MARIA LIKARZ-STRAUSS EVENING BAG (c. 1925)

Founded in 1903 and closed in 1932, the Austrian Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) was one of the great birthplaces of modern design. Under the auspices of Josef Hoffmann (1870-1856), the workshops pioneered functionalist designs that bridged the divide between manufactured products and craft-based traditions.

While the Wiener Werkstätte are famous for their groundbreaking architecture, interiors and furniture, their influence on the development of textile design is less well known. It was largely owing to the work of Hoffmann’s pupil Maria Likarz-Strauss (1893-1956).

This exquisite beaded evening bag is a beautiful example of Likarz-Strauss’s work. The result of hours patient threading and sewing, beadwork had been a staple of the home-made bags of the 19th century. Here is the designer updated the genre for the industrial age, but without sacrificing its intimate charm. Minuscule beads are used to create a vibrant abstract design that both looks back to the decorative work of the Viennese painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and reflects the high tide of Art Deco.

Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Nothing could be simpler than this bag. Domestic, demure yet modern, this is remote indeed from the showy evening bags that were popular at the time. Every design decade has its contrasts.