The Virtue in Vice
Exhibition TextMaster craftsmanship, luxurious materials, or sensuous forms often provide a veneer for objects that amplifies the pleasure of their use. Design disguises what we wish to remain private, tempts us with luxuries large and small, feeds sensuous appetites, and—should we envy someone else’s possessions—ease our discontent with clever imitations. Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—the seven deadly sins—find irresistible outlet in these objects chosen from Cooper Hewitt’s collection.
See all the objects in this exhibition.
Lust TextSuggestive and flirtatious objects designed to titillate are representative of Lust. Available in many shapes and sizes, objects range from provocative wallpapers and furnishings to more discreet matchsafes and drawings. Textiles can further enhance the seductive décor of interiors.
See all the objects in the Lust section.
Gluttony TextGluttony refers to the overindulgence of any number of substances and activities, and this selection highlights a few of the more fashionably accessorized. Beautiful bar and tablewares, crafted in age-old traditions and novel designs, set the stage for gastronomic pleasures to come, while elaborate services for tea and coffee encourage one to have another cup. Handsome designs in tobacco accessories are functional and worthy of showing off, no inhaling required. Specially designed furnishings and boards make gaming more exciting and comfortable, with winnings fashionably toted in a gaming purse. The petite cages allow one to enjoy the music of crickets, when they are not performing in the arena.
See all the objects in the Gluttony section.
Vanity TextVanity is taking excessive pride in one’s appearance, represented here by objects designed for tending to one’s appearance—a vanity and traveling dressing set, along with mirrors for admiring one’s reflection. The tureen and book, each ornamented with the designer’s own portrait, exemplify a humorous play on self-admiration.
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Sloth TextWhile idleness is often frowned upon, sloth or laziness can be a good trait when it represents innovation or a well-earned break. Sedan chairs and hansom cabs lessen the burden of one’s commute by harnessing the power of another, while the Roomba can free up time for more important activities, such as relaxing and being treated like a queen.
See all the objects in the Sloth section.
Envy TextThough it can be tempting to be envious or jealous of your neighbor’s new acquisition, beautifully crafted imitations of luxe materials make similar objects accessible. Block-printed draperies and passementerie, as well as trompe l’oeil textiles that dazzle, and accessories sporting rhinestones and silver plate, are exquisitely crafted to fool the eye and create desire of their own.
See all the objects in the Envy section.
Wrath TextWrath or anger can be used for a greater good when applied in a productive manner. The impulses and outputs of this vice are represented here in a scenic wallpaper illustrating a battle of the American Revolution and fighting implements, both real and pretend. Games of chess—whose pieces were typically modeled after ancient India military forces—embody age-old contention, accompanied by plates and wallpaper ornamented with political propaganda, and one angry tomcat.
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Greed TextThe acquisition of money is the hallmark of avarice or greed. Wallpaper printed with oversize currency and a coin-encrusted table are blatant expressions, while a miser’s purse provides elegant and safe transport for precious coins. The Vertu MMII cellphone is a stylish example of excess, combining exquisite craftsmanship and luxe materials on a device that quickly becomes obsolete.
See all the objects in the Greed section.