Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

Woven Masterpieces: Aubusson Tapestries

November 3rd, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau
30-2443_1

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.

28-7196_1

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.

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

June 21st, 2014 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
30-1668_1

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.

30-1668_3

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
30-1662RenClock

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.

30-1655renaissanceclock

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

 

SevresVases

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.

 

Next »