Archive for the 'Fine Art' Category

Serpents & the Sea

November 15th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate

Bursting with the boundless power of Mother Nature, the ocean has been the subject of some of the most evocative pieces in art history.  In considering that economies and lives have been made and ended on the ocean it is easy to understand the fascination it holds, besides its purely aesthetic value.  This role of the ocean in our collective psyche has given birth to countless myths and legends.  Of course some of the most lasting and beloved myths in Western culture have been handed down to us from the Greeks and the Romans.  Poseidon to the Greeks and Neptune to the Romans, this God of the seas plays muse to several dynamic pieces here in the gallery.Sacred to Neptune Ewers

These amazing vessels are crafted in the famed “Sacred to Neptune” design created by renowned artist John Flaxman in 1775. Featuring finely modeled figures of tritons serving as the handles, as well as dolphin masks and swags of cattail plants, the treasures are laden with aquatic symbolism.  The acclaim of this design exemplifying the love of ancient Greco-Roman styles shared between England and France.   This exceptional design is most often found in pottery form, as the renowned maker Wedgwood produced it in both black basalt and jasperware. It was also beautifully realized in silver by the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. However, bronze versions of this neoclassical masterpiece are exceptionally rare, with French examples being even rarer.

30-0977_1Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t share this fantastic work of art we recently acquired when discussing Neptune.  While the dark waters represented here are those off the shore of Hendaye Beach in France, this piece is a phenomenal reminder of the awe-inspiring powers of the sea.  Painted by Hippolyte Pradelles, tumultuous waves and a steel grey sky painted with bravura brushstrokes combine here to create a work with an incredible presence.

This sculpture is a replica of arguably the most famed sculpture ever created.  In fact, Michelangelo referred to the original as “The greatest piece of art in the world”.  This is the fantastic marble sculpture thatLaocoon tells of the death of Laocoön and his sons when the Goddess Minerva sends serpents from the sea to silence them forever.  Their deaths were byproducts of the famed Trojan War; it was Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who was not swayed by the Greek’s offering of a large wooden horse. He started to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.  According to Virgil, the God Minerva, anxious to protect her Greeks, immediately sent two sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his twin sons before they could warn more Trojans of this deception.

The sea, its symbols, myths, and bounty figure prominently in all three of these pieces, to fabulous results.  Sinewy creatures and windswept seas are expertly executed in bronze, oil paint and marble.  If you find these items as captivating as I do, let’s talk soon to discuss how we can make them yours.

The Rumble Heard Around the World: Muhammad Ali Memorabilia

September 12th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau

“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was.” –Muhammad Ali

Gifted athlete. Magnetic personality. A true champion.

With a quick tongue and left jab to match, Muhammad Ali could dispose of an opponent even before stepping into the boxing ring. His uncanny ability to posture himself as “The People’s Champion” proved to be much more than trash-talk. With

An autographed photo of Ali announcing The Rumble in the Jungle match between he and George Foreman in 1974.

An autographed photo of Ali announcing The Rumble in the Jungle match between he and George Foreman in 1974.

a combination of superior hand speed and constant movement in the ring, Ali captivated audiences and won some of the most famed bouts in boxing history…effectively earning the originally self-imposed title of  “The Greatest of All Time.”

Ali continues to be regarded as the greatest heavyweight champion by sports commentators and historians. Artifacts from his career command considerable attention on the market, especially those involving legendary stand-offs such as the 1974 Heavyweight Championship match between Ali and George Foreman dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.” M.S. Rau Antiques was fortunate

enough to acquire several such pieces from the private collection of Henry “Hank” Schwartz, the boxing promoter and telecommunications expert responsible for these incredible matches.

“The Rumble in the Jungle” world heavyweight boxing match is considered the greatest sporting event of the 20th century. When the bout was announced, most analysts at the time believed Ali was no match for the younger and seemingly stronger Foreman, who had won 18 of his last 20 matches by knock out. Ali refused to give consideration to such speculation, often stating that

Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created this sketch of Ali training in Zaire for The Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship.

Sports artist LeRoy Neiman created this sketch of Ali training in Zaire for The Rumble in the Jungle World Heavyweight Championship.

Foreman was “too slow” and “too ugly” to beat him, nicknaming the reigning champ “The Mummy” for his solid stance in the ring, as opposed to Ali’s dancing and fast footwork. This great photograph was taken during the press conference in which Ali announced he was going up against Foreman to regain the title. Signed by Ali, this wonderful black and white image captures the unwavering confidence and charisma of this sports icon. That same focus can be seen in this stunning pencil sketch by renowned sports artist LeRoy Neiman. Completed during Ali’s training sessions in Zaire, Neiman captures the fighter’s  drive and grit to regain the heavyweight title against a perceived unstoppable opponent.

At the end of the day, Ali beat Foreman in the eighth round by a knock out. Over his illustrious 21-year career, this legendary boxer fought in 61 professional matches, defeating every top heavyweight of his time, winning 56 times with a total of 37 knock outs to his credit. Over three decades after his last bout, the name Muhammad Ali continues to inspire. His contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and guiding values of peace, respect and social responsibility have proved that he is a champion both in and out of the ring.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection Muhammad Ali memorabilia, click here.

