Archive for the 'M.S. Rau Blog' Category

The Forgotten Virtuoso: Blanche Hoschedé-Monet

January 17th, 2017 | posted by Bill Rau

Dans le Jardin à Sorel-Moussel by Blanche Hoschedé-Monet

With a glorious oeuvre that radiates with the influence of her mentor, step-father and father-in-law Claude Monet, Blanche Hoschedé-Monet’s canvases are amongst the most stunning Impressionist paintings ever composed. Even though, in many ways, her paintings are almost indistinguishable in beauty and technical prowess from the works of the Impressionist master, Hoschedé-Monet has only recently begun to receive her rightful recognition as a pivotal member of the Impressionist Movement.

Born into an affluent family in 1865, Hoschedé-Monet began painting at the age of 11, not as a pathway to a career, but as a pursuit intended to eventually make her a more well-rounded and therefore, more desirable, wife. Her father Ernest, a wealthy merchant, was a friend and great patron of Monet’s works, even acquiring Monet’s famed Impression, Sunrise (1872), the work that gave the Impressionist Movement its name. However, by 1878 the Hoschedé’s lost their fortune, and Monet invited his former patrons to live with his family. By 1880, Monet’s wife Camille succumbed to cancer, and Ernest had abandoned his family, leaving his wife Alice and six children to stay with Monet. Alice stepped in and took charge of caring for Monet’s two sons, Michel and Jean, along with her own children. In 1892, Claude and Alice would become husband and wife, with Blanche and Jean Monet marrying just five years later.

During this time, Monet took a great interest in Blanche’s desire to paint, and he immediately took the burgeoning artist on as his protégé. By the age of 17, Blanche was his only student, and the two became inseparable. Painting en plein air, the pair would rest their easels right next to each other, with Blanche closely following Monet’s advice and absorbing every nuance and bit of information at the hands of the master.

This kinship is beautifully reflected in Dans le Jardin à Sorel-Moussel (In the Garden at Sorel-Moussel), which depicts the home of Blanche’s brother-in-law, Michel Monet. The play of light through the lush foliage, and the use of such a brilliant color palette with short, purposeful brushstrokes has been described as “pure Impressionism.” Elevating the rarity and importance of the present work is that of the inclusion of figures, as she tended to shy away from portraiture. Of the three paintings of Michel’s home she composed in her career, this is the only one that features members of her family.

Blanche’s paintings were exhibited extensively at the Salon des Indépendants as well as the Salon de la Société des Artistes Rouennais throughout her career. Today, her works are coveted by museums throughout the world, and prized in a handful of private collections. Though her gorgeous paintings were greatly influenced by her mentor, it is clear that Blanche Hoschedé-Monet’s incredible canvases stand firm in their own right, holding true to the root of Impressionist ideals and more than deserve their place in the annals of art history.

To learn more about Blanche Hoschedé-Monet’s Dans le Jardin à Sorel-Moussel, click here.

Taming the Lion: A Renaissance Panel by Defendente Ferrari

January 3rd, 2017 | posted by Deborah Choate
This remarkably rare oil was composed by Italian Renaissance artist Defendente Ferrari

This remarkably rare oil was composed by Italian Renaissance artist Defendente Ferrari

The Artist

Defendente Ferrari, also called De Ferrari, was born in the Italian town of Chivasso, near Turin circa 1480/1485. Working within the School of Piedmont, he is known to have completed both monumental and small-scale commissions including altarpieces, triptychs, and singular panels (like St. Jerome illustrated here). The oeuvre of Ferrari is particularly interesting due to the artist’s ability to seamlessly mix cultural and artistic tastes in his work. For example, perhaps due to his location in Northern Italy, Ferrari’s compositions are heavily influenced by Flemish artists, most notably Rogier van der Weyden. The artist also tended to blend High Renaissance aesthetics with those of northern European Late Gothic art. This is most often visible in Ferrari’s use of luxurious gold leaf in combination with the exquisite detail and explosive colors only achievable in oil paint.

