In December 2013, the Dallas Museum of Art announced the acquisition of one of the most significant additions to its collection to date: an exceptional silver vitrine originally owned by the Wittgenstein family of Vienna and designed by Carl Otto Czeschka (1878–1960) of the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops). The Wittgenstein Vitrine stands over five feet tall and is made of solid silver encrusted with enamel, pearls, opals, moonstones, and other semiprecious stones. This masterpiece, unique in the production of the Werkstätte, is one of the most important objects of the 20th century, marking the apogee of ornamental richness in Viennese Secessionist art and questioning the very direction of early modern design.
Since its arrival in Dallas, the vitrine has been the subject of an intensive research and conservation program. The exhibition, Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine, will reveal these results by exploring the conservation effort and charting the context and history of this masterwork’s design and fabrication, iconography, and provenance. The exhibition will also present new perspectives on designer Carl Otto Czeschka, his work for the Wiener Werkstätte, and the important patronage of the Wittgenstein family.
Admission is FREE
The DMA’s Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, Kevin W. Tucker, and Associate Conservator of Objects at the DMA, Fran Baas, discuss the history of the 1908 silver masterpiece and the conservation of the Wittgenstein Vitrine at the DMA.
To experience an interactive 3D model of the Wittgenstein Vitrine click here.
To view the Modern Opulence symposium lecture series click here.
The conservation program at the DMA is led by Chief Conservator Mark Leonard and is supported by Associate Conservator of Objects Fran Baas. The Conservation Gallery exhibition Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine is co-curated by Baas and Kevin W. Tucker, the DMA’s Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. Conservation on the vitrine was funded through the 2014 Art Conservation Project Grant from Bank of America.
Images: Wittgenstein Vitrine (for the 1908 Kunstschau), 1908; Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), Vienna, Austria, 1903-32, maker; Carl Otto Czeschka, Austrian, 1878-1960, designer; Josef Berger, Austrian, 1874/75-?, goldsmith; Josef Hoszfeld, Austrian, 1869-1918, Adolf Erbrich, Austrian, 1874-?, Alfred Mayer, Austrian, 1873-?, silversmiths; Josef Weber, dates unknown, cabinetmaker; Wabak, Albrech, Plasinsky, Cerhan (unidentified craftsmen); silver, moonstone, opal, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, baroque pearls, onyx, ivory, enamel, glass, and ebony veneers (replaced); Overall: 66 1/4 x 24 x 12 5/8 in. (168.275 cm x 60.96 cm x 32.07 cm); Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.; Flower vase, 1910, Josef Hoffmann, Austrian, 1870 - 1956, designer Adolf Erbrich, Austrian, born 1874, maker Wiener Werkstätte, Vienna, Austria, active 1903 - 1932, silver with malachite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior Associates; Dessert glass, c. 1906-1910, Otto Prutscher, Austrian, 1880 - 1949, designer, Josef Meyr's Neffe, Bohemian, Adolf near Winterburg, Austria, Active 1816 – 1822, glass, enamel, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Friends of the Decorative Arts