The Mystery of Chiaroscuro

August 2nd, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

A mastery of light and composition distinguishes this outstanding painting by Petrus van Schendel

Petrus van Schendel is perhaps most famous for his nighttime market scenes which garnered substantial attention for his use of light and composition.  With their interesting contrast between light and dark, these scenes have a mysterious aura to them. The focal point of these nocturne paintings is the candle which subtly illuminates the entire scene and showcases an overall complex composition. The candle provides a small yet brilliant glow which reflects onto the subjects’ facial features, thus inviting the viewer to imagine their own storyline. Van Schendel’s nocturne paintings truly exemplify the 17th-century Dutch tradition of candlelit paintings and provide a glimpse into what life was like for the working class of the 17th century.

Van Schendel was born in the Netherlands in 1806 and began his art studies early on at the Antwerp Academy. As a student, his primary focus was to become a portrait painter. He started his career painting portraits of various subjects, including his renowned self-portrait. While his career as a portrait painter proved to be successful, these paintings do not compare to his later nocturne paintings which show an incredible level of detail and naturalism.

Upon finishing his studies at the Antwerp Academy, van Schendel began travelling throughout Europe, picking up various artistic styles along the way. He finally settled down in Brussels in 1845, where he began to perfect his nocturne paintings. Strongly influenced by the 17th century tradition of Dutch candlelit paintings, van Schendel mastered the technique of chiaroscuro, or the balance between light and dark. This technique allowed him to paint incredible nocturne masterpieces, such as the painting seen here.

First Steps To Greatness: An Early Rubens Masterpiece

June 14th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
This portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius by Peter Paul Rubens dates to his days as a student in Antwerp. It is a rare glimpse into the artist's early work, circa 1600.

This portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius by Peter Paul Rubens dates to his days as a student in Antwerp. It is a rare glimpse into the artist’s early work, circa 1600.

Emotional. Mesmerizing. Profound.

All of these words and more have been used over the centuries to describe the work of Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens. We’re all familiar with the spiritually charged, vibrant canvases that grace the collections of major museums throughout the world. Too seldom do art lovers get the chance to see a legendary artist’s early works–the true foundations of their genius. This painting, entitled The Emperor Marcus Aurelius provides this intriguing insight into the works of the Baroque master.

As was typical of the time, students in his extensive studio did the majority of Rubens’ paintings, with the finishing touches done by the artist himself. There are few paintings attributed 100% to Rubens, with only 10 known works done by Rubens’ own hand from his days as a student in Antwerp. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius is one of them.

This astonishing oil on panel was executed in the late 1590s during his studies with the distinguished Antwerp artist Otto van Veen, who had himself completed a series of the Roman Emperors. Rubens was intrigued by all things Roman, so it is not surprising then, that Rubens, in his attempts to learn his teacher’s techniques, would undertake the same series as his teacher. This particular portrait of the innovative emperor displays the precision and treatment of anatomy synonymous with Rubens’ entire oeuvre.

In 1600, Rubens’ pivotal trip to Italy would change the course of this painting. His exposure to artists including Titan and Tintoretto can be seen throughout his works from this point forward. His command of chiaroscuro, texture and expression evolve, forever establishing a uniquely “Rubens” feel to his paintings.

Adding to the importance of this fascinating portrait is a letter of authenticity by Professor Emeritus Julius Held of Columbia University, New York.

Rubens’ paintings are regarded amongst fine art scholars to be the greatest of the era. Works completed by his hand alone command the highest attention, not only because of their extreme rarity on the market, but because of the priceless historical understanding they offer into the mind of one of the greatest artists to have ever lived.

Lebasque in the Summer

May 31st, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
Lebasque embraces the techniques of the post-impressionists, the Nabi painters and the fauvists.

Lebasque embraces the techniques of the post-impressionists, the Nabi painters and the fauvists.

Summer is in full bloom here in New Orleans and has been for some time. As the temperature rises and the Creole tomatoes appear, our thoughts turn to the carefree days of vacation – maybe a quick trip to the Gulf Coast for a weekend or, if you’re lucky, a proper holiday to the south of France.  The vibrant feeling of summer days is captured perfectly in a painting we just acquired by the artist Henri Lebasque that depicts a mother and daughter in an intimate embrace looking out toward a vivid Mediterranean sea. Colorful and sentimental, this work embodies the myriad influences on Lebasque’s technique and the absolute beauty of coastal France.

Lebasque and his family first went to Saint-Tropez in 1904 at the invitation of fellow artist Henri Manguin, who had taken to painting there part of the year. By the 1900s Saint-Tropez had become well established as a destination for Parisians seeking sun and relaxation and had attracted a number of artists, including the post-impressionist painter Paul Signac. Under Signac’s influence Lebasque adopted the post-impressionist technique of dividing color into complementary tones which created greater tonal brilliance in his paintings.

Promenade a Saint-Tropez was painted a year before Lebasque’s first solo exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris and exactly one year after the famous Salon d’Automne show of 1905.  We can see some of the influence of fauvism in the present work with the artist’s use of juxtaposed color to suggest light and space as well as his bold, frenzied and passionate brushstrokes. The subject matter of domestic life in natural surroundings is quintessential Lebasque, a result of his time spent with the Nabi painters, Vuillard and Bonnard, and the contrasts of deep purple and mauve tones with brilliant greens recall the palette favored by his fauvist contemporaries, Matisse and Manguin.

Just about everyone who walks by this painting in our gallery has a strong reaction to its beauty. If you are in New Orleans, you simply must come by and see it in person. The dramatic brushstrokes and color will transport you to the magnificence of the Mediterranean in an instant. Click here to see more of M.S. Rau Antique’s fine art collection.

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