Presidents Day: A Cause for National Celebration

February 15th, 2016 | posted by Danielle Halikias

It comes to no surprise that the annual President’s Day holiday sparks feelings of nationality, patriotism, and considerable countrywide honor. As a day that encompasses more than two hundred years of American history and leadership, it is impossible not to regard this holiday as a perennial day of remembrance. The day celebrates centuries of leadership by our earnest and fearless founding fathers, who have upheld American values for more than two hundred years.

This lovely Blue Canton China Dinner Plate was used by George and Martha Washington

This lovely Blue Canton China Dinner Plate was used by George and Martha Washington

Interest in the presidency has remained at a pinnacle since the first president took the oath on the balcony of the Federal Hall on Wall Street in 1789. Speaking to the near celebrity status that every president has achieved, pieces owned by the President – or even simply within the President’s realm – possess a higher importance than any other, such as plates and chinaware that the president used in his everyday life. Heralded relics of the president also epitomize the majesty for which presidents are regarded. Accordingly, these functional objects take on a new personality of immense importance and popularity.

Before it was known as President’s Day, this day was explicitly celebrated as George Washington’s birthday. Officially signed in 1971, this day became the first holiday to celebrate the life of a single American individual. In 1885, the holiday spread throughout the entire nation outside of the District of Columbia, calling for every American to pause and reflect on America’s first great leader. By the late 1860s, the shift from the holiday as Washington’s Birthday gave way to the holiday now known as President’s Day, telling of the deep regard that American citizens have always held for America’s Chief Executive.

Strands of hair and pieces from the funerary case of George Washington, the founding father and first President of the United States, are showcased in this frame

Strands of hair and pieces from the funerary case of George Washington, the founding father and first President of the United States, are showcased in this frame

When George Washington became the first president of the young nation, his earnest work ethic garnered him a status of immense popularity and repute. Starting the country anew on unsteady ground due to the Revolutionary War, Washington’s militaristic knowledge and political passion brought in a new era of prosperity of the nation. Because of his triumphant effort in this war, Washington is venerated as one of the most important figures in American history, and is credited for helping give birth to the independent American people. Depicted on the center of every dollar bill, Washington’s remembrance as America’s premiere patriotic leader is extraordinary. It is to no astonishment, therefore, that antiques like silver pieceschina wares, and porcelain from the personal collection of George Washington hold their own grandeur.

 Roosevelt, the only president in history to be elected to four consecutive terms, became a voice of hope for a struggling nation, first through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then through a Second World War

Roosevelt, the only president in history to be elected to four consecutive terms, became a voice of hope for a struggling nation, first through the Great Depression of the 1930s and then through a Second World War

As the dust settled after the Revolutionary War, America and its new three-branched political system was on a steady path of great international prestige and influence. Fast forward thirty-one presidencies into the term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Leading America through one of its most trying times, the Great Depression, Roosevelt served not only as a model of reassurance for all citizens, but a dignitary of persistence and strength during the post World War II era. Exhaustion characterized the mood of the majority of the American people, but with the help and advice of his radio broadcasted “fireside” chats, Roosevelt elevated the spirits of citizens. After the passing of his “New Deal” and various militaristic and diplomatic campaigns, Roosevelt laid the groundwork of peace in post-war America.

In modern day America, Presidents’ Day remains a time for remembrance and pride in America’s leaders – past and present. Throughout the rich history of America, one can look back and regard the triumphal efforts and successes of past presidents. Each year, President’s day offers a revival and recollection of this shared history. With the help of art and antiques that recall these past leaders, the rich past of America is still very much alive today.

Expand your knowledge and admiration for our nation’s leaders by exploring the career and work of an artist who is remembered for capturing some of our nation’s most historic figures. Gilbert Stuart is responsible for composing some of the most iconic images of our nations leaders, including George Washington’s portrait that appears on the face of every dollar bill. His remarkable portraits pay homage to our nation, and also shaped the style of American portraiture that exists into today.

