Acquired by the Jossé family, Speyer, Germany directly from the Bauhaus Dessau in 1927
Thence by descent
Lempertz Cologne, November 21 & 22, 1996, lot 364.
Hugo Ostwald, "Europäisches Kunstgewerbe 1927: Betrachtungen zur Leipziger Ausstellung," Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, vol. 60, 1927, p. 343
"Zur Leipziger Kunstgewerbe-Ausstellung", Die Kunst, vol. 56, 1927, p. 241
M.R. J. Brinkgreve et al, Europäisches Kunstgewerbe 1927, Leipzig, 1928, pl. 11 (for a period image of the Bauhaus vitrine at the exhibition containing a model no. MT 49 tea infuser with a variant disk lid handle)
Yvonne Brunhammer, The Nineteen Twenties Style, London, 1966, p. 62
Wulf Herzogenrath, 50 Years Bauhaus, London, 1968, p. 106, pl. 224 (for the model in the collection of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg)
Hans Maria Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, Cambridge, 1969, p. 320 (for the tea infuser in the Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin)
Michael Collins, "The British Museum's Modern Collection,'" The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, November 1981, p. 698, fig. 99
Isabelle Anscombe, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day, New York, 1985, p. 142
Isabelle Anscombe, "The Search for Visual Democracy," The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, vol. 4, 1987, p. 10
Bauhaus Archiv-Museum, Sammlungs-Katalog, Berlin, 1987, pp. 106-107
Michael Collins, Towards Post-Modernism: Decorative Arts and Design Since 1851, Boston, 1987, p. 69
Jean-Paul Bouillon, Art Deco 1903-1940, New York ,1989, p. 143
Norman M. Klein, Tempest in a Teapot, the Ceramic Art of Peter Shire, New York, 1991, p. 25
Judy Rudoe, Decorative Arts 1850-1950, London, 1991, p. 22, pls. 131, XV, and cover
Die Metall Werkstatt am Bauhaus, Berlin, 1992, pp. 140-141
Silver of the New Era, Rotterdam, 1992, p. 67
Magdalena Droste, Bauhaus: 1919-1933, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin, 1993, p. 76 (for the tea infuser in the Bauhaus Archiv Berlin)
Martin Eidelberg, Designed for Delight, Alternative Aspects of Twentieth-Century Decorative Arts, Paris, 1997, p. 106
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, vol. 58, autumn 2000, p. 63
Jewel Stern, Modernism in American Silver, New Haven, 2005, p. 85 (for an illustration of this model in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Looking at the sleek and clean design of the MT 49 tea infuser, one cannot help viewing it as an encapsulation of the bold and innovative nature of the entire modern design movement. Beyond its streamlined silhouette and ceremonial stature lies the revolutionary progress not only of one woman's role at the Bauhaus, but of the evolution of the modern design movement toward the marriage of craft and industry. This single iconic form tells the narrative of that transition.
Paralleling the Bauhaus' development as the new home of industrial design, Marianne Brandt emerged as a modern twentieth century woman: equipped with equal, if not greater ambition than her fellow male students. Upon her arrival, Brandt was initially resented and ostracized by the male students that surrounded her. Fellow student Hans Przyrembel took a telling photograph in the latter part of 1924 showing the members of the metal workshop. On first inspection, the image appears to capture confident male classmates and instructors. However, if one looks more closely, Marianne Brandt can be seen peeking out from the back of the room—her face shadowed by the looming stature of a male colleague. It is hard to imagine from Brandt's demure presence that she would eventually run the Bauhaus metal workshop and in the process produce a 20th century modern design masterwork.
Not content to be confined by the gender bias that encouraged women to study textile design, within her first year at the Bauhaus school in 1924 Brandt completed the six-month foundation course under the tutelage of Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, the head of the esteemed metal workshop. Moholy-Nagy's introductory course forced students to confront the issues of form and use of materials. In Brandt, Moholy-Nagy saw potential in her both functional and modern design approach. He became an influential figure for Brandt and taking her under his wing, allowed her to gain entry into the metal workshop, thus becoming the first woman ever to do so. The transition was not smooth as Brandt later recalled. "At first, I was not accepted with pleasure- there was no place for a woman in a metal workshop, they felt. They admitted this to me later on and meanwhile expressed their displeasure by giving me all sorts of dull, dreary work. How many little hemispheres did I most patiently hammer out of brittle new silver, thinking that was the way it had to be and all beginnings are hard. Later things settled down, and we got along well together." Despite her early months in the workshop, spent tediously hammering at metal hemispheres, her arduous labor paid off when she created the first prototype for the now iconic tea infuser.
The tea infuser's stark reliance on geometry may have derived in part from the influence of Moholy-Nagy's own artistic designs, as his Constructivist linocut compositions from 1924 demonstrate. But in a larger sense it is reflected by the Walter Gropius' slogan of that year "art and technology, a new unity" expressing the school's shift toward a refined machine age aesthetic geared toward industry. As a colleague from the Bauhaus school Wilhelm Wagenfeld said, "Form and function always have to be designed clearly, one being the result of the other." The movement toward functionalism as the ideal allowed for the shedding of historicist decoration from the often pedestrian forms of daily life. This concept rings true within the simple and purposeful design of a tea-cup sized teapot for the personal infusion of concentrated teas. It is a harmonic convergence of hemisphere and cruciform base cut by the broken geometry of the handle. These models stressed the priority of functionality and Brandt made a habit of testing each vessel to make sure it poured precisely before she would allow it leave the workshop.
Ultimately, Marianne Brandt's MT 49 tea infuser encompasses all the qualities of a rare work of art and icon of modern design. Although primarily intended as a utilitarian object aimed for mass production, the result was a precious art piece too difficult and costly to produce by industrial means. In addition to the tea infuser's striking history and appearance, it also has a coveted and reverential quality due to its extreme rarity.
To date, there are only seven known models extant, the present lot being the only one still in private hands. The other six are showcased in the most prestigious museum collections including the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin, the British Museum in London, the Germanisches National Museum, Nürnberg, the Bauhaus Museum Weimar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Galerie in New York. Each share the essential form but vary slightly in execution and materials rendering each example unique. From a design standpoint the present lot is most akin to the examples at the British Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art which are both executed in silver. The British Museum model is believed to be the earliest example as it retains the evidence of hammer marks revealing its traditional craft roots. As the form progresses all signs of hand-made craftsmanship are smoothed away to suspend the illusion of machine made mass production.
To narrowly classify this piece as an early expression of a feminist artist, would depreciate its greater significance within the evolution of modern design. In a single object, Marianne Brandt has blended modern ideology with a deep-rooted functionalism, while encapsulating the defining principles of the innovative Bauhaus movement.
The card from the Bauhaus Dessau dated October 9, 1927 would indicate that Herr Jossé saw the model no. MT 49 tea infuser exhibited at the Europäisches Kunstgewerbe 1927 exhibition in Leizig from March 6 to August 15 and made an inquiry to the Bauhaus regarding its constuction and price. The response card clearly states that the tea infuser is hand made and that the model can be purchased for 70 reichsmarks. While the present lot was not the model exhibited at the Europäisches exhibition, the Bauhaus response card does link the present lot to the impact of that exhibition and more importantly it allows us to pinpoint the production date to 1927.
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