Archive for the 'From Our Sales Team' Category

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.

History, Etched in Silver

April 23rd, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
Treaty of Nanking Silver Tray, for Sir Henry Pottinger

Treaty of Nanking Silver Tray, for Sir Henry Pottinger

I love antique silver, as much for its beauty as for its history. A remarkable amount of time went into the crafting of fine silver – from the intricate development of design to the highly technical process of mixing alloys and molding the objects. Each antique silver piece is a spectacular example of the dedication earlier artisans had for creating the very best, which is what made silver such an honor to receive as a gift.

Right now we have a most extraordinary silver tray, gifted to Englishman Sir Henry Pottinger, that is both visually stunning and historically important. We often have in our collection silver pieces that were given as gifts to noblemen and philanthropists as tokens of appreciation, as was tradition in 19th century England. In addition to silver items, honorees were often given the Freedom of the City (equivalent to the Key to an American city). Robust, and with ample room for a visual narrative, silver trays were considered the most prestigious items given.

Pottinger is recognized as the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, which officially ended the Opium War. History buffs will know this war as a dubious attempt by the British to manipulate the trade of Chinese tea into England. However, the most lasting and important consequence of the treaty that ended the war was the lease of Hong Kong to the British for a term of 99 years. This new British colony ended up bringing the East and West together and without any doubt, changed the world tremendously.

The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

Pottinger gained instant fame upon his return to England, and the great northern city of Manchester honored him with both the freedom of the city, and this magnificent silver tray. Commissioned from the Royal silversmiths Edward Barnard and Company, the tray measures an impressive 33 inches and weighs 219 troy ounces. It bears the crest of the city of Manchester as well as the family coat of arms of Henry Pottinger. A luxurious scalloped frame encompasses a gallery of pierced fretwork with floral accents while four Chinese dragons guard the handles. The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

Remarkable in size and in historical significance, the Pottinger Treaty of Nanking tray is one of the most important pieces of silver we have ever owned. Click here to learn more about the tray and to visit our website.

What’s In A Name?: Marilyn Monroe Photographs by Lawrence Schille

April 19th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Schiller's photographs of the famous "Something's Got To Give" pool scene have become iconic(Lawrence Schiller)

Schiller’s photographs of the famous “Something’s Got To Give” pool scene have become iconic
(Lawrence Schiller)

Monroe's ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, is captured in a somber and tender moment at Monroe's funeral, August 8, 1962(Lawrence Schiller)

Monroe’s ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, is captured in a somber and tender moment at Monroe’s funeral, August 8, 1962
(Lawrence Schiller)

This beautiful candid of Monroe was taken in 1960 behind the scenes of "Let's Make Love"Lawrence Schiller

This beautiful candid of Monroe was taken in 1960 behind the scenes of “Let’s Make Love”
Lawrence Schiller

Few names evoke thoughts of feminine beauty and Hollywood glamour quite like Marilyn Monroe. Arguably one of the most famous Americans in modern history, she captured hearts and imaginations around the world through the memorable characters she portrayed on the silver screen. Now, nearly 50 years later, it is the enduring images in these signed, limited-edition photographs taken by famed photographer, director and author, Lawrence Schiller, that are bringing this larger-than-life figure back in the spotlight. Many of them have never been printed until now.

Schiller shot Marilyn in May of 1960 on the set of Let’s Make Love. During this “golden age” of Hollywood, studios hired and depended heavily on photographers to take pictures on the set of their movies as a means to publicize their films. Movie stars had much more say over the pictures that were taken of them at this time, and of the dozens of shots Schiller took during filming, this adoring image is one of the only she personally approved.

Schiller didn’t photograph Marilyn again until 1962 when he was hired to shoot the starlet on the set of what would become the last film she would ever work on, the unfinished Something’s Got To Give. Marilyn had the idea of emerging from the water nude in the now-famous pool scene shortly before filming, but no one knew for sure if she would actually do it. She went in with a custom-made beige bikini, and true to her word, stepped out of the pool nude. Schiller describes the moment, saying:

“Marilyn was a photographer’s dream subject with her clothes on, and even more stunning with them off. Her wet skin glistened. Her eyes sparkled. Her smile was provocative…As I shot, I was sure the pictures I was taking were going to be beautiful and unforgettable. The flow of her spine complemented her natural curves as the water reflected the lights, and the whole scene came alive.”

On August 5, 1962, less than three months after these indelible photographs were taken, Marilyn passed away in her Brentwood, California home. She was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, with arrangements made by her ex-husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Schiller was there to document the events of the day, and his image of DiMaggio with his son in full Marine dress is one of profound emotion.

Schiller created only 75 sets of these telling photographs, all of which are signed and numbered and come in a signed, custom portfolio. The images measure 20” x 24” and include 10 black and white silver gelatin prints and two color photographs. Each photograph speaks volumes about a woman who was both a cultural phenomenon and, in many ways, a misunderstood, gentle soul ahead of her time.

To view and learn more about these limited-edition Marilyn Monroe photographs, click here.

