A Subliminal Union

Josef Frank's Flora Cabinet

To encounter Josef Frank’s Flora chest is to experience a living, breathing specimen. Through this work, the viewer comes, almost intuitively, to know and appreciate Frank’s powers of transformation: the chest’s meticulously-applied floral imprint elevates it from a statement of simple, elegant modernism to a splendid triumph of European design. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to present this work to the market; its unique provenance renders it an interesting and rare treasure with a multi-layered story to tell.

The delicate gravitas of the Flora chest seems to portend the significance of its own illustrious provenance. The chest was acquired directly after its creation by the Swedish diplomat Carl-Robert Borgenstierna during his time in Caracas, Venezuela. At this time, Borgenstierna organized an exhibition in Caracas showcasing the finest of Swedish design, held in the Torre Pola Caracas building, at which this chest was exhibited. Add to this the fact that Flora’s production was initially reserved for the King of Sweden in the first edition, followed by Queen Elizabeth II, and its value is unquestionably affirmed by the eminence of the company in which it abided.

Josef Frank 1885–1967

Josef Frank was one of the most prolific designers of the 20th century known for his work in the fields of furniture, textiles, and architecture. Frank was born in the town Baden near Vienna where he grew up in a tactile household with his father, a textile merchant, and his mother, a skilled sewer. In 1903, Frank attended the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, where he studied architecture under Karl König. In his teaching, König placed an emphasis on the quality of material, design, and planning rather than a strict adherence to style. Frank took the philosophy of König to heart and found inspiration in both the past and present to create designs with quality in mind. In 1925, Frank founded the firm Haus und Garten with fellow architects Oskar Wlach and Walter Sobotka. Unlike the Wiener Werstatte which lauded Gesamtkunstwerks, the three architects believed in creating livable spaces.

In 1933, with Hitler’s rise to power in Austria, Frank and his wife Anna move to Sweden. At first, Frank found it difficult to find work but he soon began working with Estrid Ericson at her interior design firm, Svenskt Tenn. It was with Svenskt Tenn that Frank was at his most prolific, designing over 1,000 furniture pieces and over 200 patterns for rugs, wallpaper, and textiles several of which are still in production today. In 1941, Frank and Anna moved yet again, this time to New York. He remained close with Estrid Ericson gifting her fifty pattern designs inspired by the natural life and city landscapes of the US on her fiftieth birthday.

Frank subscribed the idea that homes are flexible and ever-changing, and he believed that designers should put clients’ needs first when considering an interior. He coined the term “Accidentalism” in his manifesto published in Form magazine in 1958, in expressing the idea that an interior should be a fluid space that changes with the desires of its inhabitants. Frank died in 1967, leaving behind a legacy of bold patterns and masterfully crafted furniture. His work can be found in the permanent collections around the world.

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Auction Results Josef Frank