Traditional and Transformative: Japanese Meiji Period Art

March 5th, 2015 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

The long-lasting Japanese Meiji era, beginning in 1868 and extending most recently into 2012, characterizes some of the largest social, economic, and cultural changes in Japan. Most

This impeccable Japanese cabinet is a stunning example of Meiji-period furniture

This impeccable Japanese cabinet is a stunning example of Meiji-period furniture

importantly, this period represented the change from a feudal society, into a more socially mobile and modern environment. Japanese ports were now open to external influences, bringing in an unstoppable amount of artistic and cultural influence from the west. Japanese artists took to these new methods, styles, and traditions, and appropriated them into their own practice. Oil painting, usage of perspective, and new mediums now found a solidified place in Japanese artistic practice.

Now reconciling both the new Western and traditional Japanese art, artists created a vast amount of artistic items: folding screens, hanging scrolls, and decorative objects. Artistic production amount in this period was at an all-time high and surpassed any other previous period. Decorative art was in the forefront of everyone’s mind, each artist constantly seeking out a new, more innovative style. Particularly, Meiji Period furniture grew immensely in popularity and value. As a commodity, western cities longed to own it and Japanese artisans excitedly produced it.

Known as a shodana, this remarkable work is both beautiful and practical

Known as a shodana, this remarkable work is both beautiful and practical

This Japanese Period Meiji Display Cabinet, constructed around 1900, represents exceptional and ideal Japanese artistic characteristics blended with hints of Western features. Known to maintain all activities, such as reading, writing, and eating, at floor level, pre-Meiji period Japanese artisans rarely produced any living furniture at a tall height. However, with the introduction of Western conceptions and traditions of dining and living, some Japanese artisans started building vertically instead of horizontally. At seventy-two inches high, this would have been considered quite tall at the time.

Exquisite Shibayama inlay of bronze, ivory and mother-of-pearl inform the entire piece

Exquisite Shibayama inlay of bronze, ivory and mother-of-pearl inform the entire piece

Called a “shodana” or book cabinet, the hardwood structure is crafted from zelkova or paulownia wood, materials native to the southwest and eastern Asian regions. Crafted from the wood are four compartments that are hidden behind sliding doors.  Multiple other compartments are hidden behind the magnificent chest, as secure places for Japanese tea accoutrements and other living accessories. This intriguing, yet highly outstanding display cabinet, offers true grace and beauty in its design and structure.

Decorating the closed compartments of the display case are genre scenes of Japanese cranes, considered as very symbolic in Japan, with a Shibayama inlay of bronze, ivory, and mother of pearl. This inlay of precious materials creates magnificent geisha and meticulous landscape scenes. On each scene, there are strong hints of traditional Japanese style painting. For example, low, hovering gold clouds infiltrate the landscapes and embody an entity of their own. However, these purely Japanese depictions are infiltrated with Western optical perspectives and proportions. All the while, though, these exquisite designs offer a window into Japanese scenery and ideals. Even further, they offer a peek into the emotional draws of the artisan.

King of Glass, Glass of Kings

February 26th, 2015 | posted by Danielle Halikias
This captivating Moser water pitcher exhibits the exceptional "Amberina "ombre coloring.

This captivating Moser water pitcher exhibits the exceptional “Amberina “ombre coloring.

The unassuming, yet highly visited, spa town of Karlovy Vary sits in the western Czech Republic and holds one of the most influential and significant glass manufacturing companies in Europe. Although with humble beginnings, Ludwig Moser’s 19th century shop transformed from a simple polishing and engraving shop to an internationally known and highly regarded class manufacturer. Employing over 400 people and winning awards at multiple international festivals, Ludwig Moser’s shop became a sensation by the turn of the century. Luxurious drinking glasses, glistening vase, and brightly colored glass art pieces were staples to his name and brought enormous attention from courtiers, royalty, and important politicians. Moser quickly became immediately associated with magnificent decorative glass and the pieces themselves became one of the most collected items in the 20th century.

Formed in a classical urn shape in Moser's signature ruby glass, this vase is certainly one of Moser's rarest and most outstanding pieces.

Formed in a classical urn shape in Moser’s signature ruby glass, this vase is certainly one of Moser’s rarest and most outstanding pieces.

While catering to Austro-Hungarian royalty and creating personalized pieces for figures such as Edward VII, Moser was also making strides in new methods of creating decorative glass. With the help of the most prestigious designers, Moser swapped out plain clear glass for full colored glass in foliate or floral designs. As in this Moser Amberina Glass Pitcher, a colorful spectrum of design added uniqueness and life to his pieces. An exceptional amber ombre color covers the magnificent pitcher and is adorned with hand painted natural designs: nearly mystically colored oak leaves, low relief molded acorns, and life-like insects. The long neck of the pitcher terminates in a delicate, smooth pouring spout.

