Meissen cup and saucer
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- Created Date
- ca 1740-1750
TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer: D. 5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.24 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 502 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords with two dots over handles in underglaze blue; “69” in gold; “3” impressed on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
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.
The cup and saucer have elaborate brackets painted in gold and black. Watteau figures set in landscapes and painted in overglaze polychrome enamels rest on the brackets; on the saucer a young man looks towards the viewer over his shoulder as he escorts his lover into the park, and on the cup a birdman is seen from behind. The birdman as bird catcher, seller or entertainer was a familiar figure in the streets, markets, and fairs of Paris and other European cities with a reputation that ranged from the sinister to the simpleton. On the other side of the cup a woman on horseback with sword in hand gallops behind two hunting dogs.
In the work of French artist Jean Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) we see the development of the fêtes galantes based on the outdoor entertainments in private and public pleasure parks that represent youthful elite society removed from the conventions of court protocol. Watteau’s works depicted conversational, theatrical, and amorous encounters set in these surroundings.
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 and polishing of the gold after firing was the work of other specialists 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. 338-339.
Currently not on view
- Meissen Manufactory
- Chicago citation style
- Meissen Manufactory. Meissen cup and saucer. ca 1740-1750. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415554&repo=DPLA. (Accessed November 15, 2018.)
- APA citation style
- Meissen Manufactory, (ca 1740-1750) Meissen cup and saucer. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://collections.si.edu/search/results.htm?q=record_ID%3Anmah_1415554&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_1415554&repo=DPLA>.