Flaches Modell (Flat Model) Dessert Knife, 1903
This silver dessert knife, designed by Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, is from the pattern called Flat Model, the first model produced by the Wiener Werkstätte when it opened in 1903. The original service consisted of 33 different implements, and all three of the Wiener Werkstätte’s founding members—Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, and Fritz Waerndorfer—had it made for their own use. Hoffmann’s Flat Model was the most radically modern flatware design introduced at the beginning of the 20th century and has continued to exert tremendous influence on cutlery design throughout the past century.
This particular knife is purported to be part of the first Flat Model service ever produced, was commissioned by Hertha Jaeger, a member of the Magda Mautner von Markhof family. The set descended through the estate of Magda Mautner to the present source.
One of the features that makes this set so drastically modern for its time is the stark, flat, rectangular shape, ornamented only by the four beads at the handle terminals. Hoffmann’s Flat Model flatware is a pivotal design in modern cutlery, and would be extremely desirable to add to the museum’s collection. It was the first and most radical design to reduce superfluous ornament and break down traditional boundaries between handles, blades, bowls, and tines. At the time, even the most adventurous patrons were not quite ready for this innovation: the Flat Model was only in production for four years.
The Flat Model and the Round Model were introduced to the public at the influential exhibition, Der gedeckte Tisch (The Dining Table), held in the Wiener Werkstätte showrooms in 1906. The Flat Model was criticized as “geometry, not art” and the service was called “uncomfortable” and "suggestive of anatomical instruments.” It is difficult to find other contemporary cutlery designs with which to compare it—the Newbery set by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1902, with its thin tapering handles, comes close. It would be several decades before European flatware designers dared to introduce patterns with such dramatically reductive forms, such as the 1936 Gio Ponti stainless steel pattern for Krupp and the 1957 AJ pattern by Arne Jacobsen for Georg Jensen. None, however, have had the impact that Hoffmann’s did at the beginning of the century.
 Waltraud Neuwirth and Josef Franz Maria Hoffmann, Josef Hoffmann: Bestecke für die Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna: Selbstverlag W. Neuwirth, 1982), 29–31.
It is credited
Museum purchase from Friends of Applied Arts and Industrial Design, General Acquisitions Endowment, and Morrill Acquisitions Funds.
Its dimensions are
L x W x D: 18.5 x 1.7 x 0.5 cm (7 5/16 x 11/16 x 3/16 in.)
It has the following markings
Stamped on handle, below blade: "WW" (for Wiener Werkstaette) and Austrian silver standard mark: Greyhound head
Cite this object as
Flaches Modell (Flat Model) Dessert Knife, 1903; Produced by Wiener Werkstätte (Austria); Austria; silver; L x W x D: 18.5 x 1.7 x 0.5 cm (7 5/16 x 11/16 x 3/16 in.); Museum purchase from Friends of Applied Arts and Industrial Design, General Acquisitions Endowment, and Morrill Acquisitions Funds; 2002-3-2
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, 1500-2005.