galleria di’Lavori, known today as the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (“Workshop of Semi-Precious Stones”). The Medici family is historically renowned for their support and influence upon the arts, and this workshop specialized specifically in the perfection of pietre dure, elevating it into the most important of the Florentine art forms. Pietre dure soon became a favorite of monarchs around the world, and everyone from France’s Louis XIV to the Hapsburgs in Prague sought out these splendid creations to craft some of the most exquisite objets d’art the world has ever known.

Precision is key when creating pietre dure. The artisan first selects only the finest specimens of marble, semi-precious and, in some cases, precious stones, to compose his work. Since these elements literally come in every color of the rainbow, the creative possibilities are truly endless. Once the artist has created his design on paper, the individual elements of the image must be delicately cut from the materials to exact proportions, as each must fit together perfectly, much like the pieces of a puzzle, to compose the final work of art. Upon examination of this magnificentFlorentine Pietre Dure plaque of a gentleman serenading a young woman, the level of care and attention afforded to its creation is awe-inspiring. Vivid blues, reds and greens from various marbles and lapis lazuli are used throughout to create a dynamic scene. Everything from hair and eyes, to clothing and mandolin strings are cut to exact size from individual stones and then painstakingly inlaid one into the other. It is no wonder that it could take months, even years, to complete a single work of pietre dure depending on its size and complexity.

From large genre scenes to wonderful decorative objects such as these Pietre Dure Plinths, works displaying this amazing artistic technique continue to attract the attention of collectors throughout the world.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of pietre dure, click here.