Description & Technical information

For the villa Skyva-Primavesi
Executed by the Wiener Werkstätte
Christian Witt-Doerring, curator at the Neue Galerie,NY, writes:

The Wiener Werkstätte archive records of this sconce model include a photograph showing one arm and a design drawing with two arms. There is a personally written note by Hoffmann on the drawing “… for Frau Skiwa dining room”. Four pieces of the one-armed model are entered under no. M 2630 in the Wiener Werkstätte catalogue. The delivery date is 1916 and “Skywa” specified as customer.
The client “Frau Skiwa” is Josefine Skywa, the wife of Robert Primavesi, the first director of the Olmütz (Olomouc) banking house, thus sister-in-law of Otto Primavesi, the chief executive officer of the Wiener Werkstätte since 1915. The two brothers Robert and Otto Primavesis were among the leading patrons of the Wiener Werkstätte since 1913, a year when the concern was experiencing its first economic crisis; they therefore ensured its financial survival and further existence. In 1913, Josef Hoffmann started building and fitting out the interior of a large country villa for Otto Primavesi in Winkelsdorf (CS), and the Villa Skywa-Primavesi, also designed by Hoffmann, was built for Robert in Vienna 13, Gloriettegasse 18. Both buildings are masterpieces of Hoffmann’s classicist architectural phase.
The Villa Skywa-Primavesi received its official approval for use on 22 January 1915, thus marking the completion of its construction. The overall interior design of the villa by Hoffmann must have come to a standstill by 1916, no doubt because of the First World War. For instance, the sconces were designed for the dining room, but the only illumination shown in a contemporary photograph of around 1915/16 is provided by a chandelier and two large standard lamps. It must have anyway become clear to the owner during use of the dining room that the artificial light sources initially planned by Hoffmann were not strong enough to do full justice to the prestigious room. However, since the sconces presented here have neither one, nor two, but indeed three arms, Hoffmann must have planned yet another augmentation of the light sources.
Despite the classicist architectural shell, Hoffmann incorporates rococo-type, curvilinear forms into the ornamental detail of the house’s interior design deliberately as counterpoint. This applies for example to the fine stucco decoration of the small salon, or his design for the wall sconces. The same rococo feeling infuses the multifoil moulded frames composed of S- and C-curves and the undulating small arm bearing the three candle nozzles. Yet its dynamic verve is simultaneously restrained and calmed by the fine beading running along all sharp contours. Hoffmann thus creates a subtle optical balance between free exuberance of movement and guided restraint – a quality inherent in the decorative element of beading in its sequent arrangement of spherical elements. This interplay is continued in the choice of materials. The concave and convex moulding of the frame made of high-gloss, embossed brass casts a fragmented reflection of the space surrounding it, while the flat mirror behind the three light sources creates a “real” mirror image.

Archival sources: Wiener Werkstätte Archive; WWF 121, p. 15 und 21, WWMB 37, p. 2630
K.I. 12112/30
Ref.: Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration; 1915/16, vol. XXXVII., p. 239

Date:  1916
Period:  20th century
Origin:  Vienna
Medium: Repoussé brass
Dimensions: 55 x 40 x 15 cm (21⁵/₈ x 15³/₄ x 5⁷/₈ inches)
Literature: Wiener Werkstätte Archive; WWF 121, p. 15 und 21, WWMB 37, p. 2630
K.I. 12112/30 
Ref.: Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration; 1915/16, vol. XXXVII., p. 239 

Categories: Decorative Arts & Design, Furniture