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Object Timeline

1930

  • Work on this object began.

2011

  • We acquired this object.

2012

2019

  • You found it!

Café Au Lait Cup And Saucer (France)

This is a Café au lait cup and saucer. We acquired it in 2011. Its medium is glazed earthenware. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

While most art deco ceramics were produced using porcelain to achieve a preferred high-gloss surface, the French firm Robj was able to achieve skillful glazing techniques in faience as well, both of which brought the company commendations in numerous French publications throughout the 1920s. Although many of these articles, advertised as bibelots, accentuate the playful in the form of exotic figurines and small table top objects, they also communicate a high level of skill, technique, and style.
This cup and saucer exemplify the art deco style and Robj’s penchant for pure geometric shapes. When seen together, the circle of the cup is offset by the circle of the saucer and the decorative details further highlight the simple geometric form, allowing for an uninterrupted study of the shape itself. The delicate celadon style glaze not only adds to the beauty of the object, but also serves as an example of Robj’s attention to refined tones, one of the defining qualities for which publications such as Mobilier et Décoration singled out the firm’s works.
The cup and saucer would be the first piece of art deco faience to enter the museum’s collection. It will help inform the study of art deco ceramics in counterpoint to a similarly shaped porcelain set designed by Ladislav Sutnar (of about the same date) in the museum’s collection. Sutnar, who was interested in delivering good design to a mass market, relied on shape and bold, solid color for his design, rather than working with delicate glazes.
The Robj piece shows the influence of other periods and cultures, such as similarly colored Asian ceramics in the museum’s collection. In addition, the refined, subtle glazing technique of Robj’s work may have influenced later designers, as seen in a simple, circular seafoam green cup and saucer from Russel Wright’s 1937 American Modern table service, also held by the museum, which shares a sense of color and emphasis on simple geometry with Robj’s design.

This object was donated by Max Pine.

Cite this object as

Café Au Lait Cup And Saucer (France); glazed earthenware; 2011-51-1-a,b

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18790185/ |title=Café Au Lait Cup And Saucer (France) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=19 October 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>