Meissen tea bowl and saucer
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- Created Date
- ca 1735-1740
TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Bowl: H. 1¾" 4.5cm; Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1735-1740
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.08ab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 423ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “4” in gold on cup; and“7” in gold on saucer (gold painter’s numbers); former’s mark impressed on bottom of cup.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
This tea bowl and saucer is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of Meissen Porcelain. Dr. Syz (1894-1991) began his collection in the early years of World War II, when he purchased eighteenth-century Meissen table wares from the Art Exchange run by the New York dealer Adolf Beckhardt (1889-1962). Dr. Syz, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, collected Meissen porcelain while engaged in a professional career in psychiatry and the research of human behavior. He believed that cultural artifacts have an important role to play in enhancing our awareness and understanding of human creativity and its communication among peoples. His collection grew to represent this conviction.
The invention of Meissen porcelain, declared over three hundred years ago early in 1709, was a collective achievement that represents an early modern precursor to industrial chemistry and materials science. The porcelains we see in our museum collections, made in the small town of Meissen in the German States, were the result of an intense period of empirical research. Generally associated with artistic achievement of a high order, Meissen porcelain was also a technological achievement in the development of inorganic, non-metallic materials.
Framed by leaf and strapwork (Laub-und Bandelwerk) in iron-red and purple enamel, purple luster, and gold, and painted in onglaze polychrome enamels the tea bowl has a river scene dominated by a windmill on one side and the entrance to a harbor on the other. On the saucer a harbor scene shows figures waiting or watching for small sailing ships seen in the distance. Vignettes of harbor scenes are painted in purple enamel contained within the gold scrollwork borders on the interior rims of both the tea bowl and saucer.
Sources for enamel painted harbor and waterside scenes came from the vast number of prints after paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists; especially popular were the subjects by painters Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640).
The popularity of landscape, harbor, and waterside subjects held particular appeal for city dwellers and for the nobility obliged to fulfill court duties. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure. Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns applied in the decoration of many branches of artisan made and manufactured goods.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. Decorative scrollwork was the responsibility of another painter specializing in this form of decoration.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93.
On Dutch prints see Goddard, S. H., 1984, Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 298-299.
Currently not on view
- Meissen Manufactory
- Chicago citation style
- Meissen Manufactory. Meissen tea bowl and saucer. ca 1735-1740. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415541&repo=DPLA. (Accessed October 18, 2019.)
- APA citation style
- Meissen Manufactory, (ca 1735-1740) Meissen tea bowl and saucer. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415541&repo=DPLA
- MLA citation style
- Meissen Manufactory. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America <http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415541&repo=DPLA>.