Jewel Box

Artist: Dagobert Peche (Austrian, St. Michael im Lungau 1887–1923 Mödling bei Wein)

Manufacturer: Wiener Werkstätte

Date: 1920

Medium: Gilded silver

Dimensions: 15 1/4 x 7 3/4 x 5 in. (38.7 x 19.7 x 12.7 cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Silver

Credit Line: Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1978

Accession Number: 1978.8a-c


Although the Wiener Werkstätte, founded in 1903, is perhaps best known for the strict and vigorous geometry of its earliest designs, a playful, ornamental spirit characterizes work produced there following the advent of World War I. Peche, who worked as a designer at the Wiener Werkstätte between 1915 and 1923 (becoming a co-director in 1917), was a driving force behind the development of this more exuberant and decorative aesthetic-derived in part from Baroque and Rococo influences and in part from folk art-which would typify objects it produced in the 1920s.

This silver-gilt jewel casket is a tour de force of artistic showmanship masquerading under a functional designation; indeed, the coffer would outshine any jewel it might contain. The domed box itself (raised on four bulb feet, each of which opens to reveal additional storage cavities) is dominated by the extravagant handle, in the form of a flower-bedecked deer standing among grapevines, with a long, detached vine issuing from its mouth and arching over its back.