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

International Women’s Day, Martha Walter

March 7th, 2016 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

Joan of Arc. Anne Frank. Rosa Parks. Helen Keller. These extraordinary women are only a few from an endless list of influential, inspiring women who have changed the world for the better. Today, women contribute in ways both big and small to the social, cultural, economic and political spheres around the world. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on these achievements and to celebrate the accomplishments of women both past and present.30-2375_1

Officially established by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day was born out of the labor movements of the early 20th century. Since its inception, International Women’s Day has assumed a new role in promoting women’s political aspirations, their well-being, and overall human rights. From Amelia Earhart’s brave flight across the Pacific to Georgia O’Keefe’s pivotal and pioneering artistic vision and Harriet Tubman’s heroic efforts to lead fugitive slaves to safer land – this day celebrates them all.

30-2375_4Now, more than ever, this day serves as a day for remembrance of the progress and courageous acts that women in the world have made. Like many of the tenacious women above, American artist Martha Walter is surely an equally courageous and dauntless female leader. Studying at the Pennsylvania Academy for Fine Arts, Walter’s artistic talent was apparent from an early age. Under the direction of her mentor, William Merritt Chase, Walter soon developed a distinct style, with brushwork reminiscent of the groundbreaking impressionist style.

After traveling to and studying in the artistic nuclei of the world, including Paris, Italy, and Holland, Walter’s knowledge of the canvas and brush expanded. Even more so, these travels introduced Walter to the modern styles of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne. In a groundbreaking act, Walter established her own studio in Paris with other female American artists. Rejecting the Neoclassical, academic style, Walter painted en plein air and established herself as an artist.

30-2375_2The 20th century brought an era of monumental change and transformations to the entire world. World War I changed the course of modern life, and America’s efforts turned to the war. Returning to America, Walter’s sense of national pride prompted her artistic endeavors to veer towards social realism. Painting poignant, emotional scenes, such as the immigration experience, Walter’s style took on a new strength of character. Her work, Employment Station, is the perfect encapsulation of Walter’s empowering and progressive style. Depicting a young women waiting to be seen at an employment station, the rich color palette of the work adds to the sense of strength and hope in her female subject. In this dramatic work, Walter not only depicts the emotional reality of early 20th century America, but also mirrors Watler’s personal endeavors and courageous acts as a female artist.

Wonders of the Scientific System Cane

March 2nd, 2016 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

Viewed today as stylish accessories and tools for the infirm, the walking stick has had a fascinating history. What began as a necessary tool for animal herders and intrepid travelers, the walking stick evolved into a symbol of power and prestige. Rulers throughout the ages, including the luxurious collections of the Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, have wielded staffs and canes. Into the Middle Ages, the church began to use walking sticks to symbolize rank among its clergy. For centuries, wielding a walking stick was associated with power.


A small compass is set into the knob handle, while several more instruments are tucked inside the shaft, including a telescope, a bayonet, a drafting compass, pens and parchment papers, field maps, and plotting tools

It was in the 17th century that the walking stick became “the fashion,” when men and women alike accessorized with canes as a part of their daily attire. In the elegant Victorian era, any groomed, distinguished gentlemen would not traverse the public arena without this stylish accessory. Consequently, the walking stick became a prevailing symbol of taste and class.

As they became more fashionable, designs became more and more elaborate as the stature-hungry nobility clamored for the most distinguishable, ornate walking stick to adorn their finery. These canes featured elaborate enameling and jewel encrusted knobs by specialized jewelers and artisans.

This intriguing French cane contains the rudimentary tools of a military doctor. including several glass vials, gauze, and a lancet

This intriguing French cane contains the rudimentary tools of a military doctor. including several glass vials, gauze, and a lancet


This elegant and unassuming walking stick doubles as a land surveyor’s rod, helping to determine both depth and distance

In the mid-19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought an extraordinary development in the realm of walking sticks: the system cane. This type of cane emerged as a reflection of widespread industrialization and technical progress. Also known as “gadget” canes, the system cane held a specific function beyond the mere decorative. Carrying hidden tools and accessories, these treasures served a specific purpose; this often related to the owner’s occupation, with the tools of their trade held inside their cane.


This remarkably rare walking stick doubles as a practical tool for the professional geometer

In the art and antiques world, the scientific system cane is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and regard. No longer just the noblest of classes, the system cane caters to nearly anyone. The indigenous designs of these unique pieces range from a complete set of tools for any keen explorer to every medical doctor’s fundamental tools. By concealing the tools for any occupation, such as that of a sharp surveyor or skilled geometer, this type of walking stick brings together both fine craftsmanship and abundant scientific inquiry.

