In 2005, Ohio-based designer Mark Moskovitz was stationed in Berlin for a resident artist program at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien and came across the work in the Gemäldegalerie. "It was interesting on a number of levels…but what struck me as a designer was the form of the table legs which seemed extremely anachronistic," says Moskovitz. "They were very modern looking, well beyond the era of the painting, and like nothing I'd come to expect design-wise from this period."
He drew a small notebook sketch of the painting and revisited it this year as he was planning what to exhibit at ICFF in May. Through Google Art Project, he was able to revisit the exact artwork he saw years ago.
The painting that started it all. Christ in the House of Simon by Dieric Bouts, c. 1475.
"My sketch was quite a bit different," he says. "At the time, I must have tried to alter it on the spot and add more personal authorship, because my sketch of the leg strayed from the painting. In reworking it this spring, I decided that over half a millennium was enough of a break to re-introduce the design verbatim; it didn't need my meddling, save a few structural considerations. Developing the other pieces in the series allowed for more interpretation."
Of the pieces in the series, the table is the most literal adaptation whereas the side chairs and bench interpret the truss-like structure in their silhouettes. The legs are made from powder-coated aluminum and the wood is clear coated, ebonized, or pickled (a process akin to whitewash) oak. Everything is manufactured by hand within a one-hour radius of Moskovitz's studio.
"One of the upsides about producing work in the USA is the ability to offer more customization and be more hands on. I really can't compete with the big guys but being smaller has advantages," says Moskovtiz, who works with other small-scale manufacturers in the area. "I'm able to offer a wide array of colors and can also give my customers the dimensions, wood species, and finishes they desire…It's not quite mass customization but more of a middle ground between studio furniture and the other extreme of mass production."
The dining table retails for $1398; the coffee table is $998.00; the side chairs are $498 each; and the bench is $1498. For more information about the pieces, please visit fiftytwothousand.com.
For more design produced stateside, view our Made in the USA product collection from our American Modern issue.