Pair of side tables
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Josef Hoffmann

Pair of side tables

Yves Macaux

Date 1904

Period 20th century

Origin Vienna

Medium Black stained beechwood

Dimension 69 x 50 x 50 cm (27¹/₈ x 19⁵/₈ x 19⁵/₈ inches)

Executed by the Wiener Werkstaette

Christian Witt-Doerring, curator at the Neue Galerie, NY, writes:

This table can be found twice as documented in contemporary photographs of interiors created after designs by Koloman Moser and Josef Hoffmann. The first time it stands – in black, like this one– in the study of the apartment Koloman Moser designed for the physician and physics scientist Dr. Hugo Koller and his wife Broncia Koller-Pinell. Hoffmann designed their new apartment in 1901/02, when the couple moved from Nuremberg to Vienna. Moser must then have designed the study where Hoffmann’s table stood two years later in 1904. The room can be dated through the carpet, which was designed by Moser and woven by the Backhausen company in January 1904. We meet the table again, this time in white, in the entrance hall of the Villa Beer-Hoffmann, designed by Hoffmann in 1905/06 and fitted out in part with antiques and in part by the Wiener Werkstätte. The architectural client was the Jewish writer Dr. Richard Beer-Hoffmann. Noted as an authority on the literary and fashionable taste in Vienna at the turn of the century, significant parts of his writing are devoted in fact to the emancipation from fin-de-siècle aestheticism

With a design based on a square section and constructed of squared posts, the table confronts its ambience with a minimum of material. It thus takes pride of place in the ancestry of modern furniture. Despite its high aesthetic prerogative, it is ground-breaking purely in material dimension as an answer the ultimate challenge of an Adolf Loos to abolish furniture and thus establish the priority of the human individual in the interior space. Conceived as an open frame construction, the space is blocked solely by the two horizontal storage surfaces of table board and intermediate board. It lends the table the greatest possible transparency in the vertical direction, making it fuse into the space around it. Hoffmann even opens up the frame structure on two of the four sides of the table by leaving out the bottom, limiting connection, so that the floor merges freely into the table. Yet in order to give the table the required stability, he sets a stretcher connection into the centre of the bottom part of the frame. It creates an intermediary optical overture to the two closed boards, though Hoffmann also uses it to generate lightness. The intermediate surface is likewise held by a frame crafted in the same thickness as the vertical frame construction. However, the thickness of the board fitted into it is reduced to a minimum, giving the effect of a serving tray with a raised border. This effect is even more striking in the actual table top, designed the same, but offset on the frame top by millimetres towards the inside. The optical separation of board and stand enables Hoffmann to conjure up a psychological effect suggesting a potentially removable table top and therefore mobility and lightness. This type of table is therefore a preliminary stage of the low, oval tea table designed for Dr. Hermann Wittgenstein in 1905 and now in the MAK-Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, but in which the suggestion of a serving tray is created by placing the table top to overlap its stand.

Refs.: Tobias Natter (ed.); Broncia Koller-Pinell. Eine Malerin im Glanz der Wiener Jahrhundertwende; Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Wien; Vienna 1993
Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration; vol. XVI., 1905, p. 563 ??????
Innendekoration, 1905, vol. 16, p. 562ff. ????
Archivalische Quellen: Archive of the Wiener Werkstätte; WWF 103, p. 145, 146

Date: 1904

Period: 20th century

Origin: Vienna

Medium: Black stained beechwood

Dimension: 69 x 50 x 50 cm (27¹/₈ x 19⁵/₈ x 19⁵/₈ inches)

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Yves Macaux

20th Century Decorative Art

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