Continental Inspirations: The Furniture of William and Mary

May 25th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau
William and Mary Bureau

The precision afforded to these creations make them as much a work of art as a functional piece of furniture.

William and Mary Oysterwood Chest

Oysterwood veneers, parquetry and bun feet distinguish this William and Mary period chest.


When the Dutch William III and his wife Mary II overthrew King James II in the 1688 Glorious Revolution, their victory signaled not only the end to the tensions that existed between the British Crown and Parliament, but also the beginning of a new era of decorative arts. William’s Protestant beliefs opened the door for Dutch, Flemish and French craftsmen to settle in England. These gifted artisans began to work with local cabinetmakers to incorporate their techniques and decorative forms to create a distinctive style of furniture known as William and Mary.

Though the reign of William and Mary lasted only 13 years from 1689-1702, the furnishings created during this period are unlike any before or since. Characterized by the use of rare woods, dramatic veneers and inlays, and bold carved elements, William and Mary furnishings represented a more refined way of living, replacing cumbersome, over-the-top pieces of furniture from the previous decades.

William and Mary Bureau

Elaborate marquetry envelopes this large William and Mary bureau cabinet

A shining example is this stunning Oysterwood Chest. Thin slices of walnut and olive are precisely placed in a painstaking process to form a distinctive parquetry pattern that resembles oyster shells. The bun feet are also hallmarks of William and Mary-era furniture. As taste changed, it was not uncommon for square brackets to replace the original bun feet, making this chest even more desirable. Remarkable foliate inlay envelops this stunning Marquetry Bureau, effectively illustrating the bourgeoning taste of the period to blend form and function. When in use, this cabinet’s fitted interior and leather-lined writing surface make it an optimal workspace, while the exotic inlay and veneering make this furnishing a true work of art.

The reign of William and Mary was undoubtedly a turning point in the realms of politics and the arts. Their adoption of the English Bill of Rights ushered in an era of political freedoms that would even influence the American cause for independence, and their employment of talented artists from throughout the Continent introduced a new layer of refinement and elegance to the decorative arts. Today the furnishings from this period are extremely rare and highly collectible, and examples that demonstrate extreme care over the centuries are especially desirable.

To see M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of William and Mary furnishings, click here.

Like Father, Like Son: The Artistic Style of the Brueghel Family

May 13th, 2015 | posted by James Gillis

The Brueghel family has long enjoyed a strong history in the realm of Flemish painting. The patriarch of the family, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, set the stage for the family’s success and popularity 30-2978_1in 16th-century Dutch Renaissance art that carried on for his future generations. As placing peasants in everyday life as the subject of painting was rare at this time, Brueghel became a true pioneer and innovator in artistic depiction and creation. His earthy and unsentimental works offered viewers a unique window into every day, presenting scenes of peasant and village life that one would not be offered otherwise. Village dancing, feasting, games, rituals, and agriculture are among the many rural subjects that Brueghel so truthfully and candidly depicted. Today, these images give us a window into everyday Belgian life and culture.

30-2978_4Due to the work of his eldest son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger, the family’s tradition of creating genre and peasant scenes continued into the 17th century. Pieter Brueghel the Younger began his impressive career by copying the masterworks of his father. Though Breughel was just five years old when his father died, he still was able to develop a keen eye for his father’s most innovative painterly techniques.

In this masterwork, entitled “The Alchemist,” his father’s artistic hallmarks and stylistic innovations are clearly manifested through Brueghel’s own hand. Originally a drawing done by his father in 1558, Brueghel turned the composition into a bold, vibrant oil on panel. The intricate work depicts a subject of great interest of the time – the alchemist. The science of alchemy, or the attempt to transform one metal into another, was practiced from antiquity through the 17th century. Beginning in the 15th century, the practice was first known to attract frauds and common, and by the time of Brueghel the Elder, the practice was completely discredited.30-3312_1

In this work, the alchemist hunches over his makeshift laboratory while a busy scholar reads below him and a fool thoughtlessly feeds air into the fire. The alchemist’s wife stands next to him, searching her purse as she throws her last gold coin into the crucible. In the background of the composition rests a foreshadowing: the ill-fated family is welcomed with charity into the Church. Through this vibrant and complex picture, Brueghel relays the message that folly often leads to ruin. Unlike his father’s drawing, this version of the alchemist’s folly is rendered with a remarkable attention to detail that only enhances the amusing narrative.

30-3312_4While much of his oeuvre was dedicated to copying the works of his father, Brueghel did compose subjects uniquely his own. This oil on panel, entitled “The Payment of Tithe,” is one example of a work by Brueghel that was not originally created by his father. This 17th-century masterpiece depicts a subject that resonated with Flemish art patrons of the time: a caricatured figure of King Charles V of Spain as a tax collector. This composition is a striking illustration of the unfavorable opinion Flemish peasants held towards their sovereign authorities. The figures and setting are painted in impeccable detail, from the bundles of bags to the papers strewn throughout.

