Auction 100 / Lot 466

Artist Data
1863 Antwerpen - 1957 Zürich
German, Meissen, c. 1905
White porcelain, glazed, gold decoration
H. up to 19.5 cm (coffee pot), D. up to 19.3 cm (saucer)
Reserve price
6,000 €
Hammer price
57,000 €

Underglaze blue knob swords, impressed artist's signet, embossed number and mark. 1 coffee pot, 1 milk jug, 1 sugar bowl, 6 coffee cups with saucers. 1st choice. ''I have devoted all my devotion as an artist to this work ...'' From Henry van de Velde's letter The service designed by Henry van de Velde - nowadays widely known as 'Whiplash' - is undoubtedly considered iconic for the Art Nouveau era. In the history of the Meissen porcelain manufactory, its creation marks a desire to break with the old formal language and a rapid entry into modernity. After Meissen products came under harsh criticism for their stylistic backwardness at the 1900 Paris World's Fair, the decision was made to turn to leading contemporary artists who could bring a new spirit to the company, which had hitherto relied on its renowned tradition. In addition to Richard Riemerschmid, 40-year-old Henry van de Velde - who at the time was gaining social prestige and international fame for his architectural, graphic and decorative arts works - was commissioned to create a new service for the Meissen manufactory, with a total of 42 pieces, in keeping with the modern spirit of the times. This decision gave rise to a collaboration between the young and ambitious artist and the traditionalist company that was controversial and exciting in many views and characterised by a synthesis of quality perfected over centuries and modern contemporary design. The work on the new service took almost two years. Through many trials, preliminary designs and rehearsals, the model was finally found that perfectly embodied van de Velde's conception of the new art. In a sense, the 'Whip' was way ahead of its time. Critics, as well as the general public, were almost unanimous in their rejection of modern design. Only a few art lovers, mainly from the artist's circle of friends, were receptive to the new aesthetic and accordingly celebrated the service as an artistic success. Despite the harsh criticism, 'Whiplash' was already one of the exquisite luxury goods at the time of its creation. The entire service for twelve people in gold, including food and coffee parts, could be purchased for the proud sum of 1074 marks. By comparison, the average monthly wage was only 76 marks. Nowadays, when van de Velde's genius is considered undeniable, 'Whiplash' is a coveted piece not only for Art Nouveau collectors, but also for anyone who values modern esprit. A complete service, such as the coffee set shown here, coming from former aristocratic ownership, is an extreme rarity.