Travel Back In Time With Louis Vuitton Luggage

April 11th, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
Louis Vuitton Luggage Suite

Louis Vuitton Luggage Suite

The name Louis Vuitton denotes a distinct sophistication befitting what is considered the world’s first luxury brand. Louis Vuitton luggage and leather goods set the standard by which all others are measured, with a brilliant historical narrative adding to the value. M.S. Rau currently has two fantastic selections of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage, including a fascinating travel trunk. The unmistakable design, along with the intriguing biography, makes these travel trunks some of the most delightfully collectible pieces.

The history of European travel is closely linked with the travel trunk, as the lowly case for storing one’s goods during a journey became a style statement. As with many trends, the movement towards decorative luggage started with members of royalty. Trunks of the royals were elaborate and plentiful, with bespoke pieces designed to hold attire for any imaginable outing one might encounter, from fox-hunting to public appearances.

Finally, glamour had entered the once rough and tumble sphere of cross-country train travel. Journeys on lines like the famed Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople required equally sophisticated luggage, as much to impress fellow passengers as to hold one’s garments. The first to have flat tops, which meant they could be stacked easily in cargo, Louis’ son Georges also created the first designer logo, with the Monogram Canvas in 1896.Specially designed pieces– like rounded trunks meant to hold hats — began making appearances and led the way for specialized and innovative trunks.

Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk

Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk

Trunks for the turn of the 20th century took on new meaning with their designs. A photographer’s trunk would include a space for a camera, lenses and gels. The genius bed trunk would unfold into a bed (complete with legs) and included a pillow. Even the “aero trunk,” designed for a trip via “air ship,” was designed to be extra light for the new and thrilling form of travel.

The need for the very basic (and best!) Louis Vuitton luggage remains in demand for the traveling elite, like our luggage suite and travel trunk. These 20th century examples offer the quality expected from the brand, with the fascinating patina from a vintage piece. To own a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage has always meant to be one of the luckiest of travelers.

Click here to learn more about M.S. Rau’s Louis Vuitton items.

The Very Best of Art Deco

March 29th, 2013 | posted by Susan Lapene
Egyptian Art Deco Chandelier

Egyptian Art Deco Chandelier


Art Deco Diamond and Rock Crystal Brooch

I just returned from the Art Deco World Congress 2013 held in Habana, Cuba and have been thoroughly inspired to present my very favorite Art Deco pieces to you.  I want to share a range of items that came out of this movement, because the way it transformed everything from sculpture to lighting is truly astounding.

Though the movement was an expression of the progressive and forward-thinking attitudes of the Machine Age, this eclectic style was greatly influenced by the so-called “primitive” arts of Africa and ancient Egypt.  The worldwide press coverage that the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb drew certainly popularized these elements.  Translating organic themes into streamlined, mathematical shapes is one of the most well-known signatures of this striking design aesthetic.  Take, for instance, this fabulous chandelier that displays a geometric Egyptian motif.

Mounted in luminous platinum and 18k gold, as well as featuring a link of the purest rock crystal, this Art Deco pin radiates the opulence associated with the movement.  Whether worn as a brooch or in place of a buckle at the waist, on a wide grosgrain ribbon as a bracelet, as a hair ornament, or glitzing up a classic black satin evening clutch this pin is as versatile an accessory now as it was during the heyday of Art Deco.

Bearing the telltale streamlined elegance of Art Deco, this Cartier clock is crafted from a plaque of exquisite jade set into a frame of enamel-accented silver. This wonderful 8-day clock would have been at home in the most stylish of offices or residences.

Cartier Art Deco Jade Clock

Cartier Art Deco Jade Clock

Art Deco Gold Box by Cartier, Paris

Art Deco Gold Box by Cartier, Paris

Also by Cartier, this gold box captures the essence of Art Deco sophistication. Crafted entirely of 18K yellow gold, this exceptional objet d’art bears a sleek geometric pattern accompanied by contrasting black champlevé enamel on all sides. The box was most likely used as a cosmetics compact and would have been an essential accessory for a well-heeled lady. Such diminutive works of art are found most often in prestigious collections throughout the world, representing a bygone “golden age” of luxury and style.

Even the fine arts were impacted by the new ideals of Art Deco. “Friends Forever” by Demetre Haralamb Chiparus is a charming figure of a young girl and her two borzoi, or Russian wolfhound companions, comprised of patinated, cold-painted bronze and intricately carved ivory, a combination known as chryselephantine. The combination of ivory and bronze was pioneered in Belgium at the turn of the 20th century. Sculptors of the Art Deco period embraced this technique, re-interpreting the classical style to create figures of subtle beauty. Chiparus was a champion and master of this technique and he is credited with both perfecting and giving this form its Art Deco flavor.


Friends Forever Bronze and Ivory by Chiparus

Friends Forever Bronze and Ivory by Chiparus

All of these pieces express the various wondrous qualities of Art Deco.  My time in Cuba certainly reinvigorated my love of Art Deco, and I hope this selection has piqued your curiosity. Which item interests you the most?

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