Description & Technical information
Executed by the Wiener Werkstaette
Settee: H. 81 x W. 171 x D. 81 cm
Armchairs: H. 81 x W. 84 x D. 84 cm
In 1902, Josef Hoffmann began designing a number of rooms including a bedroom for Baroness Magda Mautner von Markhof for her villa on Landstrasser Hauptstrasse 138 in Vienna’s third district. It was the year her daughter started her studies at the Vienna Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts & Crafts), where Josef Hoffmann and her later husband Koloman Moser were teachers. Among the furnishings Hoffmann designed for this bedroom was this suite consisting of a settee and two chairs. Although there is no contemporary illustration available to document it, the suite can be securely identified as part of the Mautner bedroom furnishings on account of the rhomboid decorative element on the sides and backs. The group also fits into the functional concept of the room, a combination of bed- and sitting room with glass cabinets and a writing desk. The interior arrangement of the room was completed in 1903 with the delivery of a carpet (design no. 5002) by the Backhausen Company. While the easy chair is conceived as a cube with the Chesterfield upholstery extending over its arm and backrests, the basic form of the settee is that of an oblong ashlar lengthened to seat three. Easy chair and armchair are constructed as frame and filling, the frame meanwhile acting as structural anchorage for the chair within the surrounding space and for the centrally placed ornament on sides and backs. The cube and ashlar rest on low ball feet, flattened at top and bottom, making the self-contained volumes appear to hover above the ground. The chair front has the upholstery end flush with the cube side, creating a clear opening as in a cross-section and affording a view of the warm, soft seat shell. This “clarifying” cross-section divides the front into three graded thirds: a hard and wooden lower part, a soft and textile middle part and an airy and empty upper part, the last opening up the chair as a transition to the surrounding space. The quality of Hoffmann’s design lies in the circumstance that despite using a massy volume which is closed on three sides, he manages to avoid the impression of a hulk that blocks the space around it – the secret of his solution is that his cube represents a clearly defined space, which communicates with the surrounding space by means of a horizontal and vertical opening. Hoffmann had been using this type of cubic seat shell – more or less closed off from the outside – since 1902 and developed it as a kind of “variations on a theme”. He places the cube either on an open frame (Salzer living room, 1902), or puts a horizontal frame on it at top and bottom (Salzer dining room, 1902 and Brauner hall 1905/06), creates a perfect cube, with the upholstery not extending over the arm and backrests (Mautner living room, 1902), has the upholstered seat extend over the front edge of the cube (music room of the Purkersdorf Sanatorium, 1904), or tapers his vertical edges and gives the chair a Chesterfield upholstery (Stonborough study, 1905).
Period: 20th century
Medium: Palisander, Different fruit woods
Dimensions: 81 x 171 x 81 cm (31⁷/₈ x 67³/₈ x 31⁷/₈ inches)
Literature: Innendekoration XVI, 1905, pp. 180-183 Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration XVII, 1905/06, p. 153 Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration XIX, 1906/07, p. 490 Eduard Sekler; Josef Hoffmann. The Architectural Work; Princeton 1985, p. 27 Archival sources: MAK; Wiener Werkstätte archives: WWF 102, p. 98
Exhibitions: "Josef Hoffmann - Architect and Designer 1870-1956", Vienna and New York, Galerie Metropol, 1981
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20th Century Decorative Art
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