Archive for the 'From Our Sales Team' Category

A Lasting Impression: Rembrandt’s Incredible Etchings

January 16th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau

“St. Jerome in a Dark Chamber” displays the stunning artistry and emotional depth for which Rembrandt is renowned.



The quality and paper of this etching entitled “Joseph Telling His Dreams” indicates it is a lifetime print of a subject he explored in both his etching and painting.

Rembrandt is one of the greatest artists in history, with his name alone being synonymous with fine art itself.  His portraits and genre scenes are iconic, enriched with a level of realism that gives them an exquisite ethereal quality unmatched by any other artist before or since. Yet, few realize that Rembrandt was also a master etcher, and is responsible for not only creating some of the most amazing etchings in history, but he also evolved and gave new life to the entire process of printmaking.

Rembrandt’s painting and etching careers run parallel, and in many cases, it was his etchings that propelled his tremendous popularity during what scholars call the Golden Age of Dutch Painting.  Between 1626 and 1660, the artist created some 300 etchings, with only about 79 known in existence today. Since he owned and operated his own printing press, he was able to experiment with etching techniques and continuously push the envelope often treating them the same way he would his canvases. In fact, his findings are so important, that many of his techniques continue to impact printmakers to this day.

M.S. Rau Antiques acquired one such print, titled St. Jerome in a Dark Chamber, in which Rembrandt extends his mastery of chiaroscuro (the sharp contrast between light and shadow) to impart the emotional and spiritual element into this resplendent religious scene. It is believed that he experimented creating such dramatic effects by leaving deposits of ink on the etching, then wiping away excess in spots he wanted to illuminate. Every etched line is visible, yet the appearance that the forlorn saint is the focus of the sunlight is simply stunning. Rembrandt typically kept his printmaking and painting separate, seldom creating an etching of one of his completed paintings. However, this etching in the Rau fine art collection, Joseph Telling His Dreams, is one of the handful of rarities in which he created both the oil on canvas and the etching.

The art of etching allowed Rembrandt to explore techniques simply impossible to do with paint. And, because he had his own press, he had the freedom to rework and experiment with his subjects, giving his prints a level of quality that has inspired artists for over 300 years.

To see more from M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of Rembrandt etchings, click here.

Woven Masterpieces: Aubusson Tapestries

November 3rd, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

This incredible Aubusson tapestry is modeled on the work Les constructeurs sur fond bleu by Fernand Léger

At the ateliers of Aubusson, tapestries are woven today in the same way they were hundreds of years ago. An art both ancient and modern, the tradition of Aubusson woven masterpieces experienced a modern revival in the early twentieth century. Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall – these are just some of the master artists of the 1930s who contributed their works to the ancient art.

From the 13th century, tapestry making was a flourishing art in France. At a time when the upper echelon of society resided in large, expansive estates, tapestries were used to create portable partitions, keep rooms free from drafts, and decorate vast, bare walls. By the Renaissance, tapestries based on painted masterpieces came into vogue, and works by the Old Renaissance Masters were translated into colossal woven masterworks boasting incredibly complicated designs, some incorporating upwards of 600 different colors. The practice continued through the Baroque period, when works by in-demand artists such as François Boucher were commonly re-worked into woven form, often under the guidance of the artists themselves. Yet, by the end of the 18th century, the art of the tapestry experienced a brief decline in popularity, and these grand works and master ateliers would spend the next century fighting for survival in the industry.

The 20th century brought with it a revived interest in the Old Renaissance Masters, and with it an increase in popularity for tapestries from this age. Collectors and art lovers alike snatched up these woven recreations of much loved Renaissance masterworks, which became incredibly valuable on the market. This sudden uptick in interest in Renaissance Aubusson tapestries led some to question why works by the modern masters were not also being translated into the ancient art. It took just one incredibly important and impassioned woman reacting to this question to begin a new history for the Aubusson ateliers.