View more presidential objects online

Exploring China’s Gem in the Chinese New Year

February 8th, 2016 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Delicately carved from jade with elaborate designs in bas and high relief, the present piece is a wonderful example of an truly ancient form.


Crafted of hardwood with fine foliate silver inlay and five white nephrite jade insets, the rare x-shape of this scepter symbolizes “two blossoms growing from one stem.”

It has been cherished for millennia, heralded as a ubiquitous symbol of beauty, luxury and royalty in China: Jade. Without question, this stone has surpassed every other with its enduring importance and rich history. Valued for its beauty and symbolic powers, jade is pervasive throughout Chinese decorative arts, considered the most valuable of all precious stones. Today, Asian and non-Asian buyers alike are drawn to jade as never before. And in this Chinese New Year, jade holds a special importance as a symbol of prosperity, success, and good luck.

The use of jade extends to ancient times, with jade objects having been found as early as 5000 BC. The stone is deeply rooted in Chinese culture – the longevity of its value stems both from its beauty and remarkable symbolism. More than 2000 years ago, Confucius wrote a thesis on the eleven virtues of jade, which came to serve as a metaphorical standard of living well. Its polish and brilliance symbolize purity, its soft angles justice, its compactness intelligence, its flaws sincerity – thanks to Confucius, jade became extolled for its virtue.


Jadeite archer’s rings dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries were used in the creation of this one-of-a-kind dining accessories service by Carvin French of New York

Because of this virtuosity of character, jade was at first used to form only the most important of objects. Special designs executed in jade were used in ceremonial pieces and furnishings, as well as in jewelry for the Imperial family. Funerary statuary and incense censors were carved from the stone, as well as important gifts to bring good fortune.

With the advancement of society, the economics and the functions of jade began to change. Symbolic meaning combined with a more practical utility – jade was no longer seen just in the spiritual and Imperial realms, but also in everyday objects, including inkwells, vases, archer’s rings, and belt hooks, among others. Truly the stone of both emperors and men, jade pervaded Chinese culture, and persists yet today.

As sumptuous ornamental objets d’art or functional domestic pieces, the creation and design of jade in China fully mirrored the pure and superior qualities of the material and its association with clarity of mind and purity of spirit.

View all jade objects online

For the Love of Porcelain: Meissen’s Cupid

February 1st, 2016 | posted by James Gillis

Part of the company’s beloved “Cupid Mottos” or “Devise Children” series, cupid admires a single flaming heart with the motto “Un me suffit” (“One is enough”) inscribed on the base

Chocolates, flowers, cozy candle-lit dinners – these ordinary words gain a special significance this time of year around Valentine’s Day. This season of grand romantic gestures and proclamations of love is often personified by its most popular mascot – the mischievous young Cupid. The name alone conjures an image of a chubby-cheeked cherub wielding his infamous bow and arrow. Yet, the plump young cherub that today adorns Valentine’s cards and chocolate boxes is actually older than the holiday itself.


Cupid is depicted as being the ultimate breaker of hearts as he stands with a heart raised in one hand and a knife brandished in the other with the motto “Je les punis” (“I punish”) inscribed on the base

Cupid first makes an appearance in Ancient Greece under the guise of Eros, the god of desire, attraction, and love, and also the son the goddess Aphrodite. Eros was often portrayed in Greek art as a handsome, slim immortal who toyed with the hearts and emotions of different gods. It was during the Hellenistic period and into Roman times that the dashing Eros became the chubby young Cupid we know today. His mother Aphrodite became Venus, and he became the perpetually youthful young god that toyed with the hearts of mortals and immortals alike. The myths and legends surrounding this winged young boy have subsisted throughout the centuries. From Renaissance paintings to Shakespeare’s sonnets, the youthful god has inspired artists as a symbol of the invincibility (and sometimes irrationality) of love.


