All in the Family: Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon III

May 31st, 2016 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

Today he is a household name, an outright celebrity of Western history, and an enduring icon of French culture: Napoleon Bonaparte. The gutsy, shrewd, and ambitious young general rose through the ranks of the French military, eventually seizing political power and naming himself the very first emperor of France. He was one of the greatest conquerors of modern history, expanding the French Empire and dominating European affairs in the years following the French Revolution. Undoubtedly, the history of France – and the world – would be written quite differently without Napoleon.

Featuring the subtle modeling and striking reverence of Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the Portrait of Napoleon III comes steeped in both artistic excellence as well as a fascinating history

Featuring the subtle modeling and striking reverence of Franz Xaver Winterhalter, the Portrait of Napoleon III comes steeped in both artistic excellence as well as a fascinating history

The story of Napoleon’s downfall and his exile on Saint Helena is nearly as well-known as that of his reign. Yet, his lasting legacy, personified by his nephew and eventual heir, Louis-Napoleon, is less known. Sharing much more than just a name and family blood, these two figures each occupy significant place in history. Each of their stories are lessons in unfailing ambition, fierce determination, and tenacity to the throne.

This evocative marble bust, modeled after a work by Simon-Louis Boizot, captures the visage of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul

This evocative marble bust, modeled after a work by Simon-Louis Boizot, captures the visage of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul

How did these two men, one born to minor nobility and the other born in exile, so profoundly change the course of Western history? Let’s begin with the first, Napoleon Bonaparte. Interestingly, he was born in Corsica in 1769, a recently acquired city-state of the French empire. From birth, Napoleon’s personality during his adolescence was centered on his fiercely patriotic attitude towards his homeland. Journeying to France for schooling at the age of 9, however, Napoleon’s eyes opened up to what would soon be his oyster.

Joining the military at a young age, Napoleon was driven for militaristic dominance and French supremacy. His dream was simple: for French to be the best in the world, and a model for all other countries to follow. Within an astonishingly short amount of time, Napoleon did exactly that. Crowning himself Emperor in 1804 after a successful coup d’état and ruling as First Consul, Napoleon stood as the sole reining figure of the French Empire, raising the state to the grandeur of the Roman Empire.

Remarkable among most portraits of the exiled leader, this intriguing and highly detailed sculpture depicts Napoleon at his most vulnerable

Remarkable among most portraits of the exiled leader, this intriguing and highly detailed sculpture depicts Napoleon at his most vulnerable

As the first Emperor of France, Napoleon reorganized education, established the long-lasting Concordat with the Pope, and revolutionized military organization. Such a heightened rise to power could not come about with some major costs, however. After numerous military defeats, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba in 1814. Shrewd and cunning as he always was, Napoleon found his way back. Escaping the island in 1815, Napoleon stumbled into Paris with open arms awaiting him, leading France back into battle and beginning his 100 days campaign. However, his last days were soon upon him. Once again, Napoleon saw defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and his forced abdication occurred in June 1815; he would die during his final exile in Saint Helena in 1821.

This captivating bronze death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I is cast from the mold created by Dr. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician and companion during the last two years of his life

This captivating bronze death mask of the Emperor Napoleon I is cast from the mold created by Dr. Francesco Antommarchi, Napoleon’s personal physician and companion during the last two years of his life

Born in 1808, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis-Napoleon, known also as Napoleon III, was determined to regain the French throne since his adolescence. Writing and publishing his various militaristic and political ideas, word spread of his motivation and ideologies. Aligning himself greatly with his uncle, Louis-Napoleon attempted a coup d’etat in 1836. Though unsuccessful, he was elected in 1850 as president of the Second Republic in France. Much like his uncle, Louis Napoleon desired more: he wanted to be Emperor. Desire fulfilled, he reigned as Emperor Napoleon III from 1852-1870.

