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

A Grand Dining Experience: The 224-Piece American Silver Dining Service

November 1st, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau

There was a time when dining was much more than enjoying good food amongst family and friends, it was a luxurious event that could make or break one’s reputation in social circles. A household’s most expensive furnishings and accessories 29-9822 could be found in the dining room, but perhaps none reflected the taste and sophistication of the owner better, or more elegantly, than the silver.

This is certainly the case with this outstanding American Silver Dining Service. Our suite for 12 guests comprises not only an exceptional Francis I sterling silver flatware service by Reed & Barton, but also a remarkable 69-piece hollowware set by Redlich & Co. The entire 224-piece ensemble is housed in its fitted mahogany chest, which even has two flanking compartments that house a pair of serving racks. Everything from beautiful serving trays and plates, to a complete tea and coffee service, tazzas, a rose bowl, and even a demitasse set, make this service truly grand.

Extensive services that include both flatware and hollowware are rare to find on the market, as they were custom-ordered by the most elite of society, especially royalty. The most recent example was once owned by the Maharaja of Patiala, India and recently sold at Christie’s London this past July. Created in 1921 by the Goldsmiths and Silversmith Company of London, this incredible flatware and hollowware service sold29-9822 well above auction estimates, bringing in over $2.96 million. Only two other combination sets, both less comprehensive than our American service, have been brought to auction in the past decade. Reed & Barton and Redlich & Co. were among the most highly respected silver firms in the United States, and to find such a unique and phenomenal collaboration between two renowned American silver companies is remarkable.

One can only imagine the magnificent sight of a dinner table set with these luxurious pieces. A distinguished silver service such as this was much more than pretty silverware with which to serve food. It was a statement of refinement that no dinner guest would soon forget.

Travel with Style

October 25th, 2013 | posted by James Gillis

In a time when the Grand Tour was still considered a rite of passage, long voyages on elegant steam ships and in well-appointed railcars were adventures reserved for the wealthy.  These travelers adapted to being away from their usual creature

The silver gilt tops bear the hallmark of London silversmith William Neal, 1863 and the locking mechanism is signed "Bramah, London."

The silver gilt tops bear the hallmark of London silversmith William Neal, 1863 and the locking mechanism is signed “Bramah, London.”

comforts by traveling with the very best luggage and accessories.  In fact, train services such as the Orient Express are still synonymous with luxury- even in today’s technology and efficiency motivated culture. While the Orient Express may have faded from timetables in 2009, it is not too late to relive the heyday of sophisticated travel with some of the items we have right here in the gallery.

This necessaire de voyage would have been the perfect companion on trips through foreign lands.  As you rubbed shoulders with other travelers from the upper echelon, this case’s refined rich coromandel veneer would have served the very important function of impressing new acquaintances.  The cut crystal boxes and jars held within the case are beautifully adorned with engraved silver gilt and mother-of-pearl, showing that your taste goes deeper than mere veneer.

You can’t be too cavalier with your belongings while crisscrossing the globe, however.  No matter how posh your new friends are, or how familiar the exotic locales you frequent begin to feel, anything is still possible.  That is why this necessaire is not all show; it is fitted with locks by Bramah, a company still known for its superior craftsmanship.  And for extra peace of mind, keep your valuables in one of the two secret

Marked "Baucheron A Paris"

Marked “Baucheron A Paris”

compartments that extend from the case, each activated by pressing discreet buttons located within the interior.

If sturdy locks were not quite enough for your adventures abroad, you might have been comforted knowing that this pair of pistols lay within your luggage.

At only 8 ¾ inches long, these weapons were made for travelling.  Sometimes referred to as “carriage” or “coach” pistols, this pair’s fitted case is the perfect size for packing inconspicuously among your belongings.  Additionally, the weapons are cleverly designed so you won’t worry about having forgotten to pack a crucial piece; the ramrods are connected to the bottom with a hinge and the intricately carved walnut stocks each terminate with a hinged end cap that provides storage for extra bullets.

Fantastic conversation pieces, these items are in great condition and ready for your collection. Display them in your home or office and imagine your adventures in another life.

Click on the image on the right to learn more about our collection of travel items.  If you are interested in learning more about our pistols, which are not available on our website, please call us toll-free at (888) 814-7006.

A Masterpiece for the Ages: Laocoön and His Sons

October 18th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau

Artistic influence comes in many forms through numerous disciplines. One work of art, in particular, has influenced some of the greatest artistic minds in history. Inspired by the writings of Homer and Virgil, admired by Pope Julius II,

This awe-inspiring marble sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons is one of the few pre-1780 renditions not currently in a museum.

This awe-inspiring marble sculpture of Laocoön and His Sons is one of the few pre-1780 renditions not currently in a museum.

Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens, Francis I, and even Napoleon,Laocoön and His Sons is truly a timeless masterpiece.

This incredible 18th-century Laocoön and His Sons is one of only a handful of pre-1780 interpretations ever created, and dates between 1650-1780. With the other known early examples now part of the Uffizi Museum of Florence and the Grand Palace in Rhodes, this is arguably the most important sculpture currently on the market. Crafted of exquisite Carrara marble, this incredible sculpture embodies the dynamic, masterful execution of the original housed in the Vatican.

