Josef Hoffmann's designs before 1900 incorporated the curvilinear, organic motifs common to the then-fashionable Jugendstil and Art Nouveau styles. With the turn of the century, however, he abruptly abandoned them for a revolutionary new approach based on geometry, of which this tea service is an outstanding example. Its materials are lavish: hand-beaten silver, ebony, and semiprecious stones. Hoffmann, however, has integrated them with forms of uncompromising austerity: straight sides, domed lids, and squared-off handles. The only decoration, except for the inset jewels, is the single thin horizontal line of raised dots near the bottom of each container.
This service was made for the Weiner Werkstatte, the company of designers, artists, and craftsmen founded in Vienna in 1903 to produce luxury objects in the most advanced style. The set was purchased in 1910 by a San Francisco couple on their European wedding journey and descended from them to their grandson, the vendor to the Museum.
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Credit Line:Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky Fund, 2000
Marking: All pieces are individually hallmarked and the sugar bowl has the additional stamp - "WEINER WERKSTÄTTE" impressed in the base.
private collection, San Francisco (1910–d. 1989; purchased in Karlsbad, Germany); by descent to private collection, New York (1989–2000; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Modern Metalwork in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1, 1993–April 3, 1994, no catalogue.
Art Museum, Princeton University. "In Celebration: Works of Art from the Collections of Princeton Alumni and Friends of The Art Museum, Princeton University," February 22–June 8, 1997, no. 191 (lent by Bartholomew Voorsanger, Class of 1960, and Catherine Hoover Voorsanger).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Significant Objects," November 26, 2002–May 2, 2004, no catalogue.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe & America, 1880–1920: Design for the Modern World," December 19, 2004–April 3, 2005, unnumbered cat. (fig. 4.20).
Milwaukee Art Museum. "The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe & America, 1880–1920: Design for the Modern World," May 19–September 5, 2005, unnumbered cat.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "The Arts & Crafts Movement in Europe & America, 1880–1920: Design for the Modern World," October 16, 2005–January 8, 2006, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Highlights from the Modern Design Collection: 1900 to the Present," June 23, 2009–May 1, 2011, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Plain or Fancy?: Restraint and Exuberance in the Decorative Arts," February 26–August 18, 2013, no catalogue.
Waltraud Neuwirth. Wiener Werkstätte: Avantgarde, Art Deco, Industrial Design. Exh. cat., Osterreichisches Museum für Angewandte Kunst. Vienna, 1984, pp. 35–36, no. 10, ill. (not MMA version).
Betsy Rosasco inIn Celebration: Works of Art from the Collections of Princeton Alumni and Friends of The Art Museum, Princeton University. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1997, p. 190, no. 191, ill. p. 200 (color).
J. Stewart Johnson in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 2000–2001." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 59 (Fall 2001), p. 60, ill. (color).
Christian Witt-Dorring in Wendy Kaplan. The Arts & Craft Movement in Europe & America: Design for the Modern World. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 2004, pp. 129, 304, fig. 4.20 (color).
Max Hollein. Modern and Contemporary Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2019, ill. p. 32 (color).
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Josef Hoffmann (Austrian, Pirnitz 1870–1956 Vienna)
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