This remarkable French tapestry celebrates the artistry of the famed François Boucher

With the aim of reviving the declining Aubusson ateliers, art collector and patron Madame Marie Cuttoli began commissioning designs from masters of the modern movement. Her greatest contribution was her ability to break the Aubusson houses of their traditional designs, heralding in a new era during which contemporary artists were engaged with designers for the first time in two centuries. Artists such as Picasso, Miro, Braque, Matisse and Léger worked with Aubusson cartoonists and designers to translate their most important works into the medium, creating monumental woven wonders of modern design. In the early 1930s, these tapestries were exhibited side by side with the paintings that had inspired them, and often times the tapestries yielded higher prices than the originals.

One of the most enthusiastic of these collaborative artists was French painter Fernand Léger. Léger’s epic cubist works, such as his monumental Les Constructeurs series, lend themselves well to the art of the tapestry. The expressions of color, the mechanical and geometric elements of his compositions, and the carefully wrought characters of man as engineer all shine through these meticulously woven masterpieces. Delighted by the collaborative process of tapestry design, Léger continued to lend his distinctive geometric designs to Aubusson weavers until his death in 1955.

The Duck Press – Strange and Delightful

October 11th, 2014 | posted by James Gillis
Silver Plate Duck Press by Joseph Heinrichs - Item Number 30-1042

Silver Plate Duck Press by Joseph Heinrichs – Item Number 30-1042

Foie gras, sweet crepes, escargot, ratatouille…the list could go on. French culture constantly amazes the world by remarkable dishes that leave many dumbfounded and in complete awe. Traditionally appealing to high taste, these dishes display the immense influence and popularity that French cuisine possesses.

Of many things in this inspiring and resilient food culture, however, nothing can be quite as unique as this!  These Silver Duck Presses, or press à canard, are examples of a type of large kitchen tool that developed in 19th century France used to create Canard à la Rouennaise. While many took a sudden liking to this delicate meal of rare duckling, a French dish at an identically sumptuous and elegant level as any other, the more curious immediately praised (and feared) the press by which the duck dish was prepared.

Not surprisingly, the dish and its press gained immediate attention within lavish French restaurants and the culinary elite due to its brutal, yet beautifully extravagant cooking and preparation processes. Almost immediately after its development, the duck press was embraced by restaurants that appealed to high taste and society. Table side preparations of this dish would occur, giving prosperous societal classes a direct view of the press in action.

Meat Carving Trolley with Duck Press - Item Number 29-9907

Meat Carving Trolley with Duck Press – Item Number 29-9907

So, how exactly does this weighty, yet stunningly imposing instrument operate? First, a duck is roasted to rare and tender perfection. After, its breasts, legs, and liver are removed. Left with an almost bare carcass, the skeletal remainder is packed into this grand, elaborate silver press. By cranking the lever clockwise above, the carcass is compressed in order to extract the rich juices. Then mixed with essential French ingredients, such as pureed duck liver, red wine, and butter, this sauce accompanies thin slices of the duck breast. The result is a dish so incredibly detailed, thorough, and magnificent.

Though not for the squeamish, the press was an indispensable item in any applauded French restaurant. Today, however, these duck presses are rare and difficult to acquire. In the M.S. Rau Gallery, however, the Silver Plate Duck Press (above) is one example of the traditional device. Created by renowned New York Silversmith, Joseph Heinrichs, this instrument is exactly like that of an original French duck press. In impeccable condition, this antique boasts efficiency, beauty, and French tradition. It is cast in a sleek, crisp metal frame and fabulously stands on two overt silver duck feet – an outstanding touch. This humorous tactic not only signifies the instruments purpose but gives the piece high embellishment and a lively personality. Similarly, Bruno Wiskemann’s Meat Carving Trolley (right) features an attached duck press locked on a glossy serving service. In faultless state, this shining apparatus features nine food storage compartments in exquisite dining perfection.

Bearing perpetual and elegant tradition, these two duck presses are marvelous and prime interpretations of a classic French style.

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Truth to Nature

September 18th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

The consummate, self-taught Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw possessed an unquestionable gift for painting. The influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement is apparent throughout Grimshaw’s oeuvre, and he worked these ideals to create awe-inspiring land and cityscapes unlike any artist before or since.

