Through the careful curation of nearly 100 works of fine art and rare objects from throughout history, M.S. Rau Antiques weaves a fascinating tale examining the fine line separating the righteous from the scandalous in our latest exhibit Vice & Virtue: An Exhibition of Sex, Saints and Sin.
In commemoration of New Orleans’ tricentennial, the exhibition pays homage to our beloved city’s religious roots and colorful history of indulgence and excess. Visitors are treated to a captivating analysis of humanity’s struggle between vice and virtue as told through some of the rarest and most intriguing treasures ever assembled.
Let’s take a sneak-peek at a few of the awe-inspiring objects that will be featured.
Edward VII’s Siège d’Amour “Love Chair”
The eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Edward VII’s risqué exploits were well known to both his family and his people. Commissioned by Edward VII and created by renowned Parisian cabinetmaker Louis Soubrier in 1890, this “siege d’amour” or “seat of love” was kept at the Le Chabanais bordello for the future king’s personal use. The design allowed the infamous playboy to amuse himself with two ladies at the same time.
This is one of only two “love chairs” based on the original design, with the other example residing in the sex museum in Prague. The original chair remains in the private collection of Soubrier’s great-grandson.
Pope VI’s Diamond Cross and Ring
The most significant pieces of Papal jewelry to ever come on the market, this immense diamond cross and ring was gifted by Pope Paul VI to the United Nations in 1965, with the hopes that their sale at auction would contribute to the UN’s efforts to end human suffering.
The cross is hand-wrought of 18K yellow gold and lined with stunning white diamonds (the 12 largest of which weigh over 59 carats) that are highlighted by vivid green Colombian emeralds.
The ring is hand-crafted of platinum with an approximately 13.5 carat Old European cut diamond at its center. Surrounding this grand gem is a hallow of 14 diamonds with additional diamonds and rubies traveling along the shank.
These amazing jeweled creations are engraved with the Christian Chi Rho symbol, indicating that this cross was almost certainly made by Vatican jewelers in the early 1900's with gemstones from the Vatican's own collection.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s The Alchemist
17th-century Flemish master Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s oeuvre often provided thought-provoking commentary on the social issues of his day, and The Alchemist (circa 1600) is no exception.
The “science” of alchemy, or the attempt to transform one metal into another, was practiced from antiquity through the 17th century. But by the 15th century, the practice attracted frauds and conmen and was completely discredited. This scene offers a rather satirical portrait of the alchemist at work, standing as a symbol of man’s greed in its quest for unearned gold.
This brilliantly hued painting is a recently rediscovered masterwork after a significant drawing by the artist’s father, Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Painted with remarkable finesse and his renowned eye for detail, this tour-de-force of Flemish painting stands as one of Brueghel the Younger’s greatest masterpieces.
From a sultry chair made for a playboy king, to one-of-a-kind Papal jewels and breathtaking fine art treasures, visitors and collectors are certain to find objects that delight, intrigue and tempt in this magnificent exhibition.
Vice & Virtue: An Exhibition of Sex, Saints and Sin is free and open to the public from April 7th through June 9th at our French Quarter Gallery.