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Vase Vase

This is a vase. It was designed by Peter Behrens and manufactured by Walter Scherf & Co. and distributed by Liberty & Company. It is dated ca. 1910. Its medium is cast and silver-plated metal. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

This pair of Osiris vases illustrates a transitional period in Peter Behrens’s oeuvre. The architect-designer was a key proponent of modernism, creating works such as the AEG Turbine Factory, which established a standard for the industrial aesthetic that would be embraced by the next generation of modernists. Behrens worked closely with his successors, mentoring, among others, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius, all of whom would contribute canonical works and theories to modern design. Before embracing the austere functionalism that characterizes his later works, however, Behrens was an important early disseminator of the German art nouveau, or Jugendstil (“youth style”). Taking its inspiration from the English Arts & Crafts movement, the Jugendstil found expression in inventive forms, organic lines, and vegetal motifs. The Osiris vases are exemplars of Behren’s Jugendstil experiments; the mouth of the vases incorporates a gently undulating lip set atop a curved, pyramidal base. The highly polished, or silver-plated, pewter volume is punctuated by a rectangular grid of stamped squares towards its bottom, and by a similar grid of pierced squares near the lip. This gridwork recalls patterning favored by the Wiener Wekstätte. Although the volume seems alive with an organic character, the purity of form and gridded decoration indicate a shift towards the sober aesthetic Behrens would embrace after abandoning the Jugendstil and curving line entirely in 1904. The Osiris line and these vases in particular mark a transition from Behren’s earlier, more organic works to the aesthetic and character he would develop and perpetuate through the Deutscher Werkbund.

This object was donated by George R. Kravis II. It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II.

  • Sidewall, Claudia
  • machine-printed paper.
  • Museum purchase through bequest of Ida McNeil in memory of Lincoln C. McNeil....
  • 1985-71-1

Our curators have highlighted 5 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • The Cube Teapot
  • silver-plated metal, wood, gilding (interior).
  • Gift of Nicholas Harris, London.
  • 1986-12-1
  • Metal Wave Vase
  • steel (stainless), styrene butadiene rubber (sbr).
  • Gift of Gallery 91.
  • 1991-159-12
  • Tea Caddy (England)
  • rolled, cast and chased silver.
  • Gift of Gerald G. Stiebel and Penelope Hunter-Stiebel.
  • 2013-49-30

Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 14 × 6.5 × 5.5 cm (5 1/2 × 2 9/16 × 2 3/16 in.)

It has the following markings

On underside: stamped “OSIRIS” 1018, with logo underneath

Cite this object as

Vase Vase; Designed by Peter Behrens (German, 1868–1940); Manufactured by Walter Scherf & Co.; Distributed by Liberty & Company (United Kingdom); cast and silver-plated metal; H x W x D: 14 × 6.5 × 5.5 cm (5 1/2 × 2 9/16 × 2 3/16 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2018-22-136

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Vase Vase |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=7 June 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>