Archive for the 'From Our Sales Team' Category

The Incredible Spherical Puzzle

August 6th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate
Chinese carved ivory tazza with the addition of a puzzle ball, Circa 1820

Chinese carved ivory tazza with the addition of a puzzle ball, Circa 1820

If you were to hear the word “puzzle,” the first thing that would probably come to mind would be the countless jigsaw puzzles that you solved throughout your childhood. Puzzles; however, come in many shapes and sizes and serve various purposes aside from entertainment. One characteristic that all puzzles share is a unique quality of mystery and their presentation of a mathematical or logistical problem.

Throughout history, the Chinese have been known for creating beautiful works of arts and crafts. The Chinese puzzle balls of the early 19th century are perhaps the most mysterious and nuanced crafts ever created. Even though these tiny treasures are not meant to be solved like a normal puzzle, they are called “puzzle balls” due to the mystery and puzzling explanation behind their making. Technically speaking, they can be solved by aligning all the holes from each layer together; however, due to their fragility and delicate material it is recommended that they be used simply for decorative purposes.

Carved from a single piece of ivory, the ball is comprised of a series of nested spheres that move independently.

Carved from a single piece of ivory, the ball is comprised of a series of nested spheres that move independently

Chinese craftsmen paid much attention to detail when crafting these delicate masterpieces. Puzzle balls are typically made of ivory and have 3 to 7 layers of concentric, hollow spheres. Using a small “L”-shaped tool, the artist would start with a solid ball of ivory, jade, wood or any other ductile material and carefully drill his way through to the center. He would then hand carve various holes within, working his way up, ultimately dividing the solid ball into many layers. This process required a great amount of time and of course, an incredibly steady hand.

The final result would be a ball containing multiple layers of unique smaller spheres within. While each layer would have its own unique design or symbols, the outermost shell showed the most extraordinary amount of craftsmanship and beauty while also telling a symbolic story. Loaded with important symbolism and charm, these puzzle balls were often used as good luck charms for Chinese royalty and nobles. A painstaking and costly process is required to create just one of these elaborately ornamented treasures; therefore, ivory puzzle balls are highly sought after by collectors today.

Each brilliantly carved figure stands atop a Chinese puzzle ball with a lotus blossom base

Each brilliantly carved figure stands atop a Chinese puzzle ball

 

These puzzle balls are truly amazing to see up close. Come stop by our gallery today to see one in person! Whether it’s our puzzle ball chess set or incorporated at the base of our carved ivory tazza, you will certainly be blown away by the incredible attention to detail found in each ball.

The Mystery of Chiaroscuro

August 2nd, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

Petrus van Schendel is perhaps most famous for his nighttime market scenes which garnered substantial attention for his use of light and composition.  With their interesting contrast between light and dark, these scenes have a mysterious aura to them. The focal point of these nocturne paintings is the candle which subtly illuminates the entire scene and showcases an overall complex composition. The candle provides a small yet brilliant glow which reflects onto the subjects’ facial features, thus inviting the viewer to imagine their own storyline. Van Schendel’s nocturne paintings truly exemplify the 17th-century Dutch tradition of candlelit paintings and provide a glimpse into what life was like for the working class of the 17th century.

Van Schendel was born in the Netherlands in 1806 and began his art studies early on at the Antwerp Academy. As a student, his primary focus was to become a portrait painter. He started his career painting portraits of various subjects, including his renowned self-portrait. While his career as a portrait painter proved to be successful, these paintings do not compare to his later nocturne paintings which show an incredible level of detail and naturalism.

Upon finishing his studies at the Antwerp Academy, van Schendel began travelling throughout Europe, picking up various artistic styles along the way. He finally settled down in Brussels in 1845, where he began to perfect his nocturne paintings. Strongly influenced by the 17th century tradition of Dutch candlelit paintings, van Schendel mastered the technique of chiaroscuro, or the balance between light and dark. This technique allowed him to paint incredible nocturne masterpieces, such as the painting seen here.

Bringing the Outdoors into Your Living Room

July 19th, 2013 | posted by James Gillis
Circa 1910, 27 1/2" diameter x 69 1/2" high

Circa 1910, 27 1/2″ diameter x 69 1/2″ high

Are you the type of person who is inspired by the aura of natural light? If you answered “yes”, then you share the same passion as Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany was an American artist during the Art Nouveau period best known for his stained glass works such as the lampshade seen here. His distinct style emphasized organic forms and geometric designs, which often depicted beautiful, outdoor landscape scenes. Tiffany was fascinated by bright colors and the natural light of the outdoors; therefore, his goal was to create stained glass lampshades that would bring the beauty of the outdoors into peoples’ homes year-round.

Each lamp was carefully handcrafted using the copper foil method, which allowed the individual pieces of stained glass to adhere together creating a delicate masterpiece. While this process took patience and time, it is the reason why no two Tiffany lamps are alike. Each lampshade tells its own story and has its own distinct style; a feature that makes it truly a one of a kind collector’s item.

The Ultimate Souvenir from the Grand Tour

July 6th, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
Circa 1845, 35 ½" diameter x 29 ½" high

Circa 1845, 35 ½” diameter x 29 ½” high

Travel during the late 16th century all the way through the early 19th century was considered a privilege and a symbol of wealth shared only by those who were fortunate enough to afford the luxury.

During this time period, young, upper-class, European men would embark on a Grand Tour of Europe after having finished their academic studies. These young men would spend time traveling throughout Paris, Venice, Florence, and Rome visiting the great masterpieces of art and architecture that they had studied throughout their time in school.  During their Grand Tour, they would also gather unique souvenirs along the way as a means of capturing the beauty and glory of each destination. Often times it was common for a young traveler to gather rare pieces of marble or granite that were unique to each specific region that he had visited. He would then bring these specimens back home with him after completing his Grand Tour and have a local artisan craft a ‘souvenir table’ for him.

In this incarnation, the final result is an ornate table decorated with micromosaic scenes framed by rare marble and granite samples.  These tables not only served as personal souvenirs for the traveler but were also symbols of great wealth and knowledge. Anyone who visited the traveler’s home would see this table and be able to tell just how worldly he was, based on the amount of unique marble and granite samples he had collected along his journey.

Click here to learn more about this incredible piece.

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.

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