Born in Cracow, Poland on January 20th, 1876, Josef Hofmann was a musical prodigy who began performing at age 6. Visited and admired by European legends such as Franz Liszt and Anton Rubinstein, he made his American debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House on November 29th, 1887 when he was just 11 years old. So great was the demand for his performances that his manager/father (Casimir Hofmann, himself a pianist) was persuaded by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to withdraw Josef from public performances until his eighteenth birthday. During his hiatus, he returned to Europe to continue his career, later immigrating to America whereby he became a citizen during WWI. In 1937, fifty years after his American debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, he held his 'Golden Jubilee Concert', where he was presented with a Cartier miniature piano and piano chair by Steinway & Sons to commemorate the event. He retired in 1946 and died in Los Angeles in 1957.
The piano is a miniature scaled model of a modified Steinway 'D' concert grand piano, a replica of a unique model produced by Steinway & Sons for Mr. Hofmann, per the pianist's own specifications. No piano of this specific model is known to exist. The design of the piano includes a shorter front lid (thus improving sound reflection, according to Hofmann). Pressing upon the center octave of the keyboard causes the piano lid to open mechanically upon its brace, exposing a three-tiered cigarette case in the body.
The secondary piece is a replica of Hofmann's own piano chair (again, an original of the artist). The full-size chair could be folded, so it could be carried like a suitcase and was also on a slight incline, so that Hofmann, who was relatively short, could work the piano's pedals more easily. The miniature was not made to fold, yet retains the brace which secured the chair's legs while in use. It also replicates the handles used for travel, which functions as the grasp by which the lighter can be removed. On the lighter is engraved 'Josef from Tess 1887 1937', 'Tess' being the nickname for Theodore E. Steinway Sr., of Steinway & Sons.