Description & Technical information

Christian Witt-Dörring, curator of the Neue Galerie, wrote:

In 1904, one year after the founding of the WienerWerkstätte, Ladislaus Rémy-Berzenkovich von Szillás and Margarete Hellmann married in Vienna. The groom was an admiral of the imperial and royal Austrian-Hungarian navy, while the bride was from a Jewish family of industrial magnates (textiles). She was the sister of Lilly Hellmann, who in 1896 married Fritz Waerndorfer, likewise from a Jewish family of industrial magnates (textiles). Waerndorfer’s enthusiasm for contemporary art and its Viennese exponents, the Secession, and also his considerable financial assets motivated him to join up with Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser in 1903 and found the Wiener Werkstätte. He had already commissioned Hoffmann, Moser and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1902/03 to design his Viennese villa in the spirit of a total work of art. Now that his sister-in-law was getting married and required a dowry of fittings and furnishings for her home, it was obvious that Fritz Waerndorfer and his newly founded production cooperative should be entrusted with this task. So this was one of the first private, interior design commissions for the Wiener Werkstätte.

While the furnishings for the bedroom and salon of the home are documented on photographs, no contemporary pictorial record whatever exists of the interior design of the studio.
Other furnishings belonging to the studio apart from this round table are a gun cabinet, a writing desk with matching armchair, a small swivel bookstand, two high-backed armchairs and a small round table. The large round table under discussion here is a mature product of the strictly geometric phase in Hoffmann’s oeuvre, which reached its peak between 1902 and 1905. In fact one can find the same type of table in the main show room of the Wiener Werkstätte Neustiftgasse premises inaugurated in 1904. A typical product of the early years of Hoffmann’s career, it is still strongly marked by social ideals. This is reflected not only in the table’s form but also the choice of materials. Hoffmann creates the table out of the bare essentials necessary to fulfil its function – and these plain and basic structural elements are what capacitate the function of bearing and loading. A round top is borne on five square posts, which are then connected by a cross base for optical and physical reinforcement. Despite these minimum options in expressing individualism of form, the design thrives entirely on Hoffmann’s subtle handling of proportions and materials. In principle, the four legs alone bequeath sufficient support for the table, but it would then look rather like a toothless comb or rake. Therefore, in order to give the relatively large, round and thin table top optical stability, he slides a fifth leg under the centre of the tabletop and links all five legs with a metal-mounted cross base. One might presume that this metal mounting is required to protect the cross base against wear and tear from people’s shoes. But its function is more likely purely aesthetic and optical, since the cross base is itself protected by table legs against the threat of approach. Hoffmann implements this change of material from wood to metal to obtain a clear, visual separation between the vertical legs and the horizontal cross base. Moreover, the separation is important to stop the table evoking the association of a gigantic reel or hamster’s treadwheel. The horizontal reciprocity between star base and tabletop is thus only hinted at and not really implemented. It is a means of giving the top an optical counterweight, but which is not fully equivalent in significance. Thus Hoffmann yet again puts into practice his masterly exploitation of opposites in order to create a new, harmonious whole. Last but least, Hoffmann reinforces, nay, transfigures the lightness of construction by placing the table on black castors, casting a seam of shadow between floor and table and causing it to “hover”.

Refs.: Peter Noever (ed.); Yearning for Beauty. The Wiener Werkstätte and the Stoclet House; Ostfildern-Ruit, 2006, p. 55, 59
Archival sources: Archive of the Wiener Werkstätte; WWF 105, p. 279 und WWF 101, p.2

Date:  1904
Period:  20th century
Origin:  Vienna
Medium: Mahogany, Brass, Black stained wood
Dimensions: 69.5 x 110 cm (27³/₈ x 43¹/₄ inches)
Literature: Archive of the Wiener Werkstätte; WWF 105, p. 279 und WWF 101, p.2

Categories: Furniture