Archive for the 'Antiques' Category

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

May 1st, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau
LatzClock

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.

29-2795MusicBox

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.

28-8853MusicBox

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.

What Antique Beer Tankards Tell Us About Ancient Monarchs

March 5th, 2014 | posted by Ryan Clark

The worldwide fascination with antiques lies not just in their impressive age, but in the way that centuries ago, people used these prized objects much in the same way that we might today – say, for example, with an exquisite antique beer tankard. From the extravagant palaces of colonial-era Europe to the majestic estates of imperial China, wealthy individuals commissioned the creation of truly luxurious tankards so that they could – to put it succinctly – drink in style. While the function of these antiques is something that most people could relate to, the expert artistry and skill used in their design and construction is probably not. Let’s take a look at some of the most beautiful antique beer tankards we’ve ever stocked and, along the way, gain an increased appreciation for the artistic, aesthetic, and historical lessons they can teach us:

Large Chinese Export Silver Tankard

This mid-19th century silver tankard made by Lee Ching of Canton, Shanghai and Hong Kong was made specifically for export, with a wealthy Western buyer in mind. The high-quality repoussé work reveals an exciting battle scene, while the handle’s vibrant dragon sculpture evokes Chinese symbolism of good luck and strength. Price: $9,850

German Ivory Miniature Tankard

While the first German ivory sculptures date back to well over a thousand years ago, the ivory trade to Germany was cut off during Ottoman rule in Northern Africa and the art form subsequently went into decline there. In the late 15th century, when the Portguese re-established reliable trade routes to sub-Saharan Africa, ivory began flowing back into central Europe and the famous wood carving artisans of Odenwald subsequently adapted their meticulous skills to ivory. This specialized artistic tradition grew throughout Germany for centuries, yielding such marvellous works as this 4.75-inch-high miniature tankard with a silver plate vessel. Price: $8,850 (SOLD)

Chinese Garden Export Silver Tankard

This double-skinned silver presentation tankard was built for export by Cutching of Canton in the mid-19th century. Its exterior repoussé shows a peaceful garden scene complete with animals, old men, trees, and a sky filled with wispy clouds. Just like the aforementioned Lee Ching tankard, this piece features a powerful looking dragon handle. Price: $14,850

Hester Bateman George III Silver Tankard

Made by Hester Bateman, who is widely regarded as the 18th century’s top female silversmith, this sterling silver tankard harkens back to the golden age – or should we say silver age – of European royal families. The engraved crest on the exterior of this tankard is both immaculate in its detail as well as regal in its design. The hallmark is dated 1787, placing it just before the French Revolution. Price: $14,850

Ivory Artemis and Actaeon Tankard

Carved entirely out of ivory, this 6 3/4″ x 12 1/8″ tankard from the mid-19th century boasts a degree of detail and craftsmanship that is truly wondrous to behold. It tells the ancient Greek myth of Artemis and Actaeon, with the goddess Artemis represented in the nude on the lid, and Actaeon shown in fine detail on the frieze itself. The myth involves the hunter Actaeon stumbling across the goddess Artemis bathing in the forest, whereupon Artemis – outraged that a mortal man had see her nude body – turns him into a stag, at which point he is eaten by his own dogs. Price:$34,500 (SOLD)

German Ivory Tankard, Kings of Poland

Crafted circa 1850, this German ivory tankard pays homage to the 16th and 17th century Polish monarchs Sigismund I, Sigismund II Augustus, Stefan Báthory, and Sigismund III. A national symbol, in the form of the Polish white eagle, stands guard atop the  silver plate vessel and is itself immaculately carved out of ivory. At 12.5″ in height, this antique beer tankard is a large, well-preserved testament to the refined tastes and sensibilities of the 19th century European nobility. Price: $38,500 (SOLD)

Luxurious Lighting

January 25th, 2014 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter
Regency Cut Glass & Ormolu Candelabra

Regency Cut Glass & Ormolu Candelabra

Before electricity flooded interiors with on-demand lighting, the rhythm of life was dictated by natural light.  While, of course, illumination by flame (whether fueled by oil, tallow, or any manner of other substances) has existed for millennia, its use could often be curtailed by means and access.  Today the singular dance of a flame, and the play of its glow against nearby objects, is a special presence that is too often absent from modern life.  No matter what your taste may be, we have a number of precious items to help you bring back the romance of candlelight.

In the pre-electricity days of lighting design, craftsmen were conscious to maximize light in any way they could.  This was achieved through the use of reflective materials such as glass, crystal, or polished metals.  Dripping with cut glass, these candelabra would be an ideal way to scatter slivers of light around a room.  Maximum light and maximum drama, this 1815 pair attributed to John Blades are the height of Regency elegance.

18th Century Rock Crystal Chandelier

18th Century Rock Crystal Chandelier

While many fixtures have been converted for electricity, some still maintain their bygone allure.  Infinitely more practical than raising and lowering the chandelier every time you need to make a lighting adjustment, this electrified chandelier boasts rock crystal adornments.  The natural mineral characteristics inherent to rock crystal help divert light in novel ways, not unlike candlelight.

Lighting is everything.  To highlight a favorite painting or to set the tone of an evening, your home should have the very best.  I encourage you to look around our gallery and our website for your next candelabra, chandelier, sconce, or lamp.

Time for Tea! Exquisite Tea Caddies

January 17th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

This extraordinary pair of George III period tea caddies are enveloped in ivory, with tortoiseshell and sterling silver trim and mounts. Circa 1790.

No other practice evokes British sophistication and elegance quite like the drinking of tea. It is hard to believe that this now-common beverage was once an incredibly expensive commodity that could only be enjoyed by nobility and the social elite. These connoisseurs would soon demand elaborate and luxurious accoutrements to store and prepare this prized drink.

Tea was introduced to England from China sometime in the middle of the 17th century. It is believed that it was Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, who was responsible for bringing the tea habit to the country around 1660. The practice gained momentum and became an en vogue activity by the 18th century. The country’s respect for this drink is reflected in the ceremonial way in which it was stored, prepared, and drunk, and craftsmen of the period soon discovered a new avenue in which to exercise their skills–the creation of beautiful tea caddies.

29-949729-1941The rarest tea caddies were crafted of the most costly materials of the era, boasting stunning veneers of tortoiseshell and ivory, often with sterling silver mounts. This George III tea caddy is enveloped entirely in tortoiseshell, with ivory and silver detailing of exceptional quality. With its unique decagon shape, this caddy contains two interior compartments for holding different types of tea leaves. Tea connoisseurship developed into something of an art form, and accordingly, more than one type of tea was necessary for refined palettes. Double chests such as this could hold two types of leaves, usually one green and one black variety that could be custom-blended to achieve the desired flavor. Incredibly rare indeed, this original pair of George III ivory tea caddies are encased in creamy white ivory, highlighted by tortoiseshell veneers and silver accents.

Beloved for its flavorful, exotic, and even medicinal qualities, few would have guessed that the importation of a simple plant would have give rise to over two centuries of culture and decorative art.

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