Standing over five feet high, this imposing work of art captures the powerful emotion of Laocoön, a tale intertwined with the legend of the Trojan Horse. After an unsuccessful 10-year siege of Troy, the Greeks left a supposed “peace offering” outside the city’s gates–a giant wooden horse that was unknowingly filled with Greek soldiers. The Greek soldier Sinon was sent with the horse to explain the unusual gift, and it was Laocoön who was unconvinced of the story, and began to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” It was then that the goddess Minerva sent sea serpents to kill the priest and his sons to assist her beloved Greeks siege of the city.

Heralded by Michelangelo as the “greatest piece of art in the world,” the original Laocoön and His Sons was created circa 35 B.C. on the island of Rhodes and was later discovered in 1506, immediately becoming one of the most famed works of art in the Western world. Pope Julius II purchased the statue and brought it to the Vatican. When the statue was excavated, the figure of Laocoön was missing its right arm, so the Pope summoned all of the famed sculptors of the day, including Michelangelo and Raphael, to submit ideas on how the arm should look. While most believed it should be outstretched, Michelangelo believed it would have been bent. Michelangelo was out-voted, and an extended arm was created to repair the missing appendage. By miraculous circumstances, the original arm, a bent arm, was unearthed. Michelangelo was proven correct over four centuries later!

From his work The Dying Slave and his amazing marble of Moses, to the figures on the famed Sistine Chapel ceiling, all were directly influenced by Laocoön. Michelangelo was far from the only artist to be inspired by this majestic work. Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens all found inspiration in this masterpiece. The sculpture also influenced literary authors from Dante to Dickens, the latter of which includes, in his famed A Christmas Carol, a description of Scrooge “making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockings,” rushing to get dressed on Christmas morning.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques’ entire selection of important sculpture, click here.

Why Lacquer?

October 11th, 2013 | posted by Justine D'Ooge

Used to decorate various objects, lacquer has come to be admired for it smooth, polished finish.  The beauty of this versatile material has been heightened with flecks of precious metals, materials such as tortoiseshell and ivory, and has even been set with hardstone and shells.  What many may not realize, however, is lacquer’s utilitarian roots.

Japanese Lacquer Tray.  Circa 1900.

Japanese Lacquer Tray. Circa 1900.

As early as 4,000-3,000 BCE sap was being harvested from the lacquer tree, rhus verniciflua, and used to protect everyday objects.  Finished lacquer is not only impressive in its appearance, but also in its durability; once the complicated task of polishing and burnishing lacquer is completed, it results in an impermeable surface, one that is resistant to moisture, alkali, and even acids.  Less elaborate versions of this tray, for instance, could be used daily without fear of it being ruined.

Turning extracted sap into the fine product you see on pieces such as these is serious business.  In Japan, by 701 AD, laws were made determining how many lacquer trees a household was allowed to grow.  Don’t mistake this to mean that the lacquer industry was easy money! There are over twenty steps required between the preparation of an item’s wood base and the finished work, and this is after the sap is tapped, stirred in the sun for evaporation purposes, and kneaded extensively.  Artisans that worked with lacquer had to be adept with a variety of tools as a myriad of stones, charred woods, and cloths were used throughout the polishing process.

Meiji-Period Lacquer Document Box

Meiji-Period Lacquer Document Box

 Just as porcelain became known as “china” in the West, lacquer became known as “Japan”.  This nomenclature took hold when the appetite for these objects grew following the arrival of the first Portuguese sailors there in the late 16th century.  The time-consuming nature of the process, however, meant that lacquer pieces were never exported at the same rate as porcelain, making these items highly collectable.  No other objects hold quite the same fascination, and luster, as lacquerware- they are true marvels of nature, as refined by man.  Click here to see more lacquer objects.

A Marriage of Bronze and Ivory: From Antiquity to Art Deco

October 4th, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

Chryselephantine has been around for millennia, but it enjoyed a resurgence of popularity during the Art Deco period.  In fact, some items made using this technique have been dated to the Bronze Age.  When speaking of these early years of its use, the term often refers to sculptures made around a wood frame and covered with layers of ivory and gold; each material was used to represent either flesh or adornments, respectively.  Later, “chryselephantine” came to describe the combination of ivory and bronze as well.  Pictured here are a few examples of sculptures from the 1920s that were executed using this medium.

"Towards the Unknown" by C.J.R Colinet

“Towards the Unknown” by C.J.R Colinet

In this first piece, C.J.R Colinet used the technique to create “Towards the Unknown”.  As a Viking, the most desirable path to the afterlife was to fall during battle.  These lucky souls who died in the throes of combat would be escorted to the halls of Valhalla by one of the twelve Valkyries. It was these iconic battle maidens of Norse mythology that inspired the artists to create the stunning sculpture.  Riding on her swift steed to collect fallen warriors and escort them to Valhalla, this figure is the very image of Viking courage. Romanian born artist D.H. Chiparus is considered a master of this technique and is credited with championing its use during the Art Deco years.  This second sculpture is his endearing group “Friends Forever”.  In this piece the artist highlights Art Deco taste in the central figure’s delicate costume, as well as in the elegant lines that lend balance and grace to the sculpture as a whole.

"Friends Forever"

“Friends Forever”

Chiparus’ figures are among the most recognizable and collectible in the world and this depiction of the bond between humans and dogs is perhaps once of his more evocative creations. A unique technique unlike any other, chryselephantine creates a beautiful juxtaposition between the natural and manmade.  Working with such a delicate material as ivory is not without its challenges, and artists that were able to master the combinations necessary to create these beautiful pieces are truly gifted.  Either sculpture would be a valuable addition to a fine art collection.

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