Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

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

June 21st, 2014 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
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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.

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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.

When Time Was Born: Renaissance-Period Clocks

June 16th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau
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The addition of elements such as alarms and quarter-hour striking appeared as mechanisms became more complex, as seen in this wonderful specimen.

Renaissance Turret Clock

Renaissance-period clocks, like this Turret (Table) timepiece is an example of the earliest mechanical clocks ever made that could go inside the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mention the Renaissance, and most people envision the revival of Classical literature and art after the dark days of the Medieval, or Middle Ages. But did you know that some of the world’s most important conveniences were invented during this period of cultural rebirth? The printing press, the match, and even the flush toilet are just a few of those pivotal creations. One invention, however, not only filled a need in society, but also provided us with some of the most stunning mechanical works of art ever made…the clock.

The clock is perhaps one of the most important inventions of the Renaissance. Before this, time was kept via sundials, which are actually quite accurate within a minute or so. Of course, that is dependent on the sun shining, making it impossible to tell time on overcast days or at night. In the Mid- and Far East, the water clock was quite popular, and worked on a concept of water displacement, with a particular amount of displaced water indicating a specific amount of time. These eventually found their way to Europe, where they were used until the end of the 13th century. Though accurate, these elaborate mechanisms depended on an individual constantly monitoring the mechanism day and night.

The first known example that resembles what we think of as a clock was built in the town of Dunstable, in Bedfordshire, England in 1283. Known as a turret clock, these mechanisms were large, weight driven devices that were placed in tall building towers, or turrets, in the center of town. They lacked faces or hands, and simply struck the hours for all to hear.

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Crafted by Prague clockmaker Andreas Glenck, this rare and important horizontal table clock dates to the late Renaissance and has the ability to strike on the hour and quarter hour. This variety of square-form clock is one of the first spring-driven timepieces used within the household.

Soon, the desire to make clocks smaller, more portable and user friendly spurred the creation of the spring-driven clock in the 1400s. This not only allowed timekeeping to be brought in the home, but it also gave artisans the chance to showcase their technical and artistic talents.

This incredible Renaissance Turret (Table) Clock displays impeccable artistry inside and out. It’s firegilt brass case is enveloped in exquisite engravings paying homage to the Liberal Arts, while the gut/fuseé movement with verge escapement allows the timepiece to strike on the hour. As you can tell, the form of the clock resembles the building turrets of its giant predecessor, and indicates only the hour using a single iron hand. Mechanical innovations allowed these clocks to become more complex, and accurate. This later 17th Century Turret Clock still has the single hand, but has the addition of an alarm and striking on the hour and quarter hour.

Considered both a scientific marvel and an item of luxury during the period, Renaissance clocks are the embodiment of mankind’s rebirth and acknowledgement of his place in the world. Found mainly in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including the Frick Collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Renaissance clocks of this condition and quality are extremely rare and truly timeless treasures.

On The World Stage: Sèvres World’s Fair Vases

June 10th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

 

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The quality and scale of these stunning Sèves porcelain vases denotes their creation for the 1900 World’s Fair. A motif of sensuous swans executed in a style illustrating the influences of the Art Nouveau and Japonisme surrounds each magnificent vase. Each bears the signature of Sèvres artist Horace Bieuville, and dated 1900 and 1899, respectively.

 

Beginning in the mid-19th century, the universal showcase for the world’s greatest artisans and craftsmen to unveil trend-setting techniques, styles and ideas were the International Exhibitions. The legendary Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory saw the perfect opportunity to illustrate their mastery of the Art Nouveau aesthetic through these Monumental Swan Vases at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair.

Designed by Sèvres artist Horace Bieuville, these exquisite vases were created to draw attention to the shift in European decorative art ideals at the turn of the 20th century, which focused upon Art Nouveau and Japonisme influences. Measuring nearly four-feet in height, each grand vessel is enveloped with a stylized organic motif of graceful swans gliding through a lotus pond. The muted tree line in the background draws the viewer into the scene, giving the water fowl both focus and depth.

Known today as “World’s Fairs”, the International Exhibitions provided artists like Bieuville the opportunity to create the most beautiful and innovative pieces to display to an international audience, which often included royalty and celebrities from around the world. For well-established firms such as Sèvres, the events served to solidify their status as trend-setters by proving they were on the cutting-edge of technique and design.

Based on their sheer size and masterful craftsmanship, it is certain that these vases were created specifically for the Exhibition. Since the Exhibition that year was held in the firm’s own country, it served as the perfect opportunity to present the epitome of French porcelain to the world.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of rare antique porcelain, click here.

 

The Name Says it All: The Augustus III Clock by Jean-Pierre Latz

May 1st, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau
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The Augustus III Clock by Jean-Pierre Latz, circa 1745, stands nearly nine-feet high. The original mercury-gilded bronze envelopes the entire clock and is rendered in a stunning hunting motif.

