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Archive for the 'Stories' Category

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Truth to Nature

September 18th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

The consummate, self-taught Victorian artist John Atkinson Grimshaw possessed an unquestionable gift for painting. The influence of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement is apparent throughout Grimshaw’s oeuvre, and he worked these ideals to create awe-inspiring land and cityscapes unlike any artist before or since.

Disappointed by the “mechanized” ideologies of academic art, the Pre-Raphaelites utilized exacting details, luminous palettes and sincerity to subject that ushered in a new era of expression in the 19th-century British art world. Grimshaw took their teachings and used them to craft amazing nocturnal scenes and landscapes, which bear striking photographic qualities unmatched by any other artist. Tranquil urban lanes with leafless trees and ports with the still figures of docked ships silhouetted against the moonlit sky have become synonymous with this incomparable talent.

 John Atkinson Grimshaw

The ethereal light of the moon cast a glow upon this nocturnal dock scene painted by John Atkinson Grimshaw in 1883 entitled “Whitby.”

 

Whitby, executed in 1883, displays Grimshaw’s mastery of atmosphere and light, with a stark contrast between the moonlight and the gas lantern light of the shops lining the dock. A gentle fog can be seen over the water, while the clouds attract the moonlight like a magnet, glowing with an ethereal realism. His moonlit scenes were so majestic that James Abbott McNeill Whistler, a famed nocturne artist in his own right, stated “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlight pictures.” The soft glow of the setting sun illuminates his home, Knostrop Hall, in All in the Golden Twilight. The artist captures the ephemeral moment of the sun setting, presumably in fall, utilizing a palette of yellows, greens, browns and reds to convey the fleeting essence of time itself.

 John Atkinson Grimshaw

This serene landscape, entitled “All in the Golden Twilight,” captures the artist’s home at dusk, and exemplifies John Atkinson Grimshaw’s tremendous eye for detail and composition.

 

Since Grimshaw worked primarily for patrons, his works have historically been held in private collections. It is only recently that his paintings have earned the acclaim and appreciation of the broader art world. Considered among the most prestigious and important Victorian painters, Grimshaw’s works are undeniably distinctive and are some of the most highly sought-after 19th-century British artworks on the market.

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.

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.

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