Archive for the 'Stories' Category

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.

The Mystery Within

May 24th, 2013 | posted by Susan Lapene
The flicker cane is ready for danger at the flick of a wrist.

The flicker cane is ready for danger at the flick of a wrist.

What provocative objects can be hidden inside a cane? Man and his ingenuity have managed to come up with thousands and thousands of tools, personal necessities, and weapons to defend themselves…all tucked neatly away inside an unassuming cane.

At first glance, the flicker cane looks like a fine, old walking stick. A polished, knotty wood shaft culminates in a bird-shaped handle, giving the cane a sturdy, but handsome look. With the flick of a wrist, the cane reveals

Two-sword cane conceals a pair of swords.

Two-sword cane conceals a pair of swords.

its hidden purpose: a blade darts out of the top of the handle, sharp, and ready to be used as a weapon. And just as quickly as you can snap the very base of the cane onto the ground, the blade disappears without a trace.

Hidden within this demure and substantial cane are not one, but two long, narrow blades. The two-sworded cane, or “sword stick” as it is often called, became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as a bold accessory. A clever disguise, these canes have roots in ancient Rome and Japan, where similar style weapon canes were carried mainly for ceremonial purposes.

La Diabolique cane hides spikes in the shaft.

La Diabolique cane hides spikes in the shaft.

La Diabolique is a captivating cane, with an equally intriguing history. Known as a notorious weapon used against French authorities by rioters in the famous 19th century street riots, La Diabolique quickly transforms from a simple walking stick to a harmful weapon. With the twist of the handle, spikes jut out of the shaft allowing the owner to inflict brutal wounds upon opponents.  It is no wonder these canes are so valued by collectors!

We have had the opportunity to acquire hundreds of interesting canes over our 101-year history, and yet, each new walking stick we acquire is even more fascinating than the next! Please visit our website to see the range of these beautiful collector’s items. Maybe you will be enticed to start your own collection!

We Simply Cannot Contain Ourselves!

May 10th, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Container 1This has been an exciting week at M.S. Rau Antiques. Every spring we receive a shipment from our latest buying trip in Europe, which sent us to the very best estates and collections to find the rarest and most fascinating antiques and fine art available on the market. After a whirlwind buying excursion, all the objects are carefully packed for freight and then sent to New Orleans on a ship. With great anticipation, we await the delivery of our container, and once it clears customs, the fun begins.

The staff gathers before the gallery opens and unpacks the container’s boxes, which provides the first glimpse for many of us of our newest acquisitions. This year’s first container held a trove of fascinating objects – from a majestic onyx and doré bronze clock to a gleaming art deco bar. Although the newly acquired items have not been through our research and photography departments, I have a few pieces I would love to share with you.

We have had many desks over our 101 year history, but a Thomas Chippendale desk we just bought really captivates in both size and design. The desk is a stunning example of Chippendale’s late Container 218th century aesthetic, with demure neoclassical design and excellent detailed workmanship unique to Thomas Chippendale pieces. Crafted of lavish mahogany and doré bronze fittings, this desk possesses an outstanding patina that intrigues with its evident use by a dedicated businessman.

Container 4A very heavy and very secure crate contained an impressive early 17th century safe. With a robust design, and clever locking mechanism, our newly acquired Italian safe would have provided the utmost safety in storing precious documents and possessions. Three locks on the front of the safe require three separate keys and three different turning methods to gain entry to the interior. An additional lock inside provides extra security. The back of the safe allows for wall mounting, further securing this monumental, 400 year old safe.

Dozens of other pieces accompanied the above treasures. We can’t wait to share with you all the newly acquired items, and we will be sending an email in a few weeks showing you even more. Better, yet, why not come down to the gallery on Royal street to see them for yourself?

History, Etched in Silver

April 23rd, 2013 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
Treaty of Nanking Silver Tray, for Sir Henry Pottinger

Treaty of Nanking Silver Tray, for Sir Henry Pottinger

I love antique silver, as much for its beauty as for its history. A remarkable amount of time went into the crafting of fine silver – from the intricate development of design to the highly technical process of mixing alloys and molding the objects. Each antique silver piece is a spectacular example of the dedication earlier artisans had for creating the very best, which is what made silver such an honor to receive as a gift.

Right now we have a most extraordinary silver tray, gifted to Englishman Sir Henry Pottinger, that is both visually stunning and historically important. We often have in our collection silver pieces that were given as gifts to noblemen and philanthropists as tokens of appreciation, as was tradition in 19th century England. In addition to silver items, honorees were often given the Freedom of the City (equivalent to the Key to an American city). Robust, and with ample room for a visual narrative, silver trays were considered the most prestigious items given.

Pottinger is recognized as the chief negotiator of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, which officially ended the Opium War. History buffs will know this war as a dubious attempt by the British to manipulate the trade of Chinese tea into England. However, the most lasting and important consequence of the treaty that ended the war was the lease of Hong Kong to the British for a term of 99 years. This new British colony ended up bringing the East and West together and without any doubt, changed the world tremendously.

The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

Pottinger gained instant fame upon his return to England, and the great northern city of Manchester honored him with both the freedom of the city, and this magnificent silver tray. Commissioned from the Royal silversmiths Edward Barnard and Company, the tray measures an impressive 33 inches and weighs 219 troy ounces. It bears the crest of the city of Manchester as well as the family coat of arms of Henry Pottinger. A luxurious scalloped frame encompasses a gallery of pierced fretwork with floral accents while four Chinese dragons guard the handles. The silver embossed scenes depict the signing of the treaty in detailed, high relief.

Remarkable in size and in historical significance, the Pottinger Treaty of Nanking tray is one of the most important pieces of silver we have ever owned. Click here to learn more about the tray and to visit our website.

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