Covered with Franz von Zülow’s idiosyncratic decoration, this cake serving plate (part of a breakfast set in the Cooper Hewitt’s collection) demonstrates the Viennese artist and designer’s interest in fantasy and fairy tales. Knights on horseback move through a medieval village in the foreground, accompanied by a lively figure blowing a trumpet. The movement of these figures mixed with the abstract buildings and castle in the background, creates a central scene to a colorful story that continues with each other piece in the breakfast set. The subject matter of this set is intriguing because of Zülow’s repeated interest in designing for children throughout his career. He created hand-colored paper-cut prints for fairy tale books and designed wallpapers of fantastical animals for nurseries, amongst many other types of graphic work intended for children. In 2013, MAK the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, curated Paper, the first exhibit ever, to commemorate Franz von Zülow’s diverse career as an artist and designer. Included in the exhibition was a drawing from 1925 of a design for a tea service that closely resembles the breakfast set.
In 1925, the year that the breakfast set was made, Franz von Zülow was awarded a Gold Medal at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne for a vase produced by the Wiener Porzellanmanufaktur at Augarten (who also produced the breakfast set). Another porcelain piece in the Cooper Hewitt’s collection featuring bright colors and a sense of movement within its decoration, is Gio Ponti’s Monte Santo bowl from 1924-25. Ponti also exhibited at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne in 1925. Both Zülow’s breakfast set and Ponti’s Monte Santo bowl are great examples of Art Deco European ceramics.
Catherine Acosta is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program offered jointly by the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She is a Fellow in the museum’s Product Design and Decorative Arts Department.