Continuing to create magnificent glass pieces, Moser also actively took part in International Festivals and Expositions in order to show case his best pieces. By exhibiting in London, Vienna, Belgium, and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Moser expanded his audiences, clientele, and prestige. One such piece created for an exposition is this urn shaped ruby glass vase. Created in 1885, the deep red color demonstrates Moser’s signature ruby glass. Decorating this magnificent, rich color is gilt accented designs of colored oak leaves and flowers connected by thin, delicate vines. Standing twenty-two inches tall, this vase calls gracious attention to itself in its all-over ornate and lavish design that allow peeks of the outstanding ruby base to reveal itself and sophisticated shape.

By using different colored glass for his decorative objects, Moser was able to achieve pieces so unique that they were immediately recognizable amongst any

This delightful amber glass coffee pot is a wonderful example of the incredible enamelwork of the legendary Moser glassmakers.

This delightful amber glass coffee pot is a wonderful example of the incredible enamelwork of the legendary Moser glassmakers.

other decorative glass piece. This amber glass coffee pot demonstrates the immense talent that Moser crafters possessed in enamel work. The entire body of this three rounded section pot boasts incredibly detailed foliate and floral design. Alluring purples, whites, rich golds, and teals adorn this piece, creating intricate flowers and scrolling vines that leave the viewer’s eye dazzled. Topping the pot is a mystically carved glass turkey that finishes the extravagant, yet refined, piece.

All in such incredible shape, Moser pieces such as these are rare and incredibly special. More importantly, these pieces demonstrate the advanced and remarkable talent that Moser craftsman possessed. In the first decade of the twentieth century, Ludwig Moser’s son, Leo, took over the workshop and continued to expand its market, talent, and extraordinary reputation.

Innocence, Temptation, and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art

February 16th, 2015 | posted by Sue Loustalot
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Giovanni dal Ponte, Madonna and Child, Circa 1420

A mystifying creature with the ability to nurture, seduce, create and conquer, women have served as an endless source of inspiration for history’s  most iconic artists, representing archetypes of ideal beauty, model behavior, and the ultimate temptation. These canvases invite viewers to peel back their many layers, each telling a different story about the woman it depicts, the artist who painted her, and the times in which they lived. At times empowering and others objectifying, these images offer a visual narrative of the evolution of women’s roles throughout history.  The story begins here with one of the most recognizable images of woman: the Madonna.

Arguably one of the most widely depicted women in the history of art is the Virgin Mary, a woman who has bore numerous roles over the centuries. Traditionally represented as the Madonna figure, as in Giovanni dal Ponte’s early 15th century work, she stands as the pinnacle of motherhood, womanhood and religious devotion. At a time when the Church was the largest patron of the arts, representations of women in art served primarily as allegories for religious virtue, and these images would perpetuate the Christian ideal of womanhood for centuries to come.

 

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Portrait of Mary Townshend by Sir Joshua Reynolds

 

 

 

 

Along with virtue, innocence and beauty remain constants in the representation of ideal womanhood throughout the history of art. Even after the Church rescinded its role as major patron of the arts to the aristocracy, the model of the virtuous woman would remain consistent, particularly in portraits of the aristocracy. Rather than religious subjects, 18th-century portraitists turned their focus to social roles, which, for women, were largely dictated by their fathers and husbands. The elegance of a woman, both in art and in life, served as an affirmation of the status of her family, and an opulent, well-executed portrait stood as a demonstration of wealth and status.

This notion is clearly seen in the elegant portrait of Mary Townshend by the legendary Sir Joshua Reynolds. Rendered with an air of quiet dignity, the work provides a glimpse into 18th-century London society through the figure of Mary. While the viewer garners no real sense of her character through the work, the family’s wealth is very much on display in her opulent clothing, and the pearls that she clutches are a testament to her virginal innocence. Considered little more than a possession herself, the figure of Mary, in her virtue and beauty, serves as a visual symbol of the status of the Townsends.

Portraits of the upper class such as this expose a high culture that was defined by the Church and the male aristocracy, who largely ascribed qualities such as truth, innocence, morality and virtue to the ideal of womanhood. It would take another century before women were considered in a new light by artists and society alike, with the roots of women’s suffrage towards the end of the 18th-century signifying tremendous changes ahead.

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Jan van Kessel the Elder, Allegory of Europe, Circa 1670

To learn more about the story of women in art, please join us for Innocence, Temptation and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art, on view at M.S. Rau Antiques from March 27 – May 4.

Art Deco Mastery: The Work of Cartier

February 12th, 2015 | posted by Phillip Youngberg
The sleek design and bold colors reflect Cartier’s popular Oriental aesthetic

The sleek design and bold colors reflect Cartier’s popular Oriental aesthetic

Elegance and prestige. Jewelry, timepieces, and objects d’art created by Cartier are highly distinguishable by any other jewelry by their striking beauty. Exceptionally crafted in high detail and quality, Cartier pieces are everlasting. King Edward VII of England once referred to Cartier as “the jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers.” Though stated in 1903, this testimonial stands true.

