Tea Infuser and Strainer

Marianne Brandt (German, Chemnitz 1893–1984 Kirchberg)

ca. 1924
Silver and ebony
H. 2-7/8 inches (7.3 cm)
Credit Line:
The Beatrice G. Warren and Leila W. Redstone Fund, 2000
Accession Number:
  • Description

    During its brief existence (1919-33) the Bauhaus produced a group of architects and designers whose work profoundly influenced the visual environment of the twentieth century. These men and women believed that everyday objects, stripped of ornament, could achieve beauty simply through form and color. Brandt's tea infuser is the quintessential Bauhaus object. Only three inches high, its diminuitive size results from its function. Unlike conventional teapots, it is intended to distill a concentrated extract, which, when combined with hot water in the cup, can produce tea of any desired strength.

    While incorporating the usual elements of a teapot, the designer has reinvented them as abstract geometric forms. The body is a hemisphere cradled on crossbars. The thin circular lid, placed off center to avoid drips (a common fault of metal teapots with hinged lids), had a tall cylindrical knop. The handle, a D-shaped slice of ebony set high for ease of pouring, provides a strong vertical contrast to the object's predominant horizontality. Although the pot is carefully resolved functionally, its visual impact lies in the uncompromising sculptural statement it makes. It is defiantly modern.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Marking: Infuser stamped on base with German assay marks: a crescent moon, a crown with cross, and "900." Infuser also stamped on base with hallmark: "··ZII" [?]. Lid and strainer each stamped with hallmark: "UZ··" [?].

  • Provenance

    This tea infuser was sold at auction by Christie's Amsterdam, October 26, 1989, lot 431. No provenance was given. The estimate was 250,000 to 300,000 Dutch guilders and the piece realized 368,000 Dutch guilders (approximately $180,000 at today's exchange rate of 1 guilder equaling $0.49).

  • References

    Model illustrated:

    Judy Rudoe, Decorative Arts 1850-1950, a Catalogue of the British Museum Collection (London: British Museum Press, 1991), cover, pp. 22, 276, plate XV.

    Die Metall Wekstätte am Bauhaus (Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv, Museum für Gestaltung, 1992), pp. 140-141.

    Bauhaus Archiv-Museum, Sammlungs-Katalog (Auswahl): Architektur, Design, Malerei, Graphik, Künstpädagogik (Berlin: Gebr. Mann Verlag, 1987), pp. 106-107.

    Martin Eidelberg, ed., Designed for Delight, Alternative Aspects of Twentieth-Century Decorative Arts, exhibition catalogue, Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), p. 106

    Isabelle Auscombe, A Woman's Touch: Women in Design from 1860 to the Present Day (New York: Viking Penguin, 1985), p. 142.