Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Prototype tray

Designer:
Eliel Saarinen (American (born Finland), Rantasalmi 1873–1950 Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)
Manufacturer:
International Silver Company, Wilcox Silver Plate Company Division (Meriden, Connecticut)
Date:
1934
Medium:
Electro-plated nickel silver, brass and Bakelite
Dimensions:
Diam. 17 5/8 x 5/8 in. (44.8 x 1.6 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Saarinen Swanson and John C. Waddell Gifts, and Gift of Susan Dwight Bliss, by exchange, 1999
Accession Number:
1999.27.2
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 903
The Finnish-born architect and designer Eliel Saarinen had an international reputation by the time he immigrated to America in 1923. In 1925 he was hired to develop plans for the Cranbrook Academy of Art at Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Thereafter, though he was responsible for many other important projects, Cranbrook became the focus of his life. Saarinen used this prototype urn and tray in his own house at Cranbrook. The design was put into very limited production by the International Silver Company, and one example was prominently displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the "Room for a Lady" that Saarinen designed for the important 1934 exhibition "Contemporary American Industrial Art." The design concept is remarkably sophisticated: while it relies for its effect on the pure geometries of modernism, any austerity is offset by the fine proportions, the elegance of the exaggerated height of the finial, and the warmth of the brass plating that Saarinen insisted on for his personal pieces (the other versions of the urn and tray were finished in silver plate).
Marking: [stamped on underside of tray] WILCOX S.P.CO./EPNS/INTERNATIONAL S. CO./N 5875/15
Mr. and Mrs. Eliel Saarinen, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (until his d. 1950); Mrs. Eliel Saarinen, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (1950–d. 1968); her grandson, Ronald Saarinen Swanson, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. (1968–98; to MMA)

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions of Twentieth-Century Design and Architecture," June 29–November 14, 1999, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 16, 2000–January 7, extended to February 4, 2001, unnumbered cat. (p. 106).

Newport Beach, Calif. Orange County Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 25–August 19, 2001, unnumbered cat.

Flint, Mich. Flint Institute of Arts. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," September 14–December 16, 2001, unnumbered cat.

Philadelphia. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," January 11–April 7, 2002, unnumbered cat.

Charlotte, N. C. Mint Museum of Craft and Design. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," May 3–July 28, 2002, unnumbered cat.

Tulsa, Okla. Philbrook Museum of Art. "American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age," August 23–November 17, 2002, unnumbered cat.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Curator's Eye: J. Stewart Johnson, 1990–2004," March 1–November 6, 2005, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Modern Design: Selections from the Collection," May 30–October 5, 2008, no catalogue.

Albert Christ-Janer. Eliel Saarinen. Chicago, 1948, fig. 164.

R. Craig Miller in Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision 1925–1950. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1983, pp. 99–100.

J. David Farmer in Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision 1925–1950. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1983, p. 163, colorpl. 32 (Cranbrook Academy of Art version).

Richard Guy Wilson in The Machine Age in America, 1918–1941. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. New York, 1986, p. 88, fig. 3.27 (Cranbrook Academy of Art version).

J. Stewart Johnson in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1998–1999." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57 (Fall 1999), p. 63, ill.

J. Stewart Johnson. American Modern, 1925–1940: Design for a New Age. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2000, pp. 34, 173, ill. p. 106 (color).



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