Like the scientific system cane, the antique globe acts as a remarkable gesture towards the field of science and interest in the natural world. Once only available to the strictly aristocratic classes, the globe, much like the cane, speaks to high taste and esteem. Allowing the world to truly be at the palm of one’s hand, the globe not only grants knowledge of the world, but also imaginative travels from the comfort of one’s own home.

View our entire collection of scientific systems canes online

Monet, Master of Light

February 22nd, 2016 | posted by Deborah Choate
Large in scale, the work reflects Monet's talent for capturing light and atmosphere

Large in scale, the work reflects Monet’s talent for capturing light and atmosphere

A young Claude Monet was constantly in awe of the sea. At the young age of five, Monet and his family moved to the coastal town of Le Havre in Normandy. As a haven for any budding naturalist, the bustling town by the sea proved the perfect environment to experience the shifting patterns of weather and atmosphere. With its windy cliffs and a tranquil sea that seamlessly blended with the horizon, the Normandy coast was a dream subject for any aspiring painter. It was in this environment that Monet’s extraordinary artistic career took root.

Today, Monet is widely regarded as the indisputable founding father of Impressionism. A break from traditional Academic painting, this distinctly modern movement sought to capture the perceptions of a moment on canvas. The result was an utterly new and revolutionary way of seeing. Rather than simply reproducing an object on canvas, the Impressionists painted the light as it fell on an object. Cathedrals were no longer composed of stone and brick, but of light and shadows in an exquisite array of hues.

Signed and dated "Claude Monet 97" (lower right)

Signed and dated “Claude Monet 97” (lower right)

The most discernible example of this can be seen in Monet’s remarkable “series” paintings, which he began in the late 1880s and 1890s. In an attempt to explore the changing effects of light and atmosphere on a scene, Monet set out to paint the same place different times of the day and year. The Rouen Cathedral, haystacks, poplars, cliffs on the Normandy coast – all became subjects of these exploratory works. The works best embody the impressionist belief in the changeableness of atmosphere, and represent a significant development in his career.

The intricate work depicts the Normandy landscape through an exquisite array of pastels

The intricate work depicts the Normandy landscape through an exquisite array of pastels

One series of works where this is most evident is his extraordinary work in the coastal city of Dieppe. Close to the town of his childhood, this setting provided Monet with the most basic elements for his canvases: the earth, sea, and sky. One example in the series, Au Val Saint-Nicolas pres Dieppe, Matin, uses an explicitly pastel palette of elegant light blues, seafoam greens, and pale violets. Yet, while a work in the morning is imbued with the soft purples and blues of sunrise, others capture the richer hues of the evening sky. Together, these works are an ode to the ideals of the movement – capturing moments, mere impressions, on canvas.

Presidents Day: A Cause for National Celebration

February 15th, 2016 | posted by Danielle Halikias

It comes to no surprise that the annual President’s Day holiday sparks feelings of nationality, patriotism, and considerable countrywide honor. As a day that encompasses more than two hundred years of American history and leadership, it is impossible not to regard this holiday as a perennial day of remembrance. The day celebrates centuries of leadership by our earnest and fearless founding fathers, who have upheld American values for more than two hundred years.

This lovely Blue Canton China Dinner Plate was used by George and Martha Washington

This lovely Blue Canton China Dinner Plate was used by George and Martha Washington

Interest in the presidency has remained at a pinnacle since the first president took the oath on the balcony of the Federal Hall on Wall Street in 1789. Speaking to the near celebrity status that every president has achieved, pieces owned by the President – or even simply within the President’s realm – possess a higher importance than any other, such as plates and chinaware that the president used in his everyday life. Heralded relics of the president also epitomize the majesty for which presidents are regarded. Accordingly, these functional objects take on a new personality of immense importance and popularity.

Before it was known as President’s Day, this day was explicitly celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. Officially signed in 1971, this day became the first holiday to celebrate the life of a single American individual. In 1885, the holiday spread throughout the entire nation outside of the District of Columbia, calling for every American to pause and reflect on America’s first great leader. By the late 1860s, the shift from the holiday as Washington’s Birthday gave way to the holiday now known as President’s Day, telling of the deep regard that American citizens have always held for America’s Chief Executive.

