- Museum number
Urn and burner. Silver plated spun spherical lidded container for hot water; with two side handles and a central spout with tap; set on pierced cylindrical base concealing silver plated oil burner. Marked.
- Production date
Height: 360 millimetres
Width: 274 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Designed initially in silver for the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, USA, this example is one of very few to be industrially made in silver-plate.
Saarinen (1873-1950) had a distinguished early career in Finland, where his most famous building is the Helsinki railway station of 1905-14, and throughout Continental Europe, especially Germany, where he became a member of the Deutsche Werkbund. In 1922 he won second prize in the Chicago Tribune tower competition and moved to America in 1923. In 1924 he was asked by George G. Booth, proprietor of the Detroit News, to develop a utopian educational centre, Cranbrook, at Bloomfields Hills, Michigan. Saarinen's tea-urn was included in the 'Contemporary American Industrial Art' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1934.
The hot water urn was illustrated at the time, in 'Arts and Decoration', December 1934, p.21. For Saarinen and Cranbrook see A. Christ-Janer, 'Eliel Saarinen', Chicago 1948, and Robert J Clark et al., 'Design in America: The Cranbrook Vision 1925-1950', New York 1983, pp. 163-64.
For the hot water urn, see also A. Duncan, 'American Art Deco', London/New York 1986, p. 86; R.G. Wilson et al., 'The Machine Age in America 1918-1941', exhibition catalogue, Brooklyn Museum, New York 1986, pp. 88-89, fig. 3.27; Charles L Venable, 'Silver in America 1840-1940. A century of splendor', New York 1995, p. 283 (ill. p.290, Fig. 9.35); Jewel Stern, 'Modernism in American Silver. 20th-Century Design', exhibition catalogue, Dallas Museum of Art, pub. Newhaven and London 2005, pp. 113-115 and cat. 127.
Stern 2005 (the fullest account to date) illustrates the tea-urn at the Contemporary American Industrial Art exhibition in 1934, where it was displayed in Saarinen's 'Room for a Lady' on a circular table in a streamlined interior very different from his Dining Room created for the previous exhibition in the contemporary industrial art series held in 1929 (Stern p. 104, fig. 4.1). This, and the British Museum's version, are the larger 26-cup production-line model. They have wider slats that partly conceal the burner and a flat base instead of the ball feet found on the smaller 16-cup versions based on the prototype, now in the Cranbrook Art Museum (Stern p. 114, fig. 5.3). Saarinen's own version, in brass-plated nickel silver, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1999, complete with matching jug, sugar-bowl and much larger tray (199.27.1a-c-5). The creamer, sugar-bowl and larger tray were added in 1935 and never put into production.
Another example of the production urn is in the St Louis Art Museum (119.2003a-c). A further example of the prototype design, from the Saarinen family, is in the Dallas Museum of Art ('Antiques', Jan-Feb 2013).
See also J. Rudoe 'An Architect-Designed Coffee-Urn', British Museum Magazine, Winter 1999, p. 35; J. Rudoe, 'An historical continuum: collecting 20th century applied art from Europe and America at the British Museum', in 'The International Art & Design Fair 1900-2002', New York 2002, pp. 15-28, fig. 14.
- On display (G48/dc6)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Miles Lourie Collection: when Lourie retired he sold his town house and collection, which included this urn, to Barry Friedman. He had this piece in his collection for 20 years.
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number