Archive for the 'From Our Sales Team' Category

Opulence Defined: The Kashmir Sapphire

September 11th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau

Immense rarity and beauty define this awe-inspiring untreated 18.50-carat Kashmir sapphire. This emerald-cut natural wonder is accompanied by 1.30 carats of diamonds and set in platinum and 22K yellow gold.

Veiled by its legendary reputation and virtually unobtainable rarity, Kashmir sapphires are counted alongside the finest diamonds and Burma rubies in terms of scarcity. The mere mention of the term “Kashmir” is synonymous with the ultimate sapphire, possessing an incomparably deep, velvety blue color that seemingly glows from within.


Kashmir sapphires are one of the scarcest stones in the world, and to find one of this monumental size, certified to be unenhanced, is extraordinarily rare.

Discovered around 1880 in the city of Kashmir located in the northwest corner of India, the historic Kashmir minds are imbedded thousands of feet high in the Himalayas. The heyday of sapphire mining lasted between 1882 until 1887, and no significant deposits have been found since. In other words, the scant few of true Kashmir sapphires that are available today were likely mined over 100 years ago.

Weighing an astonishing 18.50 carats, this incredible Kashmir Sapphire Ring is the star of M.S. Rau Antiques selection of important colored gemstones. This emerald-cut rarity achieves its prized velvet-like blue hue without having undergone any type of color-enhancing treatment. Even the certificate of authenticity from the American Gemological Laboratories concurs by stating “The combination of size and origin for the sapphire described in this report signifies a gem worthy of distinction.” Certified to be of Kashmir origin and completely untreated, a breathtaking jewel of this type and caliber is simply never seen on the market. Accompanied also by certifications from the Swiss Gemological Institute and Gübelin Gemlab, this Kashmir sapphire is an undeniable masterpiece of nature.

Just one look at this jewel and it is clear to see why sapphires have been revered for thousands of years. Believed to represent divine favor, truth, loyalty and sincerity, the hypnotic beauty of the Kashmir sapphire is beyond compare.

The Marquess of Londonderry’s Portrait of Napoleon III

July 8th, 2015 | posted by Sue Loustalot

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.


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.


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.

Continental Inspirations: The Furniture of William and Mary

May 25th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau
William and Mary Bureau

The precision afforded to these creations make them as much a work of art as a functional piece of furniture.

William and Mary Oysterwood Chest

Oysterwood veneers, parquetry and bun feet distinguish this William and Mary period chest.


When the Dutch William III and his wife Mary II overthrew King James II in the 1688 Glorious Revolution, their victory signaled not only the end to the tensions that existed between the British Crown and Parliament, but also the beginning of a new era of decorative arts. William’s Protestant beliefs opened the door for Dutch, Flemish and French craftsmen to settle in England. These gifted artisans began to work with local cabinetmakers to incorporate their techniques and decorative forms to create a distinctive style of furniture known as William and Mary.

Though the reign of William and Mary lasted only 13 years from 1689-1702, the furnishings created during this period are unlike any before or since. Characterized by the use of rare woods, dramatic veneers and inlays, and bold carved elements, William and Mary furnishings represented a more refined way of living, replacing cumbersome, over-the-top pieces of furniture from the previous decades.

William and Mary Bureau

Elaborate marquetry envelopes this large William and Mary bureau cabinet

A shining example is this stunning Oysterwood Chest. Thin slices of walnut and olive are precisely placed in a painstaking process to form a distinctive parquetry pattern that resembles oyster shells. The bun feet are also hallmarks of William and Mary-era furniture. As taste changed, it was not uncommon for square brackets to replace the original bun feet, making this chest even more desirable. Remarkable foliate inlay envelops this stunning Marquetry Bureau, effectively illustrating the bourgeoning taste of the period to blend form and function. When in use, this cabinet’s fitted interior and leather-lined writing surface make it an optimal workspace, while the exotic inlay and veneering make this furnishing a true work of art.

The reign of William and Mary was undoubtedly a turning point in the realms of politics and the arts. Their adoption of the English Bill of Rights ushered in an era of political freedoms that would even influence the American cause for independence, and their employment of talented artists from throughout the Continent introduced a new layer of refinement and elegance to the decorative arts. Today the furnishings from this period are extremely rare and highly collectible, and examples that demonstrate extreme care over the centuries are especially desirable.

To see M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of William and Mary furnishings, click here.

An Age of Transformation: Women in Nineteenth Century Art

March 26th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau

George Morren, Le Renouveau (The Renewal), Circa 1892


Jéan-Leon Gérôme, Leda and the Swan, Circa 1895

This is the second of a three part series of blog posts preceding our exhibition Innocence, Temptation and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art, on view at M.S. Rau Antiques from March 27 – May 4.