The Legend


The vividly hued work depicts the legend of Saint Jerome taming the lion

Most Medieval and Renaissance images rely on The Golden Legend, a 13th century text by Jacobus de Voragine, for descriptions of saints and their iconography. As recounted in The Golden Legend, Jerome was born in Dalmatia and moved to Rome in his teenage years. While in Rome, he became an exceptional scholar with a gift for languages. As a young man, Jerome developed a deadly fever and experienced his first vision—the judgement of God. During the vision, he was admonished by angels and harshly scolded for his enthusiasm for secular texts. He managed to escape death only by promising to devote himself to the study of the Holy Scripture from hence forth.


Ferrari is considered the greatest Piedmontese painter of the early 16th century

At the age of 29, Jerome became an ordained cardinal priest of the church of Rome and a valued adviser to the Pope. Not long after, he traveled to the Middle East where he spent four years in the desert praying and fasting in order curb his temptations and to achieve a hallowed lifestyle. Jerome subsequently moved to Bethlehem, founded several monasteries there, and completed his translation of the Bible into Latin—one of the feats for which he is best known. On a certain day in Bethlehem, a lion entered the monastery and interrupted a biblical lesson. Every monk fled in fear, except for Jerome who recognized that the animal was injured. Inspecting the lion, he found and removed a thorn from the lion’s paw. From that day forward, the lion lived at the monastery doing chores and guarding the monastic donkey. So indebted was the lion to Jerome that today, the lion serves as St. Jerome’s primary attribute.

The Panel

The beautiful panel St. Jerome by Defendente Ferrari shows the saint clothed in the traditional robes and flat-top hat of a cardinal. The saint’s massive form fills the foreground, and the vibrant red of his garb creates a stunning contrast with the panel’s gold, geometric background. Although St. Jerome is most often depicted at a desk fully engaged in scholarly activity, here, Ferrari has chosen to depict the saint in the act of removing a thorn from the docile lion’s paw.

Lavish, vibrant, and in excellent condition (especially considering that the painting is over 500 years old), the panel St. Jerome by Defendente Ferrari is undoubtedly one of the most desirable High Renaissance works available in today’s market.

Our Top Acquisitions of 2016

December 30th, 2016 | posted by Bill Rau

From Renaissance-era paintings to silver teacups owned by Abraham Lincoln, 2016 has been full of exceptionally rare, exciting acquisitions! With 2017 quickly approaching, we’ve sifted through our 753 purchases of the past year and chosen 5 of our most powerful pieces.

#1       Au Large by Claude Monet

With the luminosity and spontaneity of Monet’s most-beloved masterpieces, Au Large, or Open Sea, is a pivotal work by the Impressionist master Claude Monet. The highly important pastel reveals the legendary artist’s lifelong fascination with atmosphere, as sailboats move quietly across the horizon and light dances across turquoise waters.


#2      The Robin Hood Clock by Gerrard Robinson

This remarkable musical tall case clock is hand-carved of English oak and stands at an astonishing 11 1/2 feet high by 5 feet wide! The intricate carvings that cover the colossal timepiece depict the 14-century folktale Robin Hood and prominently feature the legendary characters Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck.

#3      Fancy Intense Yellow Diamond Ring 

Weighing an astonishing 21.30 carats, this rare gemstone displays exceptional brilliance. The diamond has been certified by the Gemological Institute of America as “Natural Fancy Intense Yellow” and boasts a VS2 clarity grade, meaning its beauty is virtually unmarred to the naked eye.


#4       Portrait of an Arab Mare and her Foal by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer

Portrait of an Arab Mare and her Foal is an important oil on canvas by one of the greatest animaliers of all time, Sir Edwin Henry Landseer. Depicting one of his favorite motifs, this work was a royal commission by Princess Charlotte, daughter of King George III, and was later exhibited at the Royal Academy.


