Description & Technical information

Koloman Moser,
Vienna, 1900

Portois &
Fix, Vienna

veneer with geometrical inlay "The Rich Catch of Fish" in mahogany
and boxwood, brass fittings, excellent original condition, surface slightly
cleaned and polished, first-class original condition

H 180
cm, W 168 cm, D 67 cm

Until 1900, the exhibitions shown at the Vienna Secession, the first
important work of Jugendstil architecture in Vienna designed by Joseph Maria
Olbrich, focused mainly on works of fine arts. It was not until the Eighth Secession
Exhibition in 1900 that furniture, furnishings and even a complete music room
were presented alongside sculptures and decorative art objects. The artists
represented at this ground-breaking exhibition included the important Belgian
sculptor Georg Minne and several of his Viennese peers, including Georg Wrba.
The music room was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who exhibited
together with his wife Margaret McDonald Mackintosh at the invitation of Fritz
Waerndorfer and Josef Hoffmann. Breaking with tradition, furniture designed by Josef
Hoffman, Leopold Bauer and Koloman Moser was thus also presented. The
presentation of their works therefore marked a very courageous and unusual step,
since in previous exhibitions, the strict rule of separating fine and applied
arts, i.e. “arts and crafts” had consistently been applied. This recognition of
furniture designers as well as “their” cabinet makers and craftsmen as artists,
also acknowledging the latters’ work, was key to the further development of the
Viennese Jugendstil and the Secession style. Some open-minded upper-class Viennese,
including Dr. Spitzer and Dr. Hugo Henneberg, highly appreciated this change
from historicism towards stylistic renewal, and commissioned Josef Hoffmann
with the construction of numerous villas and homes to be furnished and equipped
by Koloman Moser.  Especially in Vienna’s
nineteenth district, on Hohe Warte – which subsequently became the eponym for
the important “Hohe Warte” art magazine –  
Hoffmann designed numerous villas from 1900 onwards.

Three pieces of furniture designed by Koloman Moser that proved
ground-breaking for the Secession style, were presented at this Eighth
Exhibition. These were the corner cabinet "The Enchanted Princess", a
cigar cabinet and the buffet/sideboard "The Rich Catch of Fish". The
buffet exhibited at the time was then acquired by the Ministry of Education and
donated to the Austrian Museum of Art and Industry (today’s Museum of Applied
Arts, MAK).

Conceived by Moser as part of a complete dining room ensemble, this sideboard/buffet
was probably executed three times only. In the relevant literature there are
records of the buffet in the MAK collection and of a complete dining room designed
for a Dr. Z. In this buffet, Moser combined formal strict design, characterised
by clear reduced structures, with the reciprocal “The Rich Catch of Fish”
pattern (that obviously served as a substantial source of inspiration for
Escher). The buffet’s hight of 180 cm further adds to this exquisite object’s
elegance. The reduction to simple fronts, “moving” forwards and backwards along
the vertical axis, the six high and slender legs, the accentuation of the
vertical line emphasised by the four geometric “The Rich Catch of Fish” inlays
as well as the archaic-looking square glass panes in the doors are
ground-breaking milestones that paved the way for modern early 20th century

This buffet is a museum-quality Vienna Secession-style object that
lives up to the highest standards.

Date:  1900
Origin:  Austrian
Signature: Marked on all four locks: Portois & Fix, Wien, 4132 

Dimensions: 180 x 168 x 67 cm (70⁷/₈ x 66¹/₈ x 26³/₈ inches)

Provenance: private property, Austria


Ref.: Ver Sacrum, vol. 3, 1900, ill. p. 379;
Acht Jahre Secession, p. 282 ff, p. 287; Die Kunst, 1901, vol. lV, ill. p. 184;
DK, 1900, vol. lV, ill. p. 184 (Innendekoration/interior design); 1901, vol. Xll,
ill. p. 35; 1902, vol. Xlll, ill. p. 235; The Studio, 1904, vol. XXXIII, ill. p. 114;
Himmelheber, ill. 1148; Das Interieur, vol. 4, 1903, ill. pp. 36, 38.