From the mid-nineteenth century, Western Europe and the United States were witness to an extraordinary cultural and social upheaval. Truly a period of transformation, the end of the 19th century can be characterized also as an era of contradiction. As the great generation of French academic painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, with their idealized female figures and neoclassical subjects, slowly waned, a new group of radical young artists began to emerge who devoted their oeuvres to a new ideal of modernity. The Impressionists unapologetically painted their impressions of their modern bourgeoisie world, including the women within it, which was undergoing a rapid period of revolution.

While, in many instances, women still found themselves regarded as secondary citizens, it was the onset of industrialization and the corresponding growth of the middle class that began to expand the role of women in society. This provided ample inspiration for late 19th century artists, who themselves contemplated “the woman question” and the changing views of womanhood, femininity and what it meant to be a woman. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Promeneuse perfectly illustrates the Impressionist treatment of middle-class women during the Belle Epoqué – women who embody a new, avant-garde femininity without being idealized.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Promeneuse, Circa 1892

Indeed, traditional aestheticideals in general began to give way to a more revolutionary, individual artistic voice. In the same way, depictions of women in art slowly began to transform from object to subject in the eyes of the artist and the viewer, and the barrier between the private and public gradually began to descend. Yet, despite these advances, women were still expected to be the upholders of morality and put domestic and home responsibilities central in their lives. George Morren’s Le Renouveau (The Renewal) perfectly illustrates this juxtaposition. Depicting a wet-nurse breastfeeding a child, Morren places his female subject within a traditional “maternal” position, but also, more significantly, within a work scene. The “mother” in the scene is feeding the child not out of “natural” nurturing instinct but for wages, as a member of a flourishing industry. Both mother figure and worker, Morren’s wet-nurse epitomizes the updated, secularized Impressionist woman

Undeniably, as the Impressionists begin to capture their own lived experiences of everyday life, the range and treatment of women as a subject in art similarly expanded, offering viewers a glimpse of the lived experience of the late 19th century woman through the Impressionist canvas. Themes of bourgeois leisure, bohemian spectacle, urban culture, and intimate spaces dominate the genre moving into the 20th century – subjects that will only continue to expand into the modern era.

To learn more about the story of women in art, please join us for Innocence, Temptation and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art, on view at M.S. Rau Antiques from March 27 – May 4.

Innocence, Temptation, and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art

February 16th, 2015 | posted by Sue Loustalot

Giovanni dal Ponte, Madonna and Child, Circa 1420

A mystifying creature with the ability to nurture, seduce, create and conquer, women have served as an endless source of inspiration for history’s  most iconic artists, representing archetypes of ideal beauty, model behavior, and the ultimate temptation. These canvases invite viewers to peel back their many layers, each telling a different story about the woman it depicts, the artist who painted her, and the times in which they lived. At times empowering and others objectifying, these images offer a visual narrative of the evolution of women’s roles throughout history.  The story begins here with one of the most recognizable images of woman: the Madonna.

Arguably one of the most widely depicted women in the history of art is the Virgin Mary, a woman who has bore numerous roles over the centuries. Traditionally represented as the Madonna figure, as in Giovanni dal Ponte’s early 15th century work, she stands as the pinnacle of motherhood, womanhood and religious devotion. At a time when the Church was the largest patron of the arts, representations of women in art served primarily as allegories for religious virtue, and these images would perpetuate the Christian ideal of womanhood for centuries to come.



Portrait of Mary Townshend by Sir Joshua Reynolds





Along with virtue, innocence and beauty remain constants in the representation of ideal womanhood throughout the history of art. Even after the Church rescinded its role as major patron of the arts to the aristocracy, the model of the virtuous woman would remain consistent, particularly in portraits of the aristocracy. Rather than religious subjects, 18th-century portraitists turned their focus to social roles, which, for women, were largely dictated by their fathers and husbands. The elegance of a woman, both in art and in life, served as an affirmation of the status of her family, and an opulent, well-executed portrait stood as a demonstration of wealth and status.

This notion is clearly seen in the elegant portrait of Mary Townshend by the legendary Sir Joshua Reynolds. Rendered with an air of quiet dignity, the work provides a glimpse into 18th-century London society through the figure of Mary. While the viewer garners no real sense of her character through the work, the family’s wealth is very much on display in her opulent clothing, and the pearls that she clutches are a testament to her virginal innocence. Considered little more than a possession herself, the figure of Mary, in her virtue and beauty, serves as a visual symbol of the status of the Townsends.

Portraits of the upper class such as this expose a high culture that was defined by the Church and the male aristocracy, who largely ascribed qualities such as truth, innocence, morality and virtue to the ideal of womanhood. It would take another century before women were considered in a new light by artists and society alike, with the roots of women’s suffrage towards the end of the 18th-century signifying tremendous changes ahead.


Jan van Kessel the Elder, Allegory of Europe, Circa 1670

To learn more about the story of women in art, please join us for Innocence, Temptation and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art, on view at M.S. Rau Antiques from March 27 – May 4.

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