#5       Wedgwood First Edition Numbered Copy of the Portland Vase

Considered one of the greatest ceramic pieces of the 18th century, this First Edition Portland Vase was crafted by the hand of Josiah Wedgwood. This version, numbered 22 inside its rim, is the last known example still in private hands, and it was originally made for and owned by the Dowager Duchess of Beaufort.



Gemstone of a Generation: A Brief Hisory of the Tanzanite

December 15th, 2016 | posted by Robert Boese

“Many moons ago, when lightning struck a tree, a fire ravaged the Savannah. The rocks in its path were heated up until they glowed white and turned radiant purple. The native people – the Maasai – marveled at the sight. Years later, these miraculously mauve gems were named “Tanzanite.”

                                                                                                                David Brodbeck, Tanzanite: Born from Lightning


Touted as “the most beautiful blue gem discovery in 2000 years” the Tanzanite can only be mined in one place: the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro

The remote region of Tanzania in East Africa might not seem like much at first. It’s barren land unassuming and remote. However, there rests a spirit in this place, possibly familiar to those who have read Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, that holds one of the world’s best kept secrets: a buried treasure of sorts, a gemstone jackpot. In the deep, dry foothills of this mystifying region under the towering and stunning snow cap of Mt. Kilimanjaro, there exists the only known mining region for one of the most beautiful gemstones: Tanzanite.

The discovery of Tanzanite is a relatively new one in the world of gemstones. In 1967, nearly 50 years ago, a Maasai tribesman accidentally happened upon a cluster of highly transparent, intense blue crystals weathering out of the earth while herding his cattle. Initially believing he’d stumbled upon a large deposit of blue sapphires, he frantically filled his pockets with the heavy weight of the luminous jewels. Instinctively thinking that these stones would bring his fellow tribesman eternal luck, the tribesman was unaware as to the significant importance of what he had unearthed.


Untreated Tanzanite stones, like this 22-carat ring, are a rarity and are the epitome of style and glamour

Upon further gemological inspection by local stonecutter Manuel de Souza, it was concluded that an entirely new species of gemstone had been found. Indeed, no one had ever laid eyes on this mineral before. The gemstone market, consequently, was poised for its greatest discovery in 2000 years.

Not long after, the relatively covert and unseen Tanzanite gemstone arrived, by way of gemologist Campbell Bridges, into the prestigious office of renowned New York Jeweler, Tiffany & Co. When Bridges unveiled the striking violet-blue brilliance of this unknown stone to Tiffany’s wide-eyed vice president Henry B. Platt, the infatuation was instantaneous. Working hand in hand, Platt and Bridges were instrumental in the promotion and elevation of the new gemstone, positioning Tiffany as the first jeweler to bring this dazzling stone onto the world stage. In fact, it was Platt who named the gemstone! In 1968, recognizing its potential, Platt christened this new gemstone “Tanzanite,” after its country of origin.


“Tanzania to Tiffany’s” Original Tiffany’s advertisment from 1969 proudly promoting the new Tanzanite gemstone

Consequently, this stone took the world by storm. Advertisements by Tiffany proliferated, cleverly and proudly touting that the new gemstone could only be found in two places, “in Tanzania and at Tiffany’s,” lamenting it as “the most beautiful blue stone to be discovered in nearly 2000 years.” To no surprise, Tanzanite became one of Tiffany’s best sellers.

The rarity of this jewel is perhaps often too undervalued. Unlike other gems, Tanzanite has but one source: the mines at the foothills of Tanzania. There is nowhere else in this world other than this compact “band-aid” strip of land, 4 kilometers wide and 2 kilometers long to be exact, that a Tanzanite can be mined. In fact, experts agree that the chances of Tanzanite being found anywhere else in the world are less than one in a million, making this gemstone a thousand times rarer than diamonds. At the current rate of mine, it is estimated that the mines will be depleted within the next 25 years.