Strands of hair and pieces from the funerary case of George Washington, the founding father and first President of the United States, are showcased in this frame

Strands of hair and pieces from the funerary case of George Washington, the founding father and first President of the United States, are showcased in this frame

When George Washington became the first president of the young nation, his earnest work ethic garnered him a status of immense popularity and repute. Starting the country anew on unsteady ground due to the Revolutionary War, Washington’s militaristic knowledge and political passion brought in a new era of prosperity of the nation. Because of his triumphant effort in this war, Washington is venerated as one of the most important figures in American history, and is credited for helping give birth to the independent American people. Depicted on the center of every dollar bill, Washington’s remembrance as America’s premiere patriotic leader is extraordinary. It is to no astonishment, therefore, that antiques like silver pieceschina wares, and porcelain from the personal collection of George Washington hold their own grandeur.

 Roosevelt, the only president in history to be elected to four consecutive terms, became a voice of hope for a struggling nation, first through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then through a Second World War

Roosevelt, the only president in history to be elected to four consecutive terms, became a voice of hope for a struggling nation, first through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then through a Second World War

As the dust settled after the Revolutionary War, America and its new three-branched political system was on a steady path of great international prestige and influence. Fast forward thirty-one presidencies into the term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leading America through one of its most trying times, the Great Depression, Roosevelt served not only as a model of reassurance for all citizens, but a dignitary of persistence and strength during the post World War II era. Exhaustion characterized the mood of the majority of the American people, but with the help and advice of his radio broadcasted “fireside” chats, Roosevelt elevated the spirits of citizens. After the passing of his “New Deal” and various militaristic and diplomatic campaigns, Roosevelt laid the groundwork of peace in post-war America.

In modern day America, Presidents’ Day remains a time for remembrance and pride in America’s leaders – past and present. Throughout the rich history of America, one can look back and regard the triumphal efforts and successes of past presidents. Each year, President’s day offers a revival and recollection of this shared history. With the help of art and antiques that recall these past leaders, the rich past of America is still very much alive today.

Expand your knowledge and admiration for our nation’s leaders by exploring the career and work of an artist who is remembered for capturing some of our nation’s most historic figures. Gilbert Stuart is responsible for composing some of the most iconic images of our nations leaders, including George Washington’s portrait that appears on the face of every dollar bill. His remarkable portraits pay homage to our nation, and also shaped the style of American portraiture that exists into today.

View more presidential objects online

Exploring China’s Gem in the Chinese New Year

February 8th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Delicately carved from jade with elaborate designs in bas and high relief, the present piece is a wonderful example of an truly ancient form.


Crafted of hardwood with fine foliate silver inlay and five white nephrite jade insets, the rare x-shape of this scepter symbolizes “two blossoms growing from one stem.”

It has been cherished for millennia, heralded as a ubiquitous symbol of beauty, luxury and royalty in China: Jade. Without question, this stone has surpassed every other with its enduring importance and rich history. Valued for its beauty and symbolic powers, jade is pervasive throughout Chinese decorative arts, considered the most valuable of all precious stones. Today, Asian and non-Asian buyers alike are drawn to jade as never before. And in this Chinese New Year, jade holds a special importance as a symbol of prosperity, success, and good luck.

The use of jade extends to ancient times, with jade objects having been found as early as 5000 BC. The stone is deeply rooted in Chinese culture – the longevity of its value stems both from its beauty and remarkable symbolism. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius wrote a thesis on the eleven virtues of jade, which came to serve as a metaphorical standard of living well. Its polish and brilliance symbolize purity, its soft angles justice, its compactness intelligence, its flaws sincerity – thanks to Confucius, jade became extolled for its virtue.


Jadeite archer’s rings dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries were used in the creation of this one-of-a-kind dining accessories service by Carvin French of New York

Because of this virtuosity of character, jade was at first used to form only the most important of objects. Special designs executed in jade were used in ceremonial pieces and furnishings, as well as in jewelry for the Imperial family. Funerary statuary and incense censors were carved from the stone, as well as important gifts to bring good fortune.

With the advancement of society, the economics and the functions of jade began to change. Symbolic meaning combined with a more practical utility – jade was no longer seen just in the spiritual and Imperial realms, but also in everyday objects, including inkwells, vases, archer’s rings, and belt hooks, among others. Truly the stone of both emperors and men, jade pervaded Chinese culture, and persists yet today.

As sumptuous ornamental objets d’art or functional domestic pieces, the creation and design of jade in China fully mirrored the pure and superior qualities of the material and its association with clarity of mind and purity of spirit.

View all jade objects online

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