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At a Second Glance – Pietre Dure

November 14th, 2014 | posted by Ludovic Rousset

The creation of exquisite, magnificent Renaissance art involves more than just paint on canvas; its influence is perpetual and never-ending.

The technique requires these pieces of stone to be meticulously cut to create a flawless scene

The technique requires these pieces of stone to be meticulously cut to create a flawless scene

This piece, A Game of Dice by Alfonso Montelatici, shows the use of the Pietre Dure technique. Developed from the Ancient Romans and then revived by 16th century Renaissance craftsmen, this craft involves the process of using various fitted and polished cut stones and fine marbles to create an overall picture. The Italian term literally means “hard stones” as different colored small stones are precisely chosen for placement and interlocked together so that the contact between each is almost invisible. The stones would then be inlaid onto a stone base. Often, craftsmen of this technique would choose very refined and rare types of marble and materials to heighten the elegance of the overall piece.

Not only requiring a vast amount of time and expenses, this technique required highly skilled craftsmen who could articulate images with stone in the same ways as in the Renaissance. The Montelatici family is credited for the revival of this intricate technique. Natives of Italy, the father of Alfonso, Giovanni, founded a workshop called Arte Musiva where numerous foreign buyers would flock to purchase their unique and stunning pieces. Later, Giovanni’s two sons joined him in the workshop. While there are not many details on the life of Alfonso, it is known that he had a unique stylistic approach to this stone “painting” technique that involved bold coloring and a gallant atmospheres.

This piece reflects the work that Italian Renaissance craftsmen perfected. If you look at this from a distance it seems like a traditional oil on canvas painting. However, when approached, you can discern the small pieces of stone and marble that make up the different cheery figures and shapes. The scene depicts two jovial men playing a game of dice while a woman happily looks on. The interior of the scene is communicated by fine pieces of taupe, brown, and grey marble, thus speaking to their own materiality as they depict a marble and stone like floor and wall surfaces. The robust, contrasting coloring and solidarity of the surface gives the figures weight and dimensionality. Regarding this piece, the viewer can almost feel the light atmosphere of the room and the echoing, cool feeling of the stone walls. It would be impossible for one to merely glance at this image and not desire to emulate the gaiety and happiness of the characters before you.

It is extraordinary that craftsmen at this time could yield such unique and remarkable pieces. Today, however, these pieces are extremely difficult to acquire. Though there were prolific craftsmen of the twentieth century who worked in this style, many do not reappear today.

D.H. Chiparus: Master of Art Deco Sculptures

November 5th, 2014 | posted by Danielle Halikias

The Art Deco period was renowned for its sculptures featuring high quality figures with rhythm and movement. During this time, a new style of decorative art emerged that was a complete change from the heavy romantic late nineteenth century style. This new style was inspired by the joie de vivre of the young society of the 1920s. At the forefront of this movement was Romanian born sculptor, Demetre Chiparus who is now considered to be one of the masters of Art Deco bronzes.

Born in 1886, Chiparus began to show interest in sculpture art at a young age. He began his studies in Italy and later in France, where he studied under famous artists such as Mercié and J. Boucher at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. It was in Paris where he perfected his famed chryselephantine technique. This process involved employing a combination of carved ivory and bronze to create stunning, lifelike sculptures. The combination of the cold-painted bronze along with the ivory to depict flesh was unlike anything seen before. Inspired by Russian ballet and French theater, Chiparus created a theatrical female form in his sculptures. These bronze women are depicted as long and slender and are often adorned in elegant costumes.

A magnificent Art Deco bronze sculpture by D.H. Chiparus entitled Friends Forever

A magnificent Art Deco bronze sculpture by D.H. Chiparus entitled Friends Forever

We are fortunate to have a spectacular and rare sculpture by Chiparus here at M.S. Rau.  Entitled, Friends Forever, this piece features a delicate female and her canine companions crafted of bronze and ivory set atop a stunning onyx and marble base.  This graceful figure is as detailed as it is engaging. The etched signature “D.H. Chiparus” is found on the base and the foundry stamp “L.N/Paris/J.L.” is found on the woman’s skirt.  Come by our gallery today to see this remarkable Art Deco chryselephantine sculpture in person.

Woven Masterpieces: Aubusson Tapestries

November 3rd, 2014 | posted by Bill Rau
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This incredible Aubusson tapestry is modeled on the work Les constructeurs sur fond bleu by Fernand Léger

At the ateliers of Aubusson, tapestries are woven today in the same way they were hundreds of years ago. An art both ancient and modern, the tradition of Aubusson woven masterpieces experienced a modern revival in the early twentieth century. Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall – these are just some of the master artists of the 1930s who contributed their works to the ancient art.

From the 13th century, tapestry making was a flourishing art in France. At a time when the upper echelon of society resided in large, expansive estates, tapestries were used to create portable partitions, keep rooms free from drafts, and decorate vast, bare walls. By the Renaissance, tapestries based on painted masterpieces came into vogue, and works by the Old Renaissance Masters were translated into colossal woven masterworks boasting incredibly complicated designs, some incorporating upwards of 600 different colors. The practice continued through the Baroque period, when works by in-demand artists such as François Boucher were commonly re-worked into woven form, often under the guidance of the artists themselves. Yet, by the end of the 18th century, the art of the tapestry experienced a brief decline in popularity, and these grand works and master ateliers would spend the next century fighting for survival in the industry.

