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Fine and rare Austrian hammered silver and ivory five-piece tea service, Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstatte, 1923

Department Specialist


Published: 19 April 2013

Silver Tea Service by Josef Hoffman One of Vienna's Most Important Designers Causes Stir at Auction

At Freeman’s April 18 Silver & Objets de Vertu auction, a fine and rare Austrian hammered silver and ivory five-piece tea service designed by Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstatte - the famed Austrian decorative arts workshop - attracted strong international interest and achieved $80,500. Other tea sets by Hoffmann are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, LACMA, and MAK in Vienna.

The design of this tea service, with its hammered finish, bulbous lobes and boldly carved scroll handle, was exhibited by the Wiener Werkstatte at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes. It marks a stylistic change from the geometric designs in perforated sheet metal ("Gitterwerk") that Josef Hoffmann produced in collaboration with Koloman Moser around 1905. The distinctive double scroll ivory handle on the teapot is seen on Hoffmann's centerpiece designed circa 1922. These designs, produced around 1915-25 have been known to be part of a Baroque phase of Viennese modern design. The following lot in the sale was a very rare kettle on stand by Lona Schaeffer clearly inspired by Hoffmanns design. As the Hoffmann set and the kettle were consigned from the same source, it is possible that an early owner of the Wiener Werkstatte service commissioned the kettle from Schaeffer to accompany the set en suite.

Lona Schaeffers father was the Danish émigré and silversmith Peer Smed whose work was important to the development of the silversmiths art in America. Together, Smed and Schaeffer made some of the only known Arts & Crafts sterling studio holloware in the 1930s and 1940s to come out of Brooklyn. A tray by Smed attracted much attention at the auction, finally selling to an online bidder for $12,800.

The Alvin A. Rosenthal collection of European wine tasters was another high point of the sale with 100% sold and nearly every lot exceeding the high estimate. A rare Charles I wine taster fetched $4,375 while an early 18th century French example achieved $2,625 demonstrating once again that good quality private collections attract a strong market.

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