How does tea taste when served in a silver cup?

Josef Hoffmann Teeservice, Wiener Werkstätte, 1928 Silber, Obstholz; Dm. 36 cm (Anbietetasse); H. 17,5 cm (Kanne); H. 12,5 cm (Kännchen); H. 14,5 cm (Dose); L. 10 cm (Zange); Bruttogesamtgewicht 2.725 g EUR 50.000-100.000

Josef Hoffmann
Tea service, Wiener Werkstätte, 1928
Silver, fruit tree wood; 36 cm diameter (tea tray); H 17.5 cm (tea pot); H 12.5 cm (milk jug); H 14.5 cm (sugar bowl); L 10 cm (tongs); total gross weight 2,725 g
EUR 50,000-100,000

Admittedly this is quite a banal way to introduce this tea service, designed by Josef Hoffmann for the Wiener Werkstätte in 1928. And yet it was Hoffmann’s idea to create things for luxury use, for modern life at a higher level, for a purpose that was intended to be entirely aesthetic. Drinking tea should be something to enjoy, not only because of its taste but also because of the beauty of its serving.

Believe in the power of beauty

This was a kind of guiding principle for the Wiener Werkstätte throughout its 30 years of existence between 1903 and 1933. Its aim was to produce objects for everyday use – designed by the best artistic talents of the time – and to wrap them in a harmonious form that is still timeless and unmistakable. A form, however, that used a lot of resources and therefore cost a lot of money and despite good sales at a high price it remained dependent on powerful financial backers. The arrival of a new and powerful financial backer in 1928 was thus a good reason to celebrate 25 years in business and to look forward to a bright future. But it was a future that was only to last another five years.

Form and Ornament

This tea service represents one of the last outstanding items produced by this important art company. Made of solid silver and with handles of shimmering fruit tree wood, Hoffmann has achieved a unique combination of architectural forms and decoration that is visually reminiscent of French Art Deco. The tea service from the Wiener Werkstätte was very modern by Austrian standards, and years ahead of its time. It was ordered by seven customers, despite being very expensive.

Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann incorporating catalogue text by Dr. Ernst Ploil, im Kinsky