Founded in Paris in 1847 by Louis-Francois Cartier, the family owned workshop transformed from a financially unstable company into a successful and popular brand name that created some of the finest and distinctive men’s watches. These wristwatches offered an entirely new and fashionable design. Later, along with the creation of Cartier’s first women’s wristwatch, Cartier expanded its design reach to include exotic orientalist and modern aesthetics. Most importantly, Cartier incorporated the use of Art Deco in their products in 1906. Largely popular at the beginning of the 20th century, the Art Deco movement characterized geometric, abstract, and linear aspects.

This 18K gold case features two compartments and a sliding coral and diamond latch

This 18K gold case features two compartments and a sliding coral and diamond latch

This decorative art movement, which developed alongside the emerging industrial economy in France, was part of a rapidly changing culture. Nodding to the advancements and processes of technology, Art Deco aesthetics represented a paired down vision of an embrace of machinery and modernism. In other words, Art Deco showed the demands of mass production and embrace of new material as it showcased linear, modern, and paired down symmetrical forms. Such an example of the style of Art Deco can be seen in our Cartier Diamond Clock, 1950. Enhanced by rich diamonds and beautiful mother-of-pearl face, this clock is cased in a sleek, stylish casing. Gold Roman numerals punctuated with white diamonds and red and black enameling complete this extraordinarily beautiful and geometrical piece.

While catering to numerous members of French royalty, bankers, and well-to-do industrialists, this prestigious company flourished in success. By 1910, Cartier was able to enhance their jewelry, wristwatches, make-up compacts, and other objects d’art with influence from a variety of orientalist cultures and art movements. The Cubist work of Braque and Picasso and the recently traveled exotic areas such as the Far East and Persia, all gave Cartier access into new types of design. Pairing these influences with the geometry of Art Deco, Cartier was able to create stunning time pieces and objects d’art.

This stunning diamond and sapphire bracelet by Cartier absolutely sparkles

This stunning diamond and sapphire bracelet by Cartier absolutely sparkles

This Cartier Art Deco Compact, 1920, represents timelessness, value, and the true forms of Art Deco. Made of 18K gold, this rectangular red box contains a beveled mirror and a stylized Oriental latch that completes the piece. Most importantly, the outside of the box is decorated in symmetrical and geometrical interwoven basket weave pattern that is completed by delicate coral and diamonds. Marked “Cartier, Made in France” this sublimely elegant accessory boasts excellence and luxury.

As Cartier is so known for its fine and unmistakably gorgeous jewelry, this 4.50 carat sapphire and diamond bracelet embodies all the true Art Deco fundamentals. The diamonds are particularly set to represent a stunning symmetrical, streamlined form and two striking blue sapphires are set in the middle.

 

 

 

 

A Monumental Classic in a Small Case – Granddaughter Clocks

January 21st, 2015 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter
The mahogany body is slender and understated.

The mahogany body is slender and understated.

The grandfather clock has long been considered a grand and important element of any beautiful interior. These longcase clocks stand on the floor and exude monumental prowess over any room. Typically, a wooden encasing of any variation of decoration encloses the clock and movements of the pendulum. Appearing in 1656, scientific innovations allowed for findings of the time-keeping properties of the pendulum. However, the term “grandfather clock” did not appear until much later, 1875.

While grandfather clocks, the largest and tallest type of longcase clocks, are frequently used and most often referenced, there are other types of longcase clocks. Few know of these other stunning and prominent types, in particular, the Granddaughter clock.

The inscription “Tempus Fugit” adorns the metal face, and a motif of flowers and foliage completes the etched design.

The inscription “Tempus Fugit” adorns the metal face, and a motif of flowers and foliage completes the etched design.

The granddaughter clock is known by its petite stature and delicate decoration. Charming in appearance, the granddaughter type clock is usually between three and five feet. This vastly differs with the colossal size of the grandfather clock, which can reach nearly eight feet. Not developed until the 1930’s, the granddaughter clock perfectly embodies a delicate, elegant style and would be the impeccable addition to any parlor.

In the MS Rau Gallery, the Mahogany Granddaughter Clock features a slender case that incorporates classical styling and detailing. The frieze features a fabulous scrolling design, the casing is decorated by carved classical columns, and beautiful fluting bring all the elements together. The beautiful mahogany creates a splendid aesthetic that speaks to value and beauty. The metal face features the inscription “Tempus Fugit” that is adorned by delicate floral and foliage motifs. Crafted in the last decade of the nineteenth century, this piece speaks to the splendor of English craftsmanship and artistry. It is an endearing 43 inches and a pure example of a magnificent granddaughter clock.

This magnificent piece is one of the many examples of beautiful granddaughter clocks that flourished in the late 19th century. Small, yet striking, these elegant pieces would complete any setting.

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