Table service

Elements from a table service designed by Josef Hoffman for the Palais Stoclet in Brussels, sold for a total of £505,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

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The seven pieces made by the Wiener Werkstätte, c.1905, came for sale at Woolley & Wallis on June 21 as part of a cache of artworks from the family of the Belgian engineer, financier, and noted collector Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949).

The Palais Stoclet, first residential project for the Wiener Werkstätte, built between 1905-11, is considered Josef Hoffmann’s masterpiece.

The mansion has been occupied since its opening by the Stoclet family and (although designated a World Heritage site by Unesco in June 2009), is not open to the public. It is currently owned by Stoclet’s four granddaughters.

The Hoffman silver pieces offered in Salisbury are well documented.

A silver and malachite comport with marks for the Wiener Werkstätte, Josef Hoffman and the maker Alfred Mayer was guided at £10,000-20,000 but sold at £230,000 - by a distance a record hammer price for the Design department at Woolley & Wallis.

Original drawing

The original drawing for this piece (one of two made for Stoclet) is in the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (MAK).

An ensuite bowl or centrepiece, also made by Mayer, is possibly the same piece pictured in a black and white photo showing one of the famous series of mosaics by Gustav Klimt at Palais Stoclet. Sold together with a later silver and malachite tray made to a Hoffman design in Belgium, it took £180,000 (estimate £15,000-20,000).

A pair of cylindrical preserve jars with hinged covers with Wiener Werkstätte marks and those for the silversmith Josef Hossfeld brought £75,000 (estimate £3000-5000), while a pair of table salts with cut-glass liners with stamped Austrian marks completed the suite at £20,000 (estimate £1500-2000).

While Hoffman silver makes occasional appearances at auction, the provenance of these pieces is gilt edged. “There is no real precedent at auction for works of this cultural and design significance,” said W&W specialist, Michael Jeffery.

“The Palais Stoclet, for which they were made, echoes their geometric forms and represented a turning point from historical styles to what we now think of as modern architecture.”

Hoffman jars

A pair of cylindrical preserve jars, £75,000 at Woolley & Wallis.

The auctioneer was keeping tight-lipped as to the identity of the determined phone buyer who secured all four lots.

The Stoclet consignment, which was first seen by Woolley & Wallis chairman John Axford in the relatively modest surrounds of a country cottage in the south-west of England, includes antiques that have not been on the open market in almost a century.

It included a Northern Qi (550- 577) marble stele exhibited in Paris at the Musée Cernuschi as part of an exhibition of Buddhistic art in 1913, illustrated in the 1956 catalogue of Adolphe Stoclet’s collection. Sold for £440,000 (plus buyer’s premium) on May 24, it had been displayed on the floor beside a fireplace in the owner’s living room.