Archive for the 'M.S. Rau Blog' Category

The Master of Maritime: John Steven Dews

July 26th, 2016 | posted by Bill Rau

The Mighty Westward racing for the King’s Cup at Cowes on August 8, 1934 Signed J Steven Dews (lower left)

When John Steven Dews failed his “A” level art class in grade school, few imagined that mere centuries later he would be regarded as one of the most important living marine artists of his age. As a boy, his early failures only served to motivate him to achieve even higher levels of perfection in his work. With a determined spirit, he proved them all wrong, and today he composes some of the most captivating and highly coveted works of ships at sea.

Coming from a long lineage of seagoers, Dews developed a fascination with the sea at a young age. He was just 5 when he composed his first marine sketches while visiting his grandfather, an assistant harbor master. His keen fascination with the large boats and ocean vessels that glided by him every day inspired him to constantly sketch the bustling Hull Docks of Beverly, North Humberside. A decade later, he was studying at the Hull Regional College of Art.


The lightning fast schooner became so renowned that she is still celebrated today; in fact, the Westward Cup Regatta, established in 2010, was named in her honor.

Dews stood out amongst his peers with his outstanding ability to depict ocean boats and ships with a remarkable sense of realism. To further hone his crafted (and fuel his obsession), he studied and perfected the different atmospheric qualities of the sea and sky, using model ships, architectural drawings, and countless photographs of ships at sea as his models. Far more than merely mastering his painterly techniques, Dews began his lifelong affair with the sea.

When it came to his most notable works, there is no question that his greatest success lies in his depictions of great racing schooners. In the early 20th century, yachting races were one of the most exciting and anticipated events throughout the England and the northeast United States.  Residents from all over iconic coastal towns  would congregate to watch these vessels slice through the water in a display of majesty and might. Masterfully depicting these gargantuan, yet graceful vessels, like the mighty Westward, Dews was able to imbue these trademark works with an unparalleled dynamic energy and excitement.

One of the most legendary racing schooners in the world, the Westward was designed and built by the famed Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, the architect of numerous award-winning vessels

One of the most legendary racing schooners in the world, the Westward was designed and built by the famed Nathanael Greene Herreshoff, the architect of numerous award-winning vessels

Before Dews, the tradition of maritime painting in art history has a long life of both admiration and acclaim. Naval motifs in art can range from history paintings that reveal much about our past, to picturesque renderings that celebrate the strength and beauty of the water. Artists throughout the ages, such as Francis Augustus Silva, Raoul du Gardier, and Montague Dawson, capture the sea in all her majesty, and often explore the relationship between man and sea with exceptional acuity.

Dews, with his exceptional talents for his craft, contradicts the traditional notion that an artist can only acquire fame after their death. Beginning with his first solo exhibition in 1976, where he sold his entire portfolio, his success his success and commissions have skyrocketed. However, this blockbuster exhibition seems small compared to the sense of achievement that he would enjoy throughout his lifetime due to his permanent connection to the sea.

A King Among Stones: The Ruby

July 19th, 2016 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

Without a doubt, the ruby is one of the most fascinating and memorable stones in the gemstone market. The rich crimson red of this coveted gemstone is said to stir passions and enhance emotions. Due to their blood-red beauty, people of ancient times believed rubies held the power over life and death. Other cultures deem the stones symbols of wisdom and beauty. With a history that dates to 200BC and the ruby trade on the North Silk road, today it is regarded as the most culturally important colored gemstone, and it remains one of the most sought-after gems. With its fine hardness, durability, and luster, the ruby exudes rarity, importance and paramount quality.

Ten exquisite Burma rubies display their prized "pigeon blood" hue in this elegant bracelet.

Ten exquisite Burma rubies display their prized “pigeon blood” hue in this elegant bracelet.

Because rubies can range in color from bright, striking red to darker hues and reddish-browns, there exist different variations of the gemstone. The most rare and valuable of this gemstone is the Burmese ruby. Standing as spectacular examples of the most sought after deep, rich color known as “pigeon’s blood” red, Burmese rubies are among the rarest of all gemstones. A location marked by richness in mineral resources, Burma has existed as a source of exceptional rubies since 600 AD. For centuries, Burma has been associated with the world’s finest rubies, though by edict of the King himself, the finest stones were never allowed to leave the kingdom. Due to increasing political unrest, the country closed itself to the world in 1962, further restricting trade and increasing the rarity of these magnificent stones. Whether used as earrings, rings, or any other jewelry variety, Burmese rubies are simply considered the best for their exceptional coloring and rare origin.

