Time for Tea! Exquisite Tea Caddies

January 17th, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau

This extraordinary pair of George III period tea caddies are enveloped in ivory, with tortoiseshell and sterling silver trim and mounts. Circa 1790.

No other practice evokes British sophistication and elegance quite like the drinking of tea. It is hard to believe that this now-common beverage was once an incredibly expensive commodity that could only be enjoyed by nobility and the social elite. These connoisseurs would soon demand elaborate and luxurious accoutrements to store and prepare this prized drink.

Tea was introduced to England from China sometime in the middle of the 17th century. It is believed that it was Catherine of Braganza, wife of King Charles II, who was responsible for bringing the tea habit to the country around 1660. The practice gained momentum and became an en vogue activity by the 18th century. The country’s respect for this drink is reflected in the ceremonial way in which it was stored, prepared, and drunk, and craftsmen of the period soon discovered a new avenue in which to exercise their skills–the creation of beautiful tea caddies.

29-949729-1941The rarest tea caddies were crafted of the most costly materials of the era, boasting stunning veneers of tortoiseshell and ivory, often with sterling silver mounts. This George III tea caddy is enveloped entirely in tortoiseshell, with ivory and silver detailing of exceptional quality. With its unique decagon shape, this caddy contains two interior compartments for holding different types of tea leaves. Tea connoisseurship developed into something of an art form, and accordingly, more than one type of tea was necessary for refined palettes. Double chests such as this could hold two types of leaves, usually one green and one black variety that could be custom-blended to achieve the desired flavor. Incredibly rare indeed, this original pair of George III ivory tea caddies are encased in creamy white ivory, highlighted by tortoiseshell veneers and silver accents.

Beloved for its flavorful, exotic, and even medicinal qualities, few would have guessed that the importation of a simple plant would have give rise to over two centuries of culture and decorative art.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s Work Has a Quintessential New Orleans Flavor

January 8th, 2014 | posted by Sarah Clunis

Brueghel

Most art lovers must visit a major museum in order to behold the wonder of an actual real-life Brueghel.  And here is your rare opportunity to own one.  And while you are deciding where to hang this 8th wonder of the world the rest of us can simply feel good about the fact that we are actually standing in front of an original composition by Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Yes indeed folks, most Brueghel’s are in Belgium or Vienna, in museums, or hidden away in opulent castles.

But not this one.

A village festival is the scene for some serious debauchery in this outstanding painting done in 1672 by the accomplished son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder. Religious fair meets pagan ritual in Brueghel’s St George’s Kermis with a Dance Around the Maypole.  With a sarcasm and irony typical of only a Brueghel, vignettes of drunken excess, belligerent quarreling and public urination abound as the daily bump and grind of village life continues.

It’s difficult to not find humor in this fantastic painting which offers a virtual Where’s Waldo in the form of a Northern Renaissance masterpiece. Completely interactive, Brueghel’s work invites close and prolonged inspection and offers the gift that will keep on giving. There is something new to find in this painting every time that you look at it and this is precisely why the nobles that commissioned Brueghel’s paintings in the 17th century found mad entertainment in the scenes that they portrayed.

With a solid reputation as a thoughtful interpreter of his father’s works, Brueghel the Younger had as much success for his own compositions later in his life and this piece is considered one of the major works of that select group.

So, leave your foray to Bourbon Street for a short minute to feast your eyes on our treasured version of revelry and excess. Although Flemish, Brueghel’s combination of elements- Christian with pagan, work with play and body with nature-have a quintessential New Orleans flavor, and truly communicate the universality of the absurd and the wonderful.

In the world of Old Master Painters absolutely no one renders the urban landscape with more pathos and metaphor than a Brueghel. The village is depicted as a site of both ethereal beauty and precariousness. And the people that inhabit these worlds are portrayed as chaotic and fragile, a commentary on the world they occupy.

Brueghel’s masterful palette and magnificent compositions evoke even today the idea of a retreat from the regulated and the predictable. In a sense this is our riotous moment, our great escape.