A charming young Cupid strikes a philosopher’s pose in this delightful porcelain figurine by Meissen

Artisans of the Meissen porcelain manufactory similarly fell under Cupid’s spell. The celebrated company’s much admired Cupid series stars the young god of love, and figurines such as Cupid Enchained epitomize his playfulness in relation to his fellow gods. Other decorative pieces present Cupid as the harbinger of an eternal love, while others depict him as a tyrant over tender hearts. Smaller figurines represent a more human aspect of the winged god, depicting him in moments of contemplation and exhausted rest. Nearly 100 of these extraordinary porcelain figurines were crafted by Meissen, each bringing to life just a single strand of the complex centuries-old myth surrounding Cupid.


The Richness of the Garnet: January Birthstone

January 25th, 2016 | posted by Susan Lapene
These stunning drop earrings boast 17.58 total carats of radiant Mandarin garnets

These stunning drop earrings boast 17.58 total carats of radiant Mandarin garnets

The deep crimson hue of the garnet isn’t the only thing dramatic around this ancient stone – it also possesses a rich history that spans centuries. In ancient times, the garnet was adored by Egyptian pharaohs and queens, who blanketed themselves in the lavish red jewels. These highly prized stones were even buried with theme to accompany their souls into the afterlife, serving as an eternal status symbol. In ancient Rome, Clergy and nobility used impressive garnet signet rings as personal stamps for official documents. Today, the crimson jewel is popularly known as the January birthstone, renowned for both its luxurious color and brilliant refractive index.

While the garnet is best known for its crimson hue, it can also be found naturally in a wide array of colors. Vibrant oranges, heavily saturated greens, intense yellows – the garnet can be found in nearly every hue. Furthermore, garnets are also rich in rarities, including star garnets and color changing stones.

Displaying a fiery orange hue, this trilliant-cut gem absolutely dazzles

Displaying a fiery orange hue, this trilliant-cut gem absolutely dazzles

Of all the colors of garnets, Mandarin orange is one of the rarest and most exotic. First discovered in Namibia in 1991, the stone quickly rose in popularity, becoming one of the most coveted hues in this extraordinary stone and grabbing the attention of the international gemstone market. Buyers, connoisseurs, and all else clamored for a sighting of the fiery-orange.  With a personality all its own, the rich, vivacious hues of a deep orange garnet make a bold statement.

This pair of 17.85-carat Mandarin garnet earrings are comprised of two perfectly matched gemstones that are highlighted by dazzling white diamonds. Embodying the radiance for which these gemstones are coveted, these Mandarin garnets contain no heat treatment, making the gemstones completely natural in appearance: a rarity. Exemplifying the strong refractive rating typical to the Mandarin garnet, this gemstone sparkles to its fullest potential even in the dimmest light conditions.

A radiant and rare 15.01-carat Mandarin garnet is the star of this eye-catching pendant

A radiant and rare 15.01-carat Mandarin garnet is the star of this eye-catching pendant

This stunning Mandarin garnet pendant is the perfect match to the earrings. The monumental 15.01-carat trilliant-cut stone is encircled by a halo of white diamonds, all set in platinum. The pendant’s remarkable color is completely natural as the stone has not undergone any heat treatment, making this stone’s beauty as rare as it is brilliant.

A jewel of marvelous variety, the garnet is an exceptional gemstone that commands great consideration and boasts high admiration. Other garnets, particularly of the warm, rich red color variety also hold a tradition and history that is as important to that of the mandarin garnet. Often worn as a talisman and protective stone in ancient times and heralded by Noah’s use of a warm red garnet lantern to steer his ark through the night, garnets of this red hue spark immense enthusiasm and attention. Those garnets displaying sumptuous color, vibrancy, and size found in M.S. Rau Antiques’ selection of rare jewels are some of the finest colored gemstones to be found.