A ring of rubies surrounds the base of the knob, which is further accentuated by grisaille enamel plaques and golden guilloché enamel

A ring of rubies surrounds the base of the knob, which is further accentuated by grisaille enamel plaques and golden guilloché enamel

Suited to more than just magnificent jewelry pieces, the ruby can add a dazzling touch to a variety of rare antiques. In many ways, the addition of a ruby gemstone is the ideal way to add a flair of richness and desirability to any item.

Emerald, ruby and mother-of-pearl cabochons embellish the gilt handle of this resplendent decorative walking stick

Emerald, ruby and mother-of-pearl cabochons embellish the gilt handle of this resplendent decorative walking stick

Walking canes accentuated with inset ruby gemstones transform the cane from an object of practicality to a stylish accessory. Possessing a fascinating history, the walking stick has evolved into a symbol of power and prestige. Far from its humble roots as a tool for animal herders and intrepid travelers, rulers and high class style icons alike have wielded luxurious staffs and opulent canes. Luxury adornments such as ruby cabochons elevate the walking stick from an already respected accessory into a fashion statement all on its own.
Thanks to the success of the ruby gemstone, the celebrated Moser glass firm began to utilize the spectacular effect of its crimson color to accent their glass pieces. Exhibiting in international fairs and exhibitions in order to showcase their best pieces, Moser was able to expand its audiences, clientele, and prestige. One such piece created for an exposition is this urn-shaped ruby glass vase. Created in 1885, the deep red color is a signature of Moser’s crlebrated ruby glass. Decorating this magnificent, rich color is gilt-accented designs of colored oak leaves and flowers connected by thin, delicate vines. Standing twenty-two inches tall, this vase’s ornate and lavish design allows the luxurious ruby glass to reveal itself and its sophisticated shape.

How to Spot It: Louis XIV, Louis XV, & Louis XVI Antiques

July 13th, 2016 | posted by Danielle Halikias
Louis XV-Style Side Chairs

Louis XV-Style Side Chairs

In many ways, 18th-century French furnishings are the ideal of an antique; they are meticulously designed and exquisitely constructed! Similar only in name, the prevailing French styles of the 18th century are Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI.

From the lavishly adorned Louis XV to the quiet elegance of Louis XVI, each style uniquely reflects the rich social and political history of its time. Check out the brief primer below to learn how to easily spot Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI-style antiques!

Louis XIV

Approximate date: 1660-1700


Louis XIV-Inspired French Linen Press

Louis XIV-Inspired French Linen Press

Louis XIV Period Tortoiseshell Mirror

The Sun King’s rise to the throne in 1661 inspired an era of splendor in the French decorative arts. The sophisticated Louis XIV style may be generally described as Baroque and is characterized by symmetry, which exudes a sense of firm balance and majesty. The powerful decorative elements of the Louis XIV style are heavily influenced by architecture and often feature ornamental motifs including mythological creatures, flora, and fauna.

The dawning of the 18th-century also brought with it a taste for individualized, use-specific furnishings and led to the popularization of functional objects like mirrors, candelabra, and chandeliers.


Louis XV

Approximate date: 1700-1750


Louis XV Period Console Table

Louis XV Period Console Table


French Giltwood Chairs

Considered one of the greatest eras of European furniture, the Louis XV style may be described as the French iteration of Rococo. The lavish furnishings of this period display great creativity and a penchant for extravagant decoration. With an emphasis on comfort and exuding a strong feminine influence, Louis XV style antiques are marked by curvilinear lines and asymmetry. Typical ornamentation of the period includes exotic flora, fauna, shells, and animals.

Louis XVI

Approximate date: 1750-1800



Louis XVI-Style Music Chair


François Linke Vitrines, Louis XVI Style

The handsome Louis XVI style was termed goût grec or “Greek taste” when it emerged during the mid-18th century. It developed as a reaction to the florid designs of the Louis XV style, as is demonstrated by its restrained geometry and allusions to ancient architecture. Free of Rococo lavishness or Baroque excess, Louis XVI style antiques achieve a spontaneous elegance. Classical motifs are typical of the period, including the egg-and-dart, acanthus, laurel, and cornucopias along with traditional architectural elements.



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A Real Knockout: The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

July 8th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Muhammad Ali – Photo by Neil Leifer for Sports Illustrated

On October 30, 1974, the Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship pitted the then undefeated boxing champion George Foreman against challenger Muhammad Ali. The match ended with Ali winning by knockout just before the conclusion of the eighth round and is now considered one of the greatest sporting events of the 20th century.


The Rumble in the Jungle boxing contracts are housed in a customized, hard cover portfolio

The legendary fight was promoted by Don King, a hugely successful American boxing promoter best known for his work organizing the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila. King convinced both Ali and Foreman to sign contracts stating that they would compete if he could acquire a purse of 5 million dollars. However, King did not have the funds and sought an outside nation to sponsor the event. The President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, requested the contest to be fought in his country, eager for such a high-profile event to spark publicity.