Both of these compositions represent the “Brueghel-esque” satirical style. While successfully adhering to his father’s hallmark painterly styles, Brueghel was also able to cultivate his own artistic personality as he pioneered his own expressions and techniques.

An Age of Transformation: Women in Nineteenth Century Art

March 26th, 2015 | posted by Bill Rau

George Morren, Le Renouveau (The Renewal), Circa 1892


Jéan-Leon Gérôme, Leda and the Swan, Circa 1895

This is the second of a three part series of blog posts preceding our exhibition Innocence, Temptation and Power: The Evolution of Women in Art, on view at M.S. Rau Antiques from March 27 – May 4.

From the mid-nineteenth century, Western Europe and the United States were witness to an extraordinary cultural and social upheaval. Truly a period of transformation, the end of the 19th century can be characterized also as an era of contradiction. As the great generation of French academic painters such as Jean-Léon Gérôme, with their idealized female figures and neoclassical subjects, slowly waned, a new group of radical young artists began to emerge who devoted their oeuvres to a new ideal of modernity. The Impressionists unapologetically painted their impressions of their modern bourgeoisie world, including the women within it, which was undergoing a rapid period of revolution.

While, in many instances, women still found themselves regarded as secondary citizens, it was the onset of industrialization and the corresponding growth of the middle class that began to expand the role of women in society. This provided ample inspiration for late 19th century artists, who themselves contemplated “the woman question” and the changing views of womanhood, femininity and what it meant to be a woman. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Promeneuse perfectly illustrates the Impressionist treatment of middle-class women during the Belle Epoqué – women who embody a new, avant-garde femininity without being idealized.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Promeneuse, Circa 1892

Indeed, traditional aestheticideals in general began to give way to a more revolutionary, individual artistic voice. In the same way, depictions of women in art slowly began to transform from object to subject in the eyes of the artist and the viewer, and the barrier between the private and public gradually began to descend. Yet, despite these advances, women were still expected to be the upholders of morality and put domestic and home responsibilities central in their lives. George Morren’s Le Renouveau (The Renewal) perfectly illustrates this juxtaposition. Depicting a wet-nurse breastfeeding a child, Morren places his female subject within a traditional “maternal” position, but also, more significantly, within a work scene. The “mother” in the scene is feeding the child not out of “natural” nurturing instinct but for wages, as a member of a flourishing industry. Both mother figure and worker, Morren’s wet-nurse epitomizes the updated, secularized Impressionist woman

Undeniably, as the Impressionists begin to capture their own lived experiences of everyday life, the range and treatment of women as a subject in art similarly expanded, offering viewers a glimpse of the lived experience of the late 19th century woman through the Impressionist canvas. Themes of bourgeois leisure, bohemian spectacle, urban culture, and intimate spaces dominate the genre moving into the 20th century – subjects that will only continue to expand into the modern era.

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.

All Things in Bloom

March 21st, 2015 | posted by Susan Lapene
Entitled Geraniums, the piece displays Buffet’s renowned avant-garde style

Entitled Geraniums, the piece displays Buffet’s renowned avant-garde style

Chirping birds, sun-filled days, vibrant views, and breezy pleasantness… all of these herald the awakening of spring. In New Orleans, springtime is bustling with joyous occasions, festivals, and celebrations. People burst outdoors to soak up the sunshine and glorious weather until the thick humidity of June sets in. The warm, calm breeze meanders through the lush neighborhoods Uptown, the hustle and bustle Downtown, down the historic streets of the French Quarter, and into M.S. Rau Antiques, where many of our extraordinary pieces display an ode to springtime aesthetics in their expressive colors and floral motifs in different mediums.

Stamped with Meissen crossed swords and asterisks in blue underglaze, with impressed numerals

Stamped with Meissen crossed swords and asterisks in blue underglaze, with impressed numerals

Bernard Buffet, a French expressionist painter, created many pieces that portrayed brilliant bursts of bright color. While he painted religious scenes and landscapes, his floral depictions are some of his most vibrant and captivating. His piece, Geraniums, from 1978 depicts a blooming flourish of coral-colored flowers that dominate the scene. This bold floral design is accentuated by thick black outlines that heighten the dramatic effect of the composition. The slender flowers stretch upward and rich green paint colors the flowers’ leaves, serving as a perfect balance to the artist’s dramatic style. Geraniums, a symbol for determination and elegance, are a perfect representation of the beauty of Spring.  Part of the artistic group known as “L’homme Témoin” (“The Witness-Men”), Buffet’s canvases favored the expression of feeling over physical reality, and here all of the freshness of Spring emanates from his canvas.

