Description & Technical information

Executed by the Wiener Werkstaette
Made for the Graben café
Christian Witt-Dörring writes:

Josef Hoffmann had been using the model of the fabric- covered balloon as a ceiling lamp for his interiors ever since 1913. In principle it represents a new type of illuminant that had been developing since the introduction of the electric light in the 1870s, in which the main feature was no longer the framework supporting the light source, but the light-emit- ting bulb with its shade. In contrast to the open light source of highly inflammable gas, oil or candlelight, the electric light source (bulb) could now be covered with a textile or other easily flammable lampshade. So the lampshade itself became the subject of artistic attention. Hoffmann’s early designs for this type of artefact mostly consist of a hoop with a fabric valance attached, open at top and bottom and usually installed over tables. This location is significant for the lampshade form in that its lower suspension impedes a direct view of the bulb. The textile lampshade which is closed underneath but open at the top like this spherical ceiling lamp avoids the direct, glaring eye contact with the light source and can therefore be mounted at will at any height in the room.
The Wiener Werkstätte had engaged in the design and exe- cution of luminaires for its integrally designed interiors ever since its founding in 1903. However, around 1914 the Wiener Werkstätte’s financial problems became increasingly acute, exclusively dependent as it was on the private patronage of the well-heeled haute bourgeoisie. From then on, the Werkstätte concentrated more on developing a flexible product range independent of the unique total work of art – the Gesamtkunstwerk – which also allowed the production of larger quantities. Accordingly, a specialised salesroom for lamps was opened in 1918. This meant that customers could choose from a much wider selection of lampshade mod- els. For instance, the corresponding sample book (sketch portfolio) contains three different sizes for balloon-shaped lampshades (FM 2819, 2853, 2900). Based on its size alone, the example shown here must be a unique model, a one-off for a quite specific interior-design commission. Possible can- didates for this could have been either the refurbishment in 1927 of the Graben Café, previously designed by Hoffmann himself in 1912, or the furnishing arrangement of 1928 for the Altmann & Kühne confectionary shop on Kärntnerstrasse. Around the same time, the Bauhaus started production of the spherical glass lamps designed by Marianne Brandt, which in contrast to Hoffmann and the Wiener Werkstätte preferred a much starker atmosphere.

Date:  1928/29
Period:  20th century
Origin:  Vienna
Medium: Silk
Dimensions: 150 x 80 cm (59 x 31¹/₂ inches)
Literature: - Johannes Spalt; Oswald Haerdtl 1899-1959; Hochschule
für angewandte Kunst, Vienna 1978, p. 75, 96
- Eduard Sekler; Josef Hoffmann. The Architectural Work;
Princeton 1985, p. 411, 413
archival sources
MAK; Wiener Werkstätte Archive: Skizzenmappe für Lampenschirme (c. 1921)
Categories: Decorative Arts & Design, Furniture