Historical information

The Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese workshops) established by Josef Hoffman and Kolomon Moser in 1903 are today celebrated for their work in promoting the involvement of artists, designers and craftspeople in the manufacture of home furnishings; however Sigmund Járay’s firm was also an important, although today lesser-known, Viennese manufacturer of Kunstmöbel (art furniture). An Austro-Hungarian designer of Jewish descent, Sigmund Járay (1838-1908) established his Kunstmöbelfabrik (art furniture factory) in Vienna in the 1870s in partnership with his brother Sándro Járay (1845-1916), a sculptor. The firm with its team of cabinet makers, modellers, sculptors, upholsterers, painters and gilders, manufactured bespoke furnishings and decorated interiors for public and private clients, including the Imperial court. Such was the prominence of the work of this factory, that in 1899 one of the first purchases of the newly formed Austrian Museum of Applied art was a suite of furniture designed by Sigmund Járay for a married worker.

In commissioning the furniture, Slawa was adopting the custom of Viennese couples to furnish their homes with bespoke furniture from the interior design firms that flourished in early 20th century in Vienna. Comparative material is held in the National Gallery of Victoria collection; a suite of furniture by Josef Hoffman commissioned by the Gallia family in 1912; and a suite of furniture by Adolf Loos commissioned by the Langer family in 1903.

Ann Carew 2016


The bedroom suite is aesthetically significant for the quality of its craftsmanship and design. It is a significant example of domestic interior design in Vienna during the 1930s. The bedroom suite is intact, and has been preserved in its entirety – double bed and side tables, wardrobe and linen press, stool and day bed. It has the potential to be displayed in situ in the place where it was last in use. It is of historical significance. Many Jewish families had all their possessions lost or destroyed during the war years. The story of the furniture’s journey from Austria to Australia is relevant to the study of the experience of émigré families during the Holocaust, and the importance of return of their property. It is rare, as it and the furniture in the living and dining room, are the only known examples in Australia of furniture manufactured by the firm of Sigmund Jàray. The provenance of the furniture is excellent, and is demonstrated by photographs taken in Vienna; correspondence with the donor’s sister, Rella; and the quotation from Sigmund Járay Kunstmöbelfabrik. It is in excellent condition.

Ann Carew 2016

Physical description

Bedroom suite consisting of a double bed, two side tables, an upholstered stool and upholstered day bed, and a wardrobe and linen press. Made of Maple and Rosewood. Designed by the firm of Sigmund Jaray with Slawa Horowitz-Duldig.