View more exquisite garnets here


Bouguereau and the Art of the Academy

January 20th, 2016 | posted by George Peralta

“For me a work of art must be an elevated interpretation of nature. The search for the ideal has been the purpose of my life. In landscape or seascape, I love above all the poetic motif.” William Adolphe Bouguereau


This exquisite portrait is the work of French academic great William Bouguereau

In the age that saw the birth of Impressionism, an emerging group of artists that began to see the world around them in new ways, William-Adolphe Bouguereau stood as one of the most influential and popular upholders of traditional Academic art values in his day. A student of the great classical painters, such as Jacques-Louis David and Jean-Dominique Ingres, Bouguereau possessed  a remarkable talent for his craft. Along with his contemporary Alexandre Cabanel, Bouguereau dismissed the new Impressionist ideals in favor of the traditionalist methods of the old masters and valuing, above all else, the beautiful.


Deeply influenced by the classical tradition, Bouguereau is renowned for his portraits

The French Academy stood as a symbol of classical art, accepted motifs, and as an overwhelmingly unofficial mark of proper painting instruction.  Seeped in motifs of the ancient classical past, the European tradition, and historical subjects, works accepted into the Academy embodied the utmost conservatism with their precise rendering of nature. Renowned artists such as Jacques-Louis David and Sir Joshua Reynolds peppered every corner of the exhibition walls of the Salon, conveying dynamic sincerity and clarity to their subjects and scenes.

The devotion to these earlier classical motifs in the works of William-Adolphe Bouguereau is undeniable. His extensive oeuvre paid tribute to the values of the French Academics: attention to beautiful detail, strict adherence to anatomy and perspective, and a high level of finish and clear meaning. By translating distinctly classical motifs in his own taste of peaceful, pastoral landscapes, Bouguereau not only succeeded in maintaining the French Academic tradition, but also in creating enduring compositions that directly spoke the personality and mood of his subjects. Highly admired by both the eye and the Academy, he consequently dominated the Salons of the Third Republic so consistently that the official Salon became known as ‘Le Salon Bouguereau.’


Signed “W-Bouguereau-1895” (lower right)

Like many artists, Bouguereau observed many of the same subjects, yet each of his work possesses subtle nuances that give them a personality distinctly their own. Throughout his long career, he consistently looked to his choice subject, adolescent peasant girls, who came to reflect an idealized window into a serene, pastoral world.

As a quintessential model for Bouguereau’s choice subject, this full-size portrait perfectly epitomizes the skill of Bouguereau’s hand. Set within an idealized outdoor landscape, Bouguereau infuses his work with tranquil simplicity. Dominating the work is a young peasant girl, leaning against rock and enveloped by the detailed foliage behind her. Smiling coyly outwards at the viewer, the girl’s delicate head bends slightly right in a movement of both admiration and observation. With this technique, Bouguereau almost allows a conversation between the viewer and the young girl, who engages the viewer with a coquettish charm.

The beautifully finished composition portrays a young shepherdess with a coy smile

The beautifully finished composition portrays a young shepherdess with a coy smile

In a talented display of photographic-realism, Bouguereau renders the young girl’s entire visage with the utmost amount of detailed accuracy. Fully anatomically precise, the soft bends of the girl’s arms and the luminescence of her skin expose Bouguereau’s genius for communicating human anatomy. The modest girl’s full skirt sits at her waist, topped by a purple sash that sweeps to her side, falling in ripples. The result of these exquisite details is an idyllic landscape that expresses beauty, purity, and hope.

Bouguereau’s work epitomizes the highest degree of taste and refinement, expressing every important hallmark of French Academic painting. Within this portrait, every ethos of Bouguereau’s career is present: his preferred idyllic subject, an unsurpassed degree of finish, luminous color, and remarkable attention to detail. Read more about the unsurpassed career of Bougeureau:

Expand your knowledge and admiration for the work of Bouguereau by exploring the careers and work of his contemporaries and students. Emilie Munier, for example, is regarded as one of the most important students of Bouguereau. While his portraits also show a homage to the same Academic techniques as his great master, Munier succeeded in creating language all his own that combined detailed, clear compositions with the vivaciousness of his own taste.


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