A Trip To Fairyland

December 21st, 2013 | posted by Justine D'Ooge
Imps on a Bridge and Treehouse  pattern, Roc Centre variation

Imps on a Bridge and Treehouse pattern, Roc Centre variation

Wedgwood has a long legacy of creating delicate wares adorned with classical motifs and meticulously crafted replicas of artifacts from antiquity.  There were just certain things you could expect from Wedgwood. This was before Daisy Makeig-Jones broke the mold.

Candlemas design

Candlemas design

Born in 1881 in a small mining village in England, Susannah Margaretta ‘Daisy’ Makeig-Jones showed artistic talent from a young age.  Shortly after attending art school, as luck would have it, Ms. Makeig-Jones was introduced to Cecil Wedgwood.  This event would prove to be fortuitous not only for the young artist, but also for the entire Wedgwood firm.

At the time she was hired there was some concern over whether the daughter of a doctor could adapt to factory life.  Daisy did adapt, and thrived.  In 1909 Daisy was hired as a trainee designer, by 1914 she would be given her own studio.   It was around this point in time that the Wedgwood factory was facing possible bankruptcy.

Woodland Elves VIII - Boxing Match motif

Woodland Elves VIII – Boxing Match motif

 

WWI proved difficult for most luxury and handicraft industries, but Wedgwood’s saving grace from the looming tailspin would be Daisy Makeig-Jones’ fanciful Fairyland Lustre.  Dotted with mythical creatures, vibrant colors, and intricate gilding, this series continues to mesmerize all those who get a chance to admire it in person.  Lustrous and unique, these pieces are regular favorites in the gallery and never last long in our store.  We would love for you to stop by and see the curious little imps that march across Daisy Makeig-Jones’ various vases, plates, and bowls.

From Bolshaya Morskaya Street To The Palace

December 13th, 2013 | posted by Ludovic Rousset
Faberge Jeweled and Enamel Cufflinks

Faberge Jeweled and Enamel Cufflinks

In just looking around the gallery, I realize we have many reasons to be thankful for Tsar Alexander III.  It was under his Royal patronage that the already considerable talents of Carl Faberge flourished.  A legendary name in luxury goods, Faberge’s company is responsible for some of the most refined pieces in the gallery.

In 1870, at the age of 24, Carl Faberge took the helm of his father’s shop in St. Petersburg.  At this point, the elder Faberge had already built a thriving silver and jewelry business at the Bolshaya Morskaya Street location.  Growing up in his father’s store undoubtedly forged Carl’s path as craftsman but, more importantly, it afforded him opportunities that were not available to those without a similar support network.

Fabergé Silver Flatware Service

Fabergé Silver Flatware Service

In his youth Carl Faberge attended St. Petersburg’s German-language grammar school, but his studies later took the budding craftsman abroad.  This education included the practical aspects that came with an apprenticeship at the Frankfurt am Main jeweler Friedmann, and also a solid framework for his future as a businessman furnished by studies in economics.

A testament to Faberge’s vision, the man is quoted as having said: “expensive things interest me little if the value is merely in so many diamonds and pearls.”   Carl Faberge truly believed in bringing out the intrinsic beauty of natural materials through his work; he would pioneer a shift towards the use of materials native to Russia, and not just rely on the stones and materials more commonly associated with luxury goods.

Faberge Jeweled and Enameled Cane

Faberge Jeweled and Enameled Cane

The freedom to pursue his artistic whims came with the Easter egg.  This, of course, was the Imperial Easter egg.  His first endeavor at crafting this item was so admired that he would win Alexander III’s Royal patronage, giving him access to almost unlimited resources and a security of creativity that was not available to him previously.

Carl Faberge was now responsible for crafting gifts not only for the Royal family, but also for statesmen, visiting dignitaries, and tokens to be awarded at important ceremonies.  The foreign recipients of his creations brought these goods back to their home countries, spreading Faberge’s popularity across the world; a popularity still enjoyed to this day, and one that we are happy to be able to share with you.