Disappointed by the “mechanized” ideologies of academic art, the Pre-Raphaelites utilized exacting details, luminous palettes and sincerity to subject that ushered in a new era of expression in the 19th-century British art world. Grimshaw took their teachings and used them to craft amazing nocturnal scenes and landscapes, which bear striking photographic qualities unmatched by any other artist. Tranquil urban lanes with leafless trees and ports with the still figures of docked ships silhouetted against the moonlit sky have become synonymous with this incomparable talent.

 John Atkinson Grimshaw

The ethereal light of the moon cast a glow upon this nocturnal dock scene painted by John Atkinson Grimshaw in 1883 entitled “Whitby.”


Whitby, executed in 1883, displays Grimshaw’s mastery of atmosphere and light, with a stark contrast between the moonlight and the gas lantern light of the shops lining the dock. A gentle fog can be seen over the water, while the clouds attract the moonlight like a magnet, glowing with an ethereal realism. His moonlit scenes were so majestic that James Abbott McNeill Whistler, a famed nocturne artist in his own right, stated “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight pictures.” The soft glow of the setting sun illuminates his home, Knostrop Hall, in All in the Golden Twilight. The artist captures the ephemeral moment of the sun setting, presumably in fall, utilizing a palette of yellows, greens, browns and reds to convey the fleeting essence of time itself.

 John Atkinson Grimshaw

This serene landscape, entitled “All in the Golden Twilight,” captures the artist’s home at dusk, and exemplifies John Atkinson Grimshaw’s tremendous eye for detail and composition.


Since Grimshaw worked primarily for patrons, his works have historically been held in private collections. It is only recently that his paintings have earned the acclaim and appreciation of the broader art world. Considered among the most prestigious and important Victorian painters, Grimshaw’s works are undeniably distinctive and are some of the most highly sought-after 19th-century British artworks on the market.

The Story of The Tailor Who Sat at The King’s Table

June 21st, 2014 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

This intriguing porcelain figure is considered one of Meissen’s greatest works

Meissen porcelain is considered to be the first European porcelain ever to be created. Developed in the early 18th century by Johann Friedrich Böttger, this new hard-paste porcelain attracted artists and artisans from all over Europe to establish the first Staatliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Meissen GmbH, considered to be one of the most refined porcelain factories in the western world. Meissen porcelain is perhaps most noted for its allegorical figurines which are often delicately adorned with colorful floral decoration and intricate details. Each piece of Meissen porcelain is unique and often has an interesting story behind it.

We recently acquired one of Meissen’s more curious pieces. This fascinating porcelain statue entitled, “Count Brühl’s Tailor on a Goat,” is considered to be one of Meissen’s greatest works. This particular piece was crafted by Johann-Joachim Kaendler, considered to be the most famous sculptor at the Meissen factory.  As you can see, this piece features exceptional artistry and detail, from the tailor’s jauntily-cocked tricorn hat, bright floral jacket and slightly askew spectacles, to the shears hanging from the goat’s horn. Not only is this piece fascinating in detail, but the story behind it is perhaps even more interesting than the piece itself.


The tailor is attired in fine clothing and the tools of his trade, all hand-painted with great care

During the early 18th century, Count Brühl, Chief Administrator to the King, was considered the best- dressed man in Saxony (now Germany). With this being said, Count Brühl’s tailor considered himself extremely important since he felt that he was equally responsible for that title. The tailor became very conceited and allowed his new ‘title’ to get the best of him. He politely requested that the Count reward him of his craft by allowing him to dine at Court with the King. The Count, who dared not make such a request to the King, came up with a clever plan that he hoped would fulfill the tailor’s wishes. He commissioned Kaendler to create a centerpiece depicting the tailor for the King’s dining room table, thus fulfilling the tailor’s wishes of dining with the King and avoiding any embarrassment. Kaendler, with his creative mind and clever sense of humor, took advantage of this comical situation and crafted an over-the-top satirical caricature of the tailor dressed in an ostentatious jacket astride an equally extravagant billy goat. Needless to say, Kaendler’s satirical statue of the self-important tailor became a hilarious novelty piece at the King’s Court dinners.

A fantastic conversation piece, this Meissen piece is in great condition and ready for your collection. Display it in your home and share its funny story with your dinner guests. A must have for any major Meissen collection.

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