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  Artist unknown
Italian
Tea and coffee service, c. 1930

Teapot:   H. 7 x W. 7 x D. 6 in.

Most silverware designers had to be more conservative than their counterparts in the other arts because they had a more traditional clientele. The Modernist philosophy of eliminating surface decoration could not be applied at once. What emerged was a traditional Modern Class style, a marriage between new and old, and more often than not, dignified, rational and understated.

Not so the Italians. Their designs of the interwar years are notable for innovative, unadorned forms, often suggesting a streamlined dynamism. Unsurprising, since it was the Italian poet Marinetti who, as early as 1909, published the Futurist Manifesto which heralded the machine, urban life and speed as the visual expressions of a new reality. In comparing coffee and tea services of this period, one can trace their functional development, particularly how similar functions were resolved for each piece and how the respective elements related to one another.1 This is one of the few services in which each piece is identical except in size.2 When placed in a row, as was obviously intended, they successfully capture the essence of movement. Marinetti would have been pleased.

1 The handle suggests a reference to both irons and tea kettles of the same period.

2 The British designed a four-piece Cubist tea service in which each piece is identical except for size. It too is represented in the Institute's permanent collection.