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Desk and Armchair

1903 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This desk with its 'disappearing chair' was based on various earlier models. These included early 19th century French desks in the Empire style, and German ones in the more solid and homely Biedermeier style. In these earlier models the chair was usually attached and released by mechanical means. In this example, however, Koloman Moser (1868-1918) decided that a large brass handle inserted into the back of the chair would perform the task equally well. He designed numerous chairs and desks of this kind. This particular example was part of a commission to design two rooms for an apartment at Schottengasse 10, Vienna. The straight lines, flat surfaces and stylized ornament are all typical of Moser's work.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Desk
  • Armchair
  • Keys
Materials and Techniques
Veneered in thuya wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, engraved and inked, on a deal carcase, with mahogany interior, oak drawer linings, other woods, including lime, spruce, alder, plane and elm, and gilt metal feet; upholstery not original
Brief Description
Lady's Writing Desk and Armchair (designed for the Eisler von Terramare apartment, Vienna), in Thuya wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, designed by Koloman Moser, made by Caspar Hrazdil, 1903.
Physical Description
Lady's Writing Desk and Armchair (designed for the Eisler von Terramare apartment, Vienna). 1903. Thuya wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, engraved and inked; gilt-metal feet; mahogany interior, oak drawers, deal carcase, later upholstery. Paper label of maker under lower right drawer.
Dimensions
  • Desk height: 145.5cm
  • Desk width: 119.4cm
  • Desk depth: 60cm
  • Chair height: 70cm
  • Chair width: 60cm
  • Chair depth: 60cm
Styles
Gallery Label
  • W.8&A-1982 KOLOMAN MOSER (Austrian, 1868-1918); made by CASPAR HRAZDIL (Austrian, active 1890-C.1945) LADY'S WRITING DESK AND ARMCHAIR (designed for the Hölsl apartment, Vienna) 1903 Thuya wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, engraved and inked; gilt-metal feet; mahogany interior, oak drawers, deal carcase, later upholstery. Koloman Moser, one of the Viennese Secession group that also included Gustav Klimt, combined the elegance of early 19th century Biedermeier furniture with a simplicity and geometry that was entirely new to the style, perhaps inspired by Mackintosh. While recognisably 'proto-modern,' this Moser desk set - whose design was co-ordinated with the unified decoration of furniture and the interior of a Viennese apartment - is also in the grand cabinet-making tradition of earlier centuries. This example of Moser's work was acquired in the early 1980s along with other furniture and metalwork by Viennese designers of the type shown in influential exhibitions in New York (1970) and Vienna (1981).(1999)
  • Writing Desk and Chair Designed by Koloman Moser (Austrian, 1868-1918) Made by Caspar Hrazdil, Vienna, Austria, 1903 thuy wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, engraved and inked; gilt metal feet; mahogany interior, oak drawer lining, deal carcase. W.8&a-1982 This piece was commissioned for an apartment in Vienna. It dates from the year that the Wiener Werkstätte were founded, but its style owes as much to the Empire Revival as to 'progressive' design. The maker's label affixed to a drawer states that he 'undertakes complete furnishings in all styles'.
  • Desk with concealed armchair Designed by Koloman Moser (Austrian, 1868- 1918) Manufacture by Caspar Hrazdil, Vienna, Austria Thuya wood, inlaid with satinwood and brass, engraved and inked; gilt metal feet; mahogany interior, oak drawer lining, deal carcase 1903 Part of Moser's commission to design the Vienna apartment of Dr. Hölzl, director of the Sanatorium Low. Three years after moving into the apartment, following the death of his two year old child, Dr. Hölzl sold all the furnishings, including this desk. [See note on how the original owner of the apartment was not Dr. Hölzl, but Hans and Gerta Eisler von Terramare].(1989)
  • Writing Desk and Chair Austrian Designed by Koloman Moser in 1903; made in the workshop of Caspar Hrazdil. This elaborate desk with its 'disappearing chair' is a fascinating mixture of Empire Revival and modern austrian forms. It was made in the very year that the Vienna Werkstätte group was founded. It was not however made by a fashionably modern cabinet maker, but by Caspar Hrazdil (see photocopy of his label) who 'undertakes complete furnishings in all styles'. From the style of his label it seems likely that he made mainly Empire and Biedermeier Revival pieces, rather than the advanced furniture made by Moser and his associates. These pieces were made from an apartment in Vienna and the illustration of the in situ is on page 343 of 'Dekorative Kunst' volume XII, 1904. The article which this illustrates is devoted to Moser's and give photographs of the two large suites of which these pieces and the chair opposite form part.
  • International Arts & Crafts This is one of the most lavish pieces of bespoke furniture produced for an individual client in Vienna. It was part of an integrated scheme for the Breakfast room in the Holzl apartment. The suite, which had at least seven pieces, combines the elegance of early 19th century Biedermeier furniture with modern simplicity and geometry.(17/03/2005)
Object history
Once thought to have been commissioned by Dr. Armand Hölzl (or Hötzl) for his Vienna apartment, further research confirms that these pieces were commissioned by a young couple by the name of Gerta Loew and Dr. Hans Eisler von Terramare, soon after their marriage in 1902. The desk was part of the integrated scheme for the breakfast room of the apartment for which Moser designed at least seven pieces of furniture, all richly inlaid and decorated with identical materials and motifs.

