prototype Museum Shape bowlCastleton China
Hungary / USA, 1945
16 w x 14 d x 5½ h in (41 x 36 x 14 cm)
provenance: Gift from the artist circa 1946 | Returned to the artist circa 2005
literature: Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, Kirkham, Moore and Wolfframm, pg.69 illustrates related work
In 1942, Eva was commissioned by the Museum Modern Art to design a pure white, elegant, porcelain dinnerware service that would look like an heirloom. The manufacturer was Castleton China in Newcastle, Pennsylvania. This set was shown at a solo exhibition at Museum of Modern Art in 1946, the first the museum had ever presented solely dedicated to a female artist. This exhibition was pivotal in establishing Zeisel as a major American designer.
The founder of Castleton, had been deeply influenced by the 1941 Museum of Modern Art exhibit Organic Design in Home Furnishing, and wanted to introduce the new modern aesthetic into the pieces made by his firm. The Museum chose to give the design commission to Zeisel, whose work they had seen previously. The contract called for the Museum of Modern Art to approve each piece for inclusion in the set. No design suggestions were made, but some pieces were not selected. This large, asymmetrical, unglazed salad bowl was not included in the original set, and is the only one in existence. When Eva and one of her Pratt students were setting up the Museum of Modern Art exhibition, Eva gave her the bowl as a wedding gift. In 2005, she returned it to Eva who displayed it in her studio.