Still Time To Find Vice And Virtue In New Orleans

May 22, 2018

There’s still time to see an art exhibit entitled “Vice and Virtue: An exhibition of Sex Saints and Sin.” It’s at the MS Rau Antiques shop in the French Quarter. Curator Rebecca Rau says the Royal Street shop between St. Louis Cathedral and Bourbon Street is the perfect location for the show that connects two very different worlds.

To celebrate the city’s 300th-year celebration,  Rau has put together an exhibit that exemplifies the history, diversity, cultural traditions and resilience of the city.  Vice & Virtue features fine art and rare objects from across history, from torture masks to Brueghel masterpieces.

The new exhibit has more than 50 pieces of art, antiques, art and historical items valued at over $15 million. The collection recognizes New Orleans’ Catholic heritage and its culture of celebration, indulgence and excess. Depictions of the pious and pure are alongside voyeurs, seductresses, and misbehaving cardinals.

“Since the beginning New Orleans has been filled with piety and decadence; it is a city that thrives on extremes,” explained Rau, a fourth-generation antiques dealer.

The show begins with the theme of innocence and winds its way through the second-floor space into temptation, followed by the saved, into the damned (with a bar) leading into a brothel, and then punishment ending with salvation.

In the brothel, by the way, is a rococo “chair” specially made in 1890 for then-Prince Edward. Before becoming King Edward the 7th the young prince enjoyed life in Parisian brothels. It’s described in the exhibit catalogue as The Love Chair, a creation from the prominent (but discreet) Cabinetmaker Louis Soubrier, for Edward’s use. That Edward was naughty.

The show runs through June 9 at Rau’s Antiques, 630 Royal St. in New Orleans.