The resulting match was fought before an audience of approximately 60,000 and largely thanks to the efforts of boxing promoter and telecommunications expert Henry “Hank” Schwartz, was the first ever telecast from Kinshasa, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Schwartz’s valiant efforts were responsible for establishing not only a successful global boxing event but also building an entire telecommunications infrastructure for the country, an act which earned him the position of Minister of Communications of Zaire.

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts

The Rumble in the Jungle Boxing Contracts pictured here come directly from the private collection of boxing promoter and telecommunications expert Henry “Hank” Schwartz. Not only are the contracts a great memento from the most spectacular sporting event of the 20th century, they are an extraordinary relic connected to the late Muhammad Ali.

The Story of Sterling: 19th Century Silver Patterns

July 5th, 2016 | posted by James Gillis

Chrysanthemum, English King, Fairfax, Chantilly. Elegant, luxurious names given to some of the most pioneering designs in craft: silver patterns.


A pair of Tiffany & Co. sterling silver entrée dishes crafted in the Chrysanthemum pattern, exhibiting the motif’s exuberant flowers and elegant scrolled feet.

The creation of a well-designed pattern is the work of an artist. Different designs can immediately suggest the personality of the silver piece and assert its value and context. More than just simple decoration, silver patterns hold a place of unforgettable beauty. Coffee poured from a slender shining Chrysanthemum pot, and a carving knife graced with the elegant, mythological forms of the Tiffany Olympian pattern become active participants in the dining occasion. Conversation pieces all on their own, the different patterns and styles of silver are a not not only a testament to the innate artistry of silversmiths, but windows into the fascinating history of silver.


A sterling silver water pitcher by Tiffany & Co. crafted in the Japanese pattern that features distinguishing hand-hammered finish and applied naturalistic decorations

Of all the periods in history, the 19th Victorian era is comprised of the most revolutionary and pioneering efforts in the silver arts. While the 18th century welcomed hints of opulence and luxurious items into the homes of aristocracy and the upper class, the 19th century saw lavishness in full bloom, translating into intricate silver patterns in undeniably spectacular varieties.

This period ruled as the one of the most triumphal epochs as peace, prosperity, and most importantly, wealth reigned as an entirely new way of living and socializing. With this privilege of wealth came the strong desire for things that would best reflect it and a desire was formed to dine in complete and utter elegance. The new, sumptuous tastes were on full display and extensive silver pieces for the home and dining room served as visual affirmation of economic prosperity and affluence. The prestigious jewelry and silver firm, Tiffany & Co., recognized the need for ornate dining pieces and immediately clamored at this opportunity to design different patterns, like their iconic Chrysanthemum, to grace silver pieces that would match the opulence of the dining occasion. As one of the most enduring patterns to date, the Chrysanthemum pattern is an excellent example of the exuberance of this period. Silver entrée dishes, for example, that bear this pattern are crafted with motifs of opulent foliate and intricate, elegant scrolls. Other patterns, like their Japanese pattern that featured applied décor of organic, naturalistic forms, also put lavishness on full display. Now, nearly every surface of a silver piece was engraved and ornamented.


Widely considered the firm’s finest, the Francis I pattern by Reed and Barton’s is comprised rococo-style fruits and flowers.

Tiffany & Co. was not the only one to see success and desire from their sumptuous silver pieces. As the social calendars of the elite continuing to fill with evening gatherings and economic prosperity to continually rise, other silver firms, like Reed and Barton, also crafted extravagant silver pieces. Their quintessential Francis I pattern, depicting different intricate fruit clusters, is a dazzling sight of artistic talent and abundance. Used for vegetable bowls, compotes, and even sandwich trays, the Francis I pattern reigns as one of the most highly collectible patterns to date. Named for the Renaissance Duke, Francis of Angouleme, the Francis I pattern reflects dazzling height of architecture during this fascinating monarch’s reign.

In 1863, yet another powerhouse silver firm began designing opulent silver pieces. Gorham Silver, comprised of some of the most talented American silversmiths, introduced a new type of hand-wrought silver that would take the silver world by storm. Their Martele pattern, that followed the curvilinear and naturalistic qualities of the Art Nouveau movement, became the companies crowning achievement. Meaning “to hammer” in French, this pattern was entirely hand crafted and featured elegant, elongated handles, slender edges, and graceful proportions.

Whether stately or extremely decorated, all patterned silver pieces possess a balance and scale that makes them not only comfortable to use, but attractive. Establishing rich silver style traditions that still prevail and exist today, the talent of Gorham, Tiffany & Co., and period styles continue to be an enduring force in the silver world today, inspiring generations of artistic achievement.

Interested to learn more about the profound world of silver? Read more to understand more about the important role of silver in the dining room.

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