Less dramatic, but no less beautiful, this Meissen Tea and Coffee Service features exquisite floral designs of the

The gem’s rich hue and brilliance are hallmarks of the famed Paraiba stones

The gem’s rich hue and brilliance are hallmarks of the famed Paraiba stones

“Meissen Rose” pattern. Meissen Porcelain was the first European factory to produce true or “hard paste” porcelain pieces. Each piece of this stunning thirty-nine piece collection has an individual cartouche of the floral bouquet design featuring fine layers of bright yellow, elegant blues, pinks, purples, and rich green paints. Exquisite 18K gold gilt borders enclose each bouquet design. These meticulously rendered designs show true precision and skill of the set’s craftsman. A Meissen set this large, with each piece individually painted in such a precise fashion, is extremely rare and heightens the extraordinary importance and artistry of the collection.

This Paraiba Tourmaline Ring features stone in a bright, refreshing green hue. Characterizing the abundance of greenery that reappears in the spring, this spearmint colored green gem boasts radiance and vibrancy. Set in 18K gold and platinum, this 8.06-carat gem is set in a halo of diamonds. To find one of this size is astonishing and extraordinary.



Everlasting Elegance: Goldscheider Ceramics

March 13th, 2015 | posted by Deborah Choate

Goldscheider ceramics, an Austrian ceramic manufacturing company founded in 1885, grew to become one of the most leading manufacturers of bronze, terracotta, and faience objects. Led under the astute direction of Friedrich Goldscheider, this company successfully opened subsidiary manufacturing locations in Paris and Florence. It became a dominant fixture in the prolific production of porcelain products and created a magnificent name for itself in the realm of highly respected decorative arts. To own a Goldscheider piece was a glorious treasure: a symbol of high wealth and status.

The company employed many different artists who burgeoned into some of the most influential and famous individuals in their work and talent. While producing numerous types of items, artists

Entitled Hyliothrope, this bust is a fantastic example of Art Nouveau sculpture

Entitled Hyliothrope, this bust is a fantastic example of Art Nouveau sculpture

of the Goldscheider factory produced works of historical revivalism, art deco, and art nouveau. The factory created over ten thousand different and striking models in these and various other astoundingly magnificent styles. All the while, these objects won prizes and particularly immense attention at universal exhibitions and world’s fairs.

Though the Goldscheider family business experienced enormous success, wartime Austria shook their history forever. When Nazi’s invaded Vienna, the relentless Gestapo stumbled into the Goldscheider factory. Fortunately, a worker in the basement was able to hear the clamor above and quickly hid all the original molds from possibly theft or destruction. Clever as this worker was, the molds were never uncovered by the ruthless Nazis. One member of the large Goldscheider family, Peter Goldscheider was able to escape to the United States, vowing to return to retrieve the molds. Twenty years later, Peter unearthed the hidden molds and revealed their precious meaning and timeless qualities to the world. A story of success and endearing truth, the Goldscheider business still flourishes in artistic production today.

In their enormous success, Goldscheider manufacturers set the standard of style for exquisite Art Nouveau sculpture. The movement became immensely popular at the turn of the 19th century

A fine terra cotta sculpture modeled by artist A. Bertrand and created by Goldscheider of Vienna

A fine terra cotta sculpture modeled by artist A. Bertrand and created by Goldscheider of Vienna

Europe, situating itself as one of the most revolutionary and praised art movements of its time.  As Goldscheider artists and sculptures were known for their fluidity in design and realistic depictions, the international public praised Goldscheider for fully embodying the popular Art Nouveau movement. Inspired by natural forms, the art nouveau style was compromised of swirling curvilinear lines, harmonizing female forms, and organic subject matter.

Bertrand, an acclaimed artist of the Goldscheider business, produced many different female busts that are still highly praised today. This elegant terracotta, titled

Designed by French sculptor Leveque, this enchanting sculpture exhibits exotic feminine beauty as envisioned by the late 19th-century European imagination

Designed by French sculptor Leveque, this enchanting sculpture exhibits exotic feminine beauty as envisioned by the late 19th-century European imagination

Hyliothrope bust evokes all characteristics of an art nouveau piece. The young, elegant maiden is adorned by gold flowers and leaves that envelop her and completely parallel her with nature. Her warm smile invites the viewer into admiration and her form is timeless.

Leveque, another highly skilled French artist employed by the Goldscheider manufacturers, created an ideal vision of the 19th century Western European idea of feminine beauty. In this period, Europeans were within an intense fascination for the striking differences and extraordinarily unique beauty of Eastern and African countries and their women. While many artists and admirers did not travel to these countries, they constructed fantasies and superbly elegant imaginations of the locale and people of these orientalist places. Specifically, this bust represents the European ideal of the North African woman. Supremely beautiful tanned skin encapsulates the terra cotta piece and a flowing head scarf completes the exotic features. All the while, mastery in the Art Nouveau style presents itself: the woman’s slopping shoulders, the elegant curves and swirls of her dress, and the supremely ladylike profile of her face.

The immediate Goldscheider success, which has prevailed to today, was due to not only highly intelligent business men, but an international market that consistently praised its pieces. The company’s extraordinary and remarkable history of achievement coupled with its timeless, astonishingly beautiful, and expertly crafted pieces has secured its influence and place in artistic manufacturers.



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