Undeniably, the discovery of the Tanzanite was a turning point in the gemstone market. In recognition to its popularity, Tanzanite was declared the world’s most popular colored gemstone in both 1998 and 1999, and was named as one of December’s birthstones in 2002. Celebrating births and new beginnings, demand for this gemstone has continued to grow. In recent years, the exceptional color and rarity has become harder and harder to resist. It’s managed to capture the imagination of jewelry designers and collectors who have fallen in love with its mesmerizing color, fascinating origin, and captivating brilliance.

Collecting the Brueghel Dynasty: Burgeoning Excitement Surrounds Pieter Brueghel the Younger

December 6th, 2016 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

A palpable excitement is building around Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Celebrated as a faithful copyist of his father’s most popular compositions and a remarkable painter is his own right, collectors are scrambling to acquire works by the rediscovered master.


“The Payment of Tithe” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Oil on panel, c. 1616

The Life of the Artist

Born in Brussels in 1564/5, Pieter Brueghel the Younger was the eldest son of the famous Netherlandish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He is sometimes called Pieter Brueghel II or “Hell Brueghel,” a nickname attached to the artist because of the ghoulish, gruesome scenes once thought to have been painted by him (they have since been reattributed to his younger brother Jan Brueghel the Elder). Left fatherless at the age of 5 and orphaned by his teenage years, Pieter Brueghel the Younger most likely received early artistic training from his maternal grandmother, a talented watercolorist and painter of miniatures. In 1585/6, Pieter Brueghel the Younger was made a free master in the Guild of St. Luke in Antwerp, a promotion that allowed the artist to run his own workshop. It is from this workshop that Pieter Brueghel the Younger supplied both the local and export markets with paintings of popular genre scenes, most often completed in oil on panel.

The Payment of Tithe

The artistic career of Pieter Brueghel the Younger may easily be divided into two periods: until approximately 1614, the artist almost exclusively reproduced his father’s best works while from approximately 1615 onward, he painted his own original compositions. One such original composition is The Payment of Tithe (also known as The Country Lawyer). The subject must have been very popular because there are twenty-one signed and dated extant paintings of this composition, in addition to several more unsigned versions. Of these, there are two sizes: the large versions measure 74

One of 21 known signed copies, this particular piece is one of the largest and very best

One of 21 known signed copies, this particular piece is one of the largest and very best

x 125 cm while the smaller versions measure 55 x 89 cm. The Payment of Tithe depicts a crowded, cluttered interior as seen from the high, tilted perspective typical of both Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his father. In the scene, uncomfortable Flemish peasants cower as they bring forward meager gifts to the taxman (or lawyer) seated at the table. The “enthroned” authority, a caricature of King Charles V of Spain, shows visible disdain.

When comparing the c.1616 The Payment of Tithe illustrated here with others of the same composition, including those housed in world-renowned museums, it becomes clear that this particular version far surpasses every other. With its precise detail, large scale, and luminous colors, it is almost certain that this painting was a special commission from a very wealthy client—one who insisted on having the absolute best of the best. It comes as no surprise that Klaus Ertz, the world’s foremost Pieter Brueghel the Younger scholar, writes in the painting’s letter of authenticity, “It is one of the best versions of this subject matter by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, which he painted after 1616 in Antwerp.”

Burgeoning Excitement 


Signed “P Breughel” (lower left)

Because Pieter Bruegel the Elder died at the age of 45, leaving behind only 45 known works, it is highly unlikely that one of his oil on panel paintings ever becomes available on the open market again. In fact, a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder was discovered approximately 10 years ago, and it was immediately whisked into the permanent collection of the Prado in Madrid. Therefore, art collectors are now acquiring the second generation of the “Brueghel dynasty,” Pieter Brueghel the Younger. In fact, no less than four works by the artist will be available at auction this very week, and auction powerhouse Christie’s has chosen to spotlight Pieter Brueghel the Younger ahead of their Old Masters Evening Sale.

Painted by the Old Master Pieter Brueghel the Younger, world-renowned for his mastery of oil paint, use of vibrant color, and satirical depictions of contemporary Netherlandish life, The Payment of Tithe would be an ideal addition to any fine art collection.

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