With Louis-Napoleon’s rise to power, the Bonaparte legacy was strengthened in every way possible. While his reign came to a close after a disastrous defeat during the Franco-Prussian War, the legacy of his rule has lived on as one of the most cunning and successful rises to power in history, much like his uncle, known simply as Napoleon.

 

Exploring Modern Art: Vilhelm Lundstrøm and the Cubist Style

May 17th, 2016 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

When one thinks of Cubism, images of Montmartre intellectuals and Picasso’s ground-breaking Les Demoiselles d’Avignon immediately spring to mind. One of the most influential movements in art history, hints of the Cubist aesthetic continue to resonate in the art world. One man who helped advance and disseminate this revolutionary vision was the talented Vilhelm Lundstrøm. A celebrated modernist painter, Lundstrøm is credited for bringing French Cubism to Denmark, establishing a rich modern tradition in the Danish art scene that exists still today.

A central figure in early Danish modernism, Vilhelm Lundstrøm's abstract canvases are a bold exploration of simplified shape and color

A central figure in early Danish modernism, Vilhelm Lundstrøm’s abstract canvases are a bold exploration of simplified shape and color

The foundations of Cubist art can be boiled down to the Lundstrøm’s forbearers: Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. A movement born from abandoning perspective, exploring form, and experiencing space, Cubism emerged in 1907 as a reaction to the primitive art of Paul Cezanne. Together, Braque and Picasso developed the style to the very apex of austerity: Analytical Cubism. Their capability to comprehend and capture different viewpoints and positions simultaneously gave rise to a multitude of other styles, all which rejecting the idea that art should reflect true nature. Lundstrøm’s work Still Life with Orange, Books and Boxes is a clear example of the duo’s deep and long-lasting influence.

The present still life embodies his distinctive, minimal Cubist aesthetic

The present still life embodies his distinctive, minimal Cubist aesthetic

Depicting a multitude of simplified forms to depict books and boxes, the minimal aesthetic of the Cubist style is immediately evident. In a palette of primary colors, this stark and extraordinary work exemplifies Lundstrøm’s bold and powerful renderings. Visiting France in the 1920s after studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, Lundstrøm encountered for the first time the Cubist canvasses of the great Picasso; the images would remain with him, permeating his oeuvre and influencing his homeland of Denmark. Echoing Picasso’s technique of a visual language based on numerous vantage points of geometric forms, Lundstrøm emphasizes the flattened two dimentionality of the canvas. This work goes far beyond the simple depiction of reality for any viewer. Instead of being a mirror into what the natural eye can already see, Lundstrøm presents us with a different view through shallow, relief like spaces, challenging us to consider our world is a new, different way.

On par with the big names of modern art, Lundstrom has left us with a piece of Danish Cubism that accurately reflects the bold, distinctive temperament of early 20th century modern art. Through just a morsel of context, the understanding of a Cubist work can change from a recognition of the pretty aesthetic to a thoughtful and perceptive approach to one of the most pivotal styles in art history.

Emerald Terminology, Explained

May 4th, 2016 | posted by Danielle Halikias

With an unmistakable lush green color, May’s birthstone has long been one of the most coveted of all colored gemstones. Adored since ancient times, the emerald was thought to possess magical powers that warded off evil spirits and cure diseases. Today, the emerald still holds power, but of an entirely different sort – the power of desire. This dazzling green gemstones evokes a sense of elegant tranquility as the gem of the spring season.

An outstanding 6.02-carat emerald exhibits the perfect "Old Mine" green hue in this classic and captivating ring

An outstanding 6.02-carat emerald exhibits the perfect “Old Mine” green hue in this classic and captivating ring

With the gemstone market ever expanding, the choices for emeralds seem endless. These popular precious gemstones can be found today in a range of varying colors, sizes, and qualities. For the first-time buyer, this variety of stones and the accompanying terminology can seem daunting and difficult to decipher. When searching for the perfect emerald, it’s important to understand the makeup of your stone and its background, as various treatments and artificial enhancements are not always noticeable to the unpracticed eye. Oil/no oil – what does it all mean, anyway? Let’s take a closer look at the most common terms you might encounter when shopping for your next emerald.

