Meissen cup and saucer
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- Created Date
- ca 1745
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 2¾" 7cm; Saucer: D. 5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.26 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 124 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “57” in gold.
PURCHASED FROM: Julius Carlebach, New York, 1942.
This cup 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.
This cup and saucer with a purple ground on their exterior surfaces has two quatrefoil reserves containing figures based on so-called “Watteau” scenes.
The subjects on this cup and saucer were inspired by figures based on the French comedies performed at the public fairs in Paris and adapted from the Italian Comedy. Elite versions of the comedies - which were enormously popular bawdy farces – were part of the entertainment in private pleasure parks outside Paris and the subject of many paintings by Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) and his followers. The theme of paintings described as fêtes galantes were based on the outdoor entertainments in private and public pleasure parks that represented elite society removed from the conventions of court protocol. Watteau’s works depicted conversational, theatrical, and amorous encounters set in idealized pastoral surroundings where the fleeting nature of temporal pleasures hangs over the delicately poised gatherings, and they struck a chord with living protagonists.
In the early 1740s the manufactory began to acquire a collection of copperplate engravings on which the Meissen painters based their “Watteauszenen” (Watteau scenes), and they became so much in demand that eleven painters were appointed to specialize in work on this theme.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures 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.
Ornamental gold painting was the work of another specialist in the painting division.
On Antoine Watteau see Thomas Crow, 1985, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris, chapter II, ‘Fêtes Galantes and Fêtes Publiques’, pp. 55-75. See also Sheriff, M. D., (ed.) 2006, Antoine Watteau: Perspectives on the Artist and the Culture of His Time.
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 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. 340-341.
Currently not on view
- Meissen Manufactory
- Chicago citation style
- Meissen Manufactory. Meissen cup and saucer. ca 1745. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415556&repo=DPLA. (Accessed November 19, 2018.)
- APA citation style
- Meissen Manufactory, (ca 1745) Meissen cup and saucer. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415556&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_1415556&repo=DPLA>.