Archive for the 'Stories' Category

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.

What’s In A Name?: Marilyn Monroe Photographs by Lawrence Schille

April 19th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Schiller's photographs of the famous "Something's Got To Give" pool scene have become iconic(Lawrence Schiller)

Schiller’s photographs of the famous “Something’s Got To Give” pool scene have become iconic
(Lawrence Schiller)

Monroe's ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, is captured in a somber and tender moment at Monroe's funeral, August 8, 1962(Lawrence Schiller)

Monroe’s ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio, is captured in a somber and tender moment at Monroe’s funeral, August 8, 1962
(Lawrence Schiller)

This beautiful candid of Monroe was taken in 1960 behind the scenes of "Let's Make Love"Lawrence Schiller

This beautiful candid of Monroe was taken in 1960 behind the scenes of “Let’s Make Love”
Lawrence Schiller

Few names evoke thoughts of feminine beauty and Hollywood glamour quite like Marilyn Monroe. Arguably one of the most famous Americans in modern history, she captured hearts and imaginations around the world through the memorable characters she portrayed on the silver screen. Now, nearly 50 years later, it is the enduring images in these signed, limited-edition photographs taken by famed photographer, director and author, Lawrence Schiller, that are bringing this larger-than-life figure back in the spotlight. Many of them have never been printed until now.

Schiller shot Marilyn in May of 1960 on the set of Let’s Make Love. During this “golden age” of Hollywood, studios hired and depended heavily on photographers to take pictures on the set of their movies as a means to publicize their films. Movie stars had much more say over the pictures that were taken of them at this time, and of the dozens of shots Schiller took during filming, this adoring image is one of the only she personally approved.

Schiller didn’t photograph Marilyn again until 1962 when he was hired to shoot the starlet on the set of what would become the last film she would ever work on, the unfinished Something’s Got To Give. Marilyn had the idea of emerging from the water nude in the now-famous pool scene shortly before filming, but no one knew for sure if she would actually do it. She went in with a custom-made beige bikini, and true to her word, stepped out of the pool nude. Schiller describes the moment, saying:

“Marilyn was a photographer’s dream subject with her clothes on, and even more stunning with them off. Her wet skin glistened. Her eyes sparkled. Her smile was provocative…As I shot, I was sure the pictures I was taking were going to be beautiful and unforgettable. The flow of her spine complemented her natural curves as the water reflected the lights, and the whole scene came alive.”

On August 5, 1962, less than three months after these indelible photographs were taken, Marilyn passed away in her Brentwood, California home. She was interred at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, with arrangements made by her ex-husband, baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Schiller was there to document the events of the day, and his image of DiMaggio with his son in full Marine dress is one of profound emotion.

Schiller created only 75 sets of these telling photographs, all of which are signed and numbered and come in a signed, custom portfolio. The images measure 20” x 24” and include 10 black and white silver gelatin prints and two color photographs. Each photograph speaks volumes about a woman who was both a cultural phenomenon and, in many ways, a misunderstood, gentle soul ahead of her time.

To view and learn more about these limited-edition Marilyn Monroe photographs, click here.

Travel Back In Time With Louis Vuitton Luggage

April 11th, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
Louis Vuitton Luggage Suite

Louis Vuitton Luggage Suite

The name Louis Vuitton denotes a distinct sophistication befitting what is considered the world’s first luxury brand. Louis Vuitton luggage and leather goods set the standard by which all others are measured, with a brilliant historical narrative adding to the value. M.S. Rau currently has two fantastic selections of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage, including a fascinating travel trunk. The unmistakable design, along with the intriguing biography, makes these travel trunks some of the most delightfully collectible pieces.

The history of European travel is closely linked with the travel trunk, as the lowly case for storing one’s goods during a journey became a style statement. As with many trends, the movement towards decorative luggage started with members of royalty. Trunks of the royals were elaborate and plentiful, with bespoke pieces designed to hold attire for any imaginable outing one might encounter, from fox-hunting to public appearances.

Finally, glamour had entered the once rough and tumble sphere of cross-country train travel. Journeys on lines like the famed Orient Express from Paris to Constantinople required equally sophisticated luggage, as much to impress fellow passengers as to hold one’s garments. The first to have flat tops, which meant they could be stacked easily in cargo, Louis’ son Georges also created the first designer logo, with the Monogram Canvas in 1896.Specially designed pieces– like rounded trunks meant to hold hats — began making appearances and led the way for specialized and innovative trunks.

Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk

Louis Vuitton Travel Trunk

Trunks for the turn of the 20th century took on new meaning with their designs. A photographer’s trunk would include a space for a camera, lenses and gels. The genius bed trunk would unfold into a bed (complete with legs) and included a pillow. Even the “aero trunk,” designed for a trip via “air ship,” was designed to be extra light for the new and thrilling form of travel.

The need for the very basic (and best!) Louis Vuitton luggage remains in demand for the traveling elite, like our luggage suite and travel trunk. These 20th century examples offer the quality expected from the brand, with the fascinating patina from a vintage piece. To own a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage has always meant to be one of the luckiest of travelers.

Click here to learn more about M.S. Rau’s Louis Vuitton items.

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