Certified by the American Gemological Laboratories as untreated, the stunning duo total 3.12 carats and claim an entirely natural beauty

Certified by the American Gemological Laboratories as untreated, the stunning duo total 3.12 carats and claim an entirely natural beauty

The eight remarkably rare Colombian emeralds display a stunning deep green hue that attest to their important origin

The eight remarkably rare Colombian emeralds display a stunning deep green hue that attest to their important origin

Apart from the chemical makeup of each unique stone, the geographical origin of emeralds should also be considered. For instance, Colombia has been the prime location for the mining of the finest quality emeralds in the world. These stones possess a quality like no other as they are regarded as the finest in the world identifiable by their pure, dark green color and quality, seen in this Colombian emerald and diamond statement necklace.

Exciting imaginations since antiquity, the emerald’s association with the lushest landscapes and rebirth maintains its association with the renewal of the Spring season. Today, the demand for the emerald has skyrocketed as consumers desire emeralds that speak to the most pure color and origin. By understanding simple terminology behind the makeup of an emerald, anyone can detect what makes up the finest emeralds.

 

 

Captured in History: Artifacts of the Vatican

April 25th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

A place of legends, spirituality and myth, Vatican City is the epicenter of Catholicism worldwide. For many, Vatican City stands as the ultimate place of piety. As the seat of the Roman Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years, it is a landmark filled with a rich history that has come to symbolize devout holiness. It is the smallest independent country in the world, yet wields greater influence globally than any other.

This incredible KPM tazza was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III for Pope Pius VII

This incredible KPM tazza was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III for Pope Pius VII

Within this influential structure, the Pope reigns supreme – his actions and words have held remarkable import for as long as the position has existed. In March 2013, a monumental event took place as the 266th pope was elected, Pope Francis I. The first pope hailing from Argentina, Pope Francis I embraced the modern era unlike any other before, sparking a renewed global interest in the Vatican. Recently popularized by blockbuster films and top-rated pop fiction novels, the Vatican is headlining news now more than ever before. Stories about secret archives and ancient symbols within the walls of the Vatican seem farfetched, but the true history that envelops the world’s smallest country is no less intriguing.

In the art and antiques world, revelations of this city are particularly exciting. Because it is the history that many find most alluring, let’s backtrack to the early nineteenth century and look at one of the most pivotal stages in papal history.

This "peace dish" is hand-painted with the Monument surrounded by an intricate bouquet of flowers

This “peace dish” is hand-painted with the Monument surrounded by an intricate bouquet of flowers

As George IV became King of England, Susan B. Anthony led the American suffrage movement, and Napoleon I died in exile, significant change took place during the 1820s. All around, the tumultuous political atmosphere caused massive diplomatic upheaval as countires clamored to ally with neighboring states. This diplomacy was highly embraced by the Vatican City. Dedicated to forming diplomatic relationships with surrounding states, the early 19th century aim of the Vatican was focused on solidifying relations with the country Prussia, and each took part in the passage of the Concordat of 1821. Highly advantageous for both parties, this diplomatic pass further intertwined the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Prussia under the direction of King Wilhelm III and Pope Pius VII.

This important porcelain tazza was once part of the famed Twininght Collection of Royal Porcelain, New York

This important porcelain tazza was once part of the famed Twininght Collection of Royal Porcelain, New York

Naturally, in this age a diplomatic agreement was not finalized without the gracious offering of a gift to the neighboring party. Pleased with the outcome, King Wilhelm III commissioned one of the finest porcelain manufacturers to create two tazzas, also known as peace dishes, to be delivered to the Vatican. KPM, arguably the greatest name in porcelain history, crafted these tazzas with a level of richness and intricacy that would have only been appropriate for the high taste of the pope.

