Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

Continental Inspirations: The Furniture of William and Mary

May 25th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau
William and Mary Bureau

The precision afforded to these creations make them as much a work of art as a functional piece of furniture.

William and Mary Oysterwood Chest

Oysterwood veneers, parquetry and bun feet distinguish this William and Mary period chest.


When the Dutch William III and his wife Mary II overthrew King James II in the 1688 Glorious Revolution, their victory signaled not only the end to the tensions that existed between the British Crown and Parliament, but also the beginning of a new era of decorative arts. William’s Protestant beliefs opened the door for Dutch, Flemish and French craftsmen to settle in England. These gifted artisans began to work with local cabinetmakers to incorporate their techniques and decorative forms to create a distinctive style of furniture known as William and Mary.

Though the reign of William and Mary lasted only 13 years from 1689-1702, the furnishings created during this period are unlike any before or since. Characterized by the use of rare woods, dramatic veneers and inlays, and bold carved elements, William and Mary furnishings represented a more refined way of living, replacing cumbersome, over-the-top pieces of furniture from the previous decades.

William and Mary Bureau

Elaborate marquetry envelopes this large William and Mary bureau cabinet

A shining example is this stunning Oysterwood Chest. Thin slices of walnut and olive are precisely placed in a painstaking process to form a distinctive parquetry pattern that resembles oyster shells. The bun feet are also hallmarks of William and Mary-era furniture. As taste changed, it was not uncommon for square brackets to replace the original bun feet, making this chest even more desirable. Remarkable foliate inlay envelops this stunning Marquetry Bureau, effectively illustrating the bourgeoning taste of the period to blend form and function. When in use, this cabinet’s fitted interior and leather-lined writing surface make it an optimal workspace, while the exotic inlay and veneering make this furnishing a true work of art.

The reign of William and Mary was undoubtedly a turning point in the realms of politics and the arts. Their adoption of the English Bill of Rights ushered in an era of political freedoms that would even influence the American cause for independence, and their employment of talented artists from throughout the Continent introduced a new layer of refinement and elegance to the decorative arts. Today the furnishings from this period are extremely rare and highly collectible, and examples that demonstrate extreme care over the centuries are especially desirable.

To see M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of William and Mary furnishings, click here.

King of Glass, Glass of Kings

February 26th, 2015 | posted by Danielle Halikias
This captivating Moser water pitcher exhibits the exceptional "Amberina "ombre coloring.

This captivating Moser water pitcher exhibits the exceptional “Amberina “ombre coloring.

The unassuming, yet highly visited, spa town of Karlovy Vary sits in the western Czech Republic and holds one of the most influential and significant glass manufacturing companies in Europe. Although with humble beginnings, Ludwig Moser’s 19th century shop transformed from a simple polishing and engraving shop to an internationally known and highly regarded class manufacturer. Employing over 400 people and winning awards at multiple international festivals, Ludwig Moser’s shop became a sensation by the turn of the century. Luxurious drinking glasses, glistening vase, and brightly colored glass art pieces were staples to his name and brought enormous attention from courtiers, royalty, and important politicians. Moser quickly became immediately associated with magnificent decorative glass and the pieces themselves became one of the most collected items in the 20th century.

Formed in a classical urn shape in Moser's signature ruby glass, this vase is certainly one of Moser's rarest and most outstanding pieces.

Formed in a classical urn shape in Moser’s signature ruby glass, this vase is certainly one of Moser’s rarest and most outstanding pieces.

While catering to Austro-Hungarian royalty and creating personalized pieces for figures such as Edward VII, Moser was also making strides in new methods of creating decorative glass. With the help of the most prestigious designers, Moser swapped out plain clear glass for full colored glass in foliate or floral designs. As in this Moser Amberina Glass Pitcher, a colorful spectrum of design added uniqueness and life to his pieces. An exceptional amber ombre color covers the magnificent pitcher and is adorned with hand painted natural designs: nearly mystically colored oak leaves, low relief molded acorns, and life-like insects. The long neck of the pitcher terminates in a delicate, smooth pouring spout.

Continuing to create magnificent glass pieces, Moser also actively took part in International Festivals and Expositions in order to show case his best pieces. By exhibiting in London, Vienna, Belgium, and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Moser expanded his 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 demonstrates Moser’s signature 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 calls gracious attention to itself in its all-over ornate and lavish design that allow peeks of the outstanding ruby base to reveal itself and sophisticated shape.

By using different colored glass for his decorative objects, Moser was able to achieve pieces so unique that they were immediately recognizable amongst any

This delightful amber glass coffee pot is a wonderful example of the incredible enamelwork of the legendary Moser glassmakers.

This delightful amber glass coffee pot is a wonderful example of the incredible enamelwork of the legendary Moser glassmakers.

other decorative glass piece. This amber glass coffee pot demonstrates the immense talent that Moser crafters possessed in enamel work. The entire body of this three rounded section pot boasts incredibly detailed foliate and floral design. Alluring purples, whites, rich golds, and teals adorn this piece, creating intricate flowers and scrolling vines that leave the viewer’s eye dazzled. Topping the pot is a mystically carved glass turkey that finishes the extravagant, yet refined, piece.

All in such incredible shape, Moser pieces such as these are rare and incredibly special. More importantly, these pieces demonstrate the advanced and remarkable talent that Moser craftsman possessed. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Ludwig Moser’s son, Leo, took over the workshop and continued to expand its market, talent, and extraordinary reputation.

A Monumental Classic in a Small Case – Granddaughter Clocks

January 21st, 2015 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter
The mahogany body is slender and understated.

The mahogany body is slender and understated.

The grandfather clock has long been considered a grand and important element of any beautiful interior. These longcase clocks stand on the floor and exude monumental prowess over any room. Typically, a wooden encasing of any variation of decoration encloses the clock and movements of the pendulum. Appearing in 1656, scientific innovations allowed for findings of the time-keeping properties of the pendulum. However, the term “grandfather clock” did not appear until much later, 1875.

While grandfather clocks, the largest and tallest type of longcase clocks, are frequently used and most often referenced, there are other types of longcase clocks. Few know of these other stunning and prominent types, in particular, the Granddaughter clock.

The inscription “Tempus Fugit” adorns the metal face, and a motif of flowers and foliage completes the etched design.

The inscription “Tempus Fugit” adorns the metal face, and a motif of flowers and foliage completes the etched design.

The granddaughter clock is known by its petite stature and delicate decoration. Charming in appearance, the granddaughter type clock is usually between three and five feet. This vastly differs with the colossal size of the grandfather clock, which can reach nearly eight feet. Not developed until the 1930’s, the granddaughter clock perfectly embodies a delicate, elegant style and would be the impeccable addition to any parlor.

In the MS Rau Gallery, the Mahogany Granddaughter Clock features a slender case that incorporates classical styling and detailing. The frieze features a fabulous scrolling design, the casing is decorated by carved classical columns, and beautiful fluting bring all the elements together. The beautiful mahogany creates a splendid aesthetic that speaks to value and beauty. The metal face features the inscription “Tempus Fugit” that is adorned by delicate floral and foliage motifs. Crafted in the last decade of the nineteenth century, this piece speaks to the splendor of English craftsmanship and artistry. It is an endearing 43 inches and a pure example of a magnificent granddaughter clock.

This magnificent piece is one of the many examples of beautiful granddaughter clocks that flourished in the late 19th century. Small, yet striking, these elegant pieces would complete any setting.

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.

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