 

Few things in the fine art and antiques world get the heart racing quite like provenance. Imagine touching an object that once belonged to a king, or even a celebrity. Now imagine the thrill of actually owning that precious object! Important maker, rarity and quality are immensely important, but when you have a fantastic provenance, you have something truly special–a tangible piece of history.

Created for King Augustus III of Saxony and Poland by the great French ébéniste Jean-Pierre Latz, this astonishing clock is arguably one of the greatest and most important French timepieces to ever come on the market.

Considered among the premier ébénistes of the 18th century, Latz counted numerous members of royalty throughout Europe as patrons. His incredible creations can be found in world’s most prestigious museums and collections, including the J. Paul Getty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Royal Collection Trust and the Staaliche Kunstammlungen Museums in Germany.

According to articles and documentation authored by former Cleveland Museum of Art Curator Henry H. Hawley, the renowned authority on Latz’s work, this clock bears all of the hallmark traits of the famed ébéniste’s workmanship and was almost certainly created for Augustus III. The tremendous quality of this timepiece and its slightly later base are identical to the Latz clock held in the former King’s residence, Schloss Moritzburg. This indicates that our Latz clock was made for the King and is the pair to the Mortizburg timepiece. The King was an important art collector and a great patron of the arts. According to Hawley, the ébéniste often referenced in official documents Augustus III’s personal agent in Paris, Monsieur Leleu.

The clock and its matching pedestal are masterfully crafted of ebony and enveloped in the most spectacular polychrome Boulle marquetry comprising mother-of-pearl and dyed horn inlaid into golden brass of the absolute highest order. Stunning, original mercury-gilded bronze mounts of exceptional quality adorn the pedestal and the clock. The design of both the bronze and marquetry highlights the theme of hunting. The goddess Diana, with bow and arrow drawn, tops this majestic timepiece, while stags support the clock atop the pedestal, and images of boar heads flank either side.

Owned by one of the most powerful men in the world, and handcrafted by one of the greatest ébénistes of the 18th century, this clock is a profound work of art of incredible historical importance.

Melodious Mechanical Marvels: Antique Music Boxes

April 11th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

Arburo Orchestrion Organ by Bursens and Roels

This Arburo Orchestrion revolutionized the automated music industry by utilizing stand-alone instruments in its ingenious mechanism. Each was special ordered and made entirely by hand.

Music has the ability to uplift, convey strong emotions and bring people from all walks of life closer together. The desire for reproducing and sharing this powerful art form is as old as music itself. Long before MP3s and CDs made their impact on the world, craftsmen sought to make music not only portable, but also accessible to a broader audience. It wasn’t until the invention of the music box did that idea become a reality.

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A case and original matching table crafted of stunning
burl walnut distinguishes this rare Swiss Sublime Harmonie music box.

The first historical record of a mechanical music device dates to 9th century Iraq with the creation of a water-powered organ that played cylinders outfitted with tiny pins that corresponded to particular notes on the organ. It is this very cylinder design that was used in music boxes through the 19th century. The next innovations were pioneered by clock and watchmakers in the 18th century, who designed stunning snuff boxes, known as carillons à musique, with diminutive cylinder mechanisms that plucked the teeth of a metal comb to play a delightful tune while holding one’s favorite tobacco blend. This beautiful Swiss Musical Snuff Box is a fine example, demonstrating outstanding mechanical ingenuity with superior craftsmanship.

Cabinet-makers began making their contributions in the 19th century with the creation of elaborate table-top versions of the music box. Some, like this Swiss Ouverture Cylinder Music Box by B.A. Bremond featured superior-quality mechanisms encased in handsome wood boxes adorned with intricate inlays. More elaborate examples, such as the Sublime Harmonie Music Box not only came with their own beautifully crafted tables, but more complex mechanisms that incorporated bells, drums and castanets to create depth and richness in their sound.

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This brilliant Ouverture cylinder music box by B. A. Bremond of Geneva, Switzerland is capable of playing an entire overture, which is twice as long as other music boxes of its time.

The invention of the phonograph by Thomas Eddison and World War I had a dramatic impact on the music box industry, with many companies either going out of business, or converting their businesses to making watches and other mechanical devices. Other companies, like Arburo of Belgium, made innovations well into the mid-20th century. This remarkable Arburo Orchestrion Organ by Bursens and Roels uses a paper roll and a bellows to play stand-alone instruments, including drums, triangle and an accordion, which are integrated in the mechanism. Such incredible mechanical instruments had the ability to produce music once only possible by a full band, and were a common feature in dancehalls and cafés throughout Belgium and the Netherlands.

From grand mechanisms that replaced an entire orchestra to miniature instruments that fit in your pocket, the world of music boxes is as varied as the collectors who treasure them.

To learn more about music boxes and to see M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of these mechanical wonders, click here.

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