Because papal artifacts are extremely rare to come by, their rarity becomes all the more important. By being directly connected to the papacy, provenance of items, such as this and other furniture pieces, take on a whole new meaning of immense, unceasing importance.

Dining as an Art: Caring for Your Silver Collection

April 18th, 2016 | posted by James Gillis
This incredible English King flatware service by Tiffany & Co. comprises 664 impeccable pieces

This incredible English King flatware service by Tiffany & Co. comprises 664 impeccable pieces

Since its inception in 1837, silver flatware by Tiffany & Co. has brought a touch of luxury to dining rooms in a manner of unparalleled craftsmanship and elegance. Synonymous with timeless style, the Tiffany & Co. Silver Company began retailing silverware at the onset of an era of rapid wealth expansion in America. This new wealth, coupled with discoveries of vast silver deposits in the West, spurred an entirely new way of living and socializing for the upper classes. Social calendars of the elite were now filled with evening gatherings, dinner parties, and highly exclusive social events. The new sumptuous tastes were on full display, and extensive silver flatware sets and centerpieces served as a visual affirmation of economic prosperity and affluence. Tiffany designed large flatware sets, comprised of utensils for serving and consuming nearly every food imaginable, to accompany the glittering and extravagant dinner parties of the age. An art all their own, today these sets are prized not just for their opulence, but also their remarkably quality and craftsmanship.

This service for 24 features rare pieces such as orange knives and spoons and a cheese server

This service for 24 features rare pieces such as orange knives and spoons and a cheese server

Tiffany began to gain international recognition abroad as the breadth of their output grew in the late 19th century. At the 1878 Paris World’s Fair under the directly of John C. Moore, Tiffany became the first American firm to earn the Grand Prize for Excellence in silver.  The spotlight soon became a familiar place for Tiffany. By creating some of the grandest flatware sets imaginable, Tiffany led the way as the unchallenged master of the silver craft in the United States. Yet, it was not just international acclaim that brought Tiffany its fame, but a sterling reputation for high quality flatware and exquisite designs.

Regarded as extraordinary treasures of American silver today, Tiffany pieces – along with other quality silver – do require periodic maintenance and proper storage. When owning a large flatware set such as this Tiffany English King flatware set, consider the array of pieces the require care. From gilt salad servers and grapefruit spoons to terrapin knives and nut picks, all 664 utensils in this set require some upkeep to fully appreciate the intricacy of the renowned English King design. Simple, habitual care for your flatware set is the most efficient way to keep your silver in pristine condition.

Introduced in 1885, English King is among Tiffany's most prized and beautiful patterns

Introduced in 1885, English King is among Tiffany’s most prized and beautiful patterns

The first step in caring for your silver flatware is keeping the natural tarnishing processes of silver at bay. Though it is the most common way your silver loses its shine, tarnish is one of the easiest things to treat and remove. Caused by exposure to air, more tarnish occurs in damper environments, so keeping you silver properly stored in a dry environment is the best way to avoid tarnishing. Yet, if it does occur use a soft cloth and polish to restore shine to your silver. When choosing a polish, pay close attention to the techniques and directions for each one. Creams, for example, take at least an hour to dry. If using a cream on a piece with an intricate design such as the English King, be sure to remove all excess polish in the swirling low reliefs of the pattern on each utensil.

Cotton wadding is also a convenient and effective way to remove tarnish. Pre-treat your cotton with silver cleaner and simply buff the surface of your flatware with the wadding. This technique proves highly effective for engraved and chased silver pieces with various intricacies. If short on time, a simple silver cloth will easily remove any finger prints and smudges while enhancing the shine. After properly cleaning, store your silver in lined cabinets or treated cloth.

The Tiffany legacy and their classic designs have stood the test of time – with a little care and attention, so too can your prized silver pieces.

 

 

 

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