Desnet (Desny and René Nauny), Tea and Coffee Service, c. 1927

The Work

This tea and coffee set is made of silver-plated brass, with ebony handles. It is entirely composed of geometric forms, with a horizontal opening instead of a traditional curved spout. When we look at the teapot, coffee pot, sugar bowl, and creamer lined up on the tray, we might have the impression of looking at a steamship, which was a popular mode of transportation in the 1920s.

Historical Moment

In 1925, Paris was again the site of a world’s fair. The International Exposition of Decorative and Modern Industrial Arts inspired the term "art deco." This style preferred geometric forms over the curved lines of the earlier style of "art nouveau." The art deco style also celebrated technological progress and the development of transportation such as the automobile, the airplane, and the steamship.

The Genre

Decorative arts related to table service are tempting to an artist’s creativity. There are always some people wealthy enough to buy new furniture, according to the fashion of the moment, but there are many more people who can buy items to decorate their tabletop. These works are sometimes mass produced, and are sometimes one-of-a-kind, made to order.

The Artist

Desny is the name of a company. It was formed by contracting the two names of Desnet (whose first name is unknown), who died in 1933, and René Nauny. Both French, they worked in Paris between 1927 and 1933. Their works are considered avant-garde, both for the 1920s and for today.

French embassy