The marriage was short-lived and they divorced after the death of their child, Gertrude, in 1905. Upon the dissolution of their home in 1906, some items of furniture were sold by Gerta to Dr Hötzl, who was a medical director of the sanatorium she had inherited from her father in 1907, Dr Anton Loew, upon his death. The confusion arose here as to who the original commissioners of these pieces were, and was further embedded in 1981 at the Museum for Applied Arts in Vienna (MAK) after they received a sliding table from the dressing room of the apartment with the provenance of it having belonged to Dr. Armand Hötzl in the 1900s.



The following excerpt from Pichler's essay gives further information (Pichler, Gerd, and Leopold, Rudolf. Koloman Moser: 1868-1918. Vienna: Leopold Museum, 2007, p.174):



"A comment by Berta Zuckerkandl [who first described the apartment in a 1904 June edition of Dekorative Kunst magazine] did not seem consistent with this attribution. She noted that the stylized dolphins and the doves holding an olive branch in their beaks decoration of the dining room furniture were intended to correspond to an "ornamental interpretation of the title of nobility which the family bears." Dr. Hotzl was never in possession of an aristocratic title. Furthermore, the monogram on the toiletry set of the young wife was 'TM', or 'MT', which was incompatible with the initials of Dr. Hotzl's wife lrene, née Cziner...

In its uncompromising modernity, its consistency of ornament and symbolism and the high quality of its overall design as regards materials and craftsmanship in all fields, the furniture and design of the Eisler von Terramare apartment is one of the best and most convincing examples of the new design for living and artistic style in the 20th century.... [They] must be included among the educated and aesthetically discriminating members of Viennese society in the early 20th centry, who were among the patrons of the early modern style in Vienna".
Historical context
The idea of a desk with an integrated or hidden chair was part of the revival of the early nineteenth-century Biedermeier style and was used by Moser numerous times. Biedermeier furniture designers had adapted such forms from French Empire models; however, other precedents could be found in the elaborate and carefully fitted constructions of the eighteenth-century Russian cabinet-maker Heinrich Gambs (1765-1831). Although both German and French examples frequently had the chair attached (and released) by mechanical means, Moser simply inserted a large brass-line handle into the back of the chair.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This desk with its 'disappearing chair' was based on various earlier models. These included early 19th century French desks in the Empire style, and German ones in the more solid and homely Biedermeier style. In these earlier models the chair was usually attached and released by mechanical means. In this example, however, Koloman Moser (1868-1918) decided that a large brass handle inserted into the back of the chair would perform the task equally well. He designed numerous chairs and desks of this kind. This particular example was part of a commission to design two rooms for an apartment at Schottengasse 10, Vienna. The straight lines, flat surfaces and stylized ornament are all typical of Moser's work.
Bibliographic References
  • Wilk, Christopher. Western Furniture, 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, pp. 194-195. ISBN: 1856674435
  • Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.ISBN: 1851772170, pp. 360-361
  • Jervis, S. Furniture of about 1900 from Austria & Hungary in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1986, pp.48-49. ISBN: 0948107480
  • Greenhalgh, Paul (Ed.), Art Nouveau: 1890-1914 . London: V&A Publications, 2000
  • Livingstone, Karen & Parry, Linda (eds.), International Arts and Crafts, London : V&A Publications, 2005p.242
Collection
Accession Number
W.8 to B-1982

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record createdMay 17, 2001
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