The 20th century brought with it a revived interest in the Old Renaissance Masters, and with it an increase in popularity for tapestries from this age. Collectors and art lovers alike snatched up these woven recreations of much loved Renaissance masterworks, which became incredibly valuable on the market. This sudden uptick in interest in Renaissance Aubusson tapestries led some to question why works by the modern masters were not also being translated into the ancient art. It took just one incredibly important and impassioned woman reacting to this question to begin a new history for the Aubusson ateliers.

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This remarkable French tapestry celebrates the artistry of the famed François Boucher

With the aim of reviving the declining Aubusson ateliers, art collector and patron Madame Marie Cuttoli began commissioning designs from masters of the modern movement. Her greatest contribution was her ability to break the Aubusson houses of their traditional designs, heralding in a new era during which contemporary artists were engaged with designers for the first time in two centuries. Artists such as Picasso, Miro, Braque, Matisse and Léger worked with Aubusson cartoonists and designers to translate their most important works into the medium, creating monumental woven wonders of modern design. In the early 1930s, these tapestries were exhibited side by side with the paintings that had inspired them, and often times the tapestries yielded higher prices than the originals.

One of the most enthusiastic of these collaborative artists was French painter Fernand Léger. Léger’s epic cubist works, such as his monumental Les Constructeurs series, lend themselves well to the art of the tapestry. The expressions of color, the mechanical and geometric elements of his compositions, and the carefully wrought characters of man as engineer all shine through these meticulously woven masterpieces. Delighted by the collaborative process of tapestry design, Léger continued to lend his distinctive geometric designs to Aubusson weavers until his death in 1955.

Bones and Caskets

October 24th, 2014 | posted by Phillip Youngberg

Crinkling leaves, pumpkins, witches, and warlocks….The spookiness of Halloween is upon us all and MS Rau has many mystical and mysterious items to add to the October spirit. Of all our irreplaceable and exquisite pieces in our gallery, many speak to the fantastical and magical.

George Washington's Hair and Funerary Case Shavings

George Washington’s Hair and Funerary Case Shavings

Of one example is George Washington’s Hair and Funerary Case Shavings. It speaks to its own uniqueness. Beautifully framed, these extremely rare strands of George Washington’s hair and fragments from his red cedar casket are shown alongside a reproduction of the famed portrait by Gilbers Stuart, originally created in 1799. This type of artifact is extremely rare and are strongly coveted by museums and private collectors

Codognato Skull Ring

Codognato Skull Ring

The Codognato Skull Ring, created by the famed jeweler Codognato, depicts an enameled skull with rock crystals on 18K yellow gold. This shockingly accurate large skull object would have served as a memento mori for the wearer, a reminder of their own mortality. Skulls and other symbols of death were common motifs in Codognato’s workshop. Working primarily in Baroque and Gothic styles, his pieces were highly sought after for the uniqueness and artistry.

Rare Ice Age Cave Bear Skeleton

Rare Ice Age Cave Bear Skeleton

Most exceptional is the rare ice age cave bear skeleton. Over eight feet tall, this skeleton comes from the Ural Mountains of Russia. This cave bear was once one of the most fearsome animals of the Pleistocene Age and was the chief animal hunted by prehistoric man. However, it is thought that these bears also served as an object of worship, as discoveries found caves filled with carefully organized and preserved skeletons of these animals. It is amazing that we are able to have a full skeleton, as they are rare and difficult to find.

Stop by MS Rau and see some more of our spooktacular items, Happy Halloween!

The Extravagance of the Fabergé Bell Push

October 21st, 2014 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

The House of Fabergé rests as one of the most important and influential workshops. The company is steeped in a rich history. Founded in St. Petersburg, 1842, Gustav Fabergé founded an atelier that would soon gain worldwide recognition, extending to multiple countries, as one of the most remarkable designers of exquisite jewels and ornamental objects.

Fabergé Bell Push Item Number 30-1574

Fabergé Bell Push
Item Number 30-1574

Although known for their lavish and ingenious jewel encrusted Fabergé eggs, originally designed for the Tsar of Russia, The House of Faberge also designed unique, intricate, and marvelous objets d’art. These lovely and lavish objects, such as ornate jewelry and timepieces, often matched the extravagant and bountiful lifestyles of the elite and aristocratic.

At the end of the 19th century, the world encountered the glamorous and praised invention of electricity. It is with this creation that the elite societal classes were able to further demonstrate their wealth and influence. The Faberge workshops, nonetheless, were able to keep up with these progressing times.

Soon, the Faberge workshops designed small “bell pushes” for stately homes. These bells would be wired through electricity and used by members of the elite to alert their servants and household helpers within the home. Not surprisingly, these bell pushes followed the beautiful traditions of typical Faberge designs. Though tremendously functional, they are undeniably magnificent.

Fabergé Rhondonite Bell Push Item Number 29-5305

Fabergé Rhodonite Bell Push
Item Number 29-5305

This delicate hand-held Faberge bell push (left) features beautiful nephrite jade and gilded silver that works into an intricate foliate design. This piece bears the mark of esteemed and recognized work master Mikhail Perkhin, of the Faberge Company. The bell is a perfect example of the everlasting quality and timeless traditions of the Faberge workshops.

Similarly, this Faberge bell push (right) evokes excellence and immutably magnificent characteristics. Crafted of brilliant rhodonite and chased silver with gold gilding, this piece also announces affluence and technological progressiveness. This bell push displays the revered mark of Carl Faberge, son of founder Gustav, and states the silver composition by a mark of “88.” The black veined rose hues are emphasized by a stunning piece of sapphire that tops the central push button.

While the materials of these pieces are exquisite in themselves, it is indisputable how important and stunning they are when crafted into spectacular objects by skilled hands of the Faberge workshops.

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