Art Depicting Art: “Oedipus Rex” by Renoir

December 7th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

In 1895, Renoir was commissioned to paint a series of paintings to decorate the home of the director of the Theatre des Varietes, Paul Gallimard. Perhaps one of the best loved Impressionists of all time, Renoir was renowned for capturing all of his subjects with grace and sensuality and Gallimard, a patron and friend of the artist, thought the artist’s work a perfect fit for his homes in Paris and Normandy. Revered for his figures, still-lives, and landscapes, Renoir chose a theatrical subject for the director’s homes. Encouraged by his friend, the actor Mounet-Sully, Renoir did a series of sketches and paintings depicting a quintessential highly-charged and dramatic moment in theater. The result was this remarkable painting, an awe-inspiring and dynamic canvas depicting Mounet-Sully in his most famous role as Oedipus inL’Oedipe Roi, a French version by Jules Lacroix of Sophocles’ iconic Greek drama.

In this painting Oedipus, having gouged out his eyes after learning of his despicable crimes, is seen groping his way out of the palace, as his subjects look on in terror. Known for his idyllic landscapes and softly painted portraits, Renoir’s 1895 painting, Oedipus Rex, is an incredibly unique and dramatic subject choice for the artist. This exceptional painting depicts a pivotal scene from the Greek tragedy – the final scene of the drama as Oedipus exits the palace confronting the citizens of Thebes. This intimate masterpiece displays Renoir’s uncanny ability to render life, movement and texture and clearly exhibits the brilliant color that the artist infused into all of his works. The exquisite tension and turmoil of the moment is depicted with Renoir’s quick, feathered strokes and intuitively blended applications of pigment.

The Athenian tragedy, Oedipus Rex, was first performed in 429 B.C. and chronicles the story of Oedipus, who becomes the king of Thebes. Sentenced to die at birth because his father King Laius, receives a prophecy that he would be murdered by his own son, the infant Oedipus is left by his mother, Queen Iocaste, on a mountainside. Rescued by a shepherd, Oedipus is given to the King of Corinth who raises him as his son.

The drama continues when as a young man Oedipus is told by an oracle that he will shed the blood of his father and marry his mother. Desperate to avoid this fate, Oedipus flees Corinth and during his journey, travels on the road to Thebes and encounters Laius. Unaware of each other’s identities, Laius and Oedipus quarrel over whose chariot has the right of way. The argument becomes violent and ends when Oedipus throws Laius from his chariot and kills him. Shortly after, Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx freeing the kingdom of Thebes from a curse and as a result the Queen, Iocaste, marries him. At this point in the play both prophecies are fulfilled, although none of the characters are aware of it.

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master's uncanny use of color and texture

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master’s uncanny use of color and texture

As the play unfolds many more incidents highlighting the futility of avoiding one’s fate occur and individual identities are revealed to the leading characters, but only after Oedipus and Iocaste have had many children together. Horrified by their relationship, Iocaste hangs herself and Oedipus blinds himself with her hairpins.  It is at this point in the play that Oedipus emerges out of the palace to confront the citizens of Thebes with his blindness and to demand his exile. It is precisely this dynamic and highly charged scene that is portrayed by Renoir in this exceptional and intimate portrait.

The youngest member of the Impressionist movement, an astute Renoir recognized how a subject was constantly changing due to the dynamic effects of light on color. Capturing a particular moment in time, or an “impression,” was central to the artist’s philosophy and Renoir distinguished himself among his contemporaries with his intuitive use of color and expansive brushstrokes.

Sadly the project for Gallimard’s homes never came to fruition and the director never acquired the finished Renoir paintings so they remained in the artist’s studio, together with several related drawings to be eventually dispersed with the artist’s estate.

Today, Renoir’s work continues to increase in value and the drama of Oedipus continues to be a quintessential icon of western literary, artistic and psychological genres. Renoir’s fame, as well as the classical scene and notable patronage of this particular work, make it an important and notable contribution to 19th century art.

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