Meissen stoneware coffeepot and cover

MARKS: Impressed pseudo-Chinese mark.
PURCHASED FROM: Paul Schnyder of Wartensee, Lucerne, Switzerland, and New York, 1950.
This coffeepot is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of European 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 collector and 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 Germany, 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 coffeepot and cover was made in red stoneware, a very hard and dense type of ceramic similar in appearance to the Chinese Yixing ceramics which inspired their imitation at Meissen. Red stoneware, enriched with iron oxides, preceded porcelain in the Dresden laboratory where physicist, mathematician, and philosopher, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651-1708) and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) experimented with raw materials fused by solar energy amplified through a burning glass. Success in red stoneware was an important step towards development of white porcelain.
The coffeepot represents a distinct class of objects in the red stoneware group in which the gilding and color was applied at the workshop of the Dresden court lacquerer, Martin Schnell. Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670-1733) admired and collected lacquer vessels and furniture exported to the West from Japan. Martin Schnell 1675-1740), who trained in the workshop of Gerhard Dagly (1657-1715) in Berlin, was appointed director of the Dresden lacquer workshop in 1710. Schnell lacquered very fine examples of furniture, but it is unlikely that he did much work for Meissen even though he was associated with the manufactory for several years.
The shape of the coffeepot and cover comes from Turkish prototypes made in metal. Manganese oxide was added to the glaze to create a dense black, and it was then sent to the Dresden lacquer workshop for cold gilding in the style of Far Eastern lacquer wares. The pot has eight panels of alternating foliate and diaper patterns, and the cover has overlapping scroll bands with a crescent moon in relief. This type of Meissen product first appeared at the Leipzig Easter fair in 1710. Sources for the motifs on this group of objects came from prints and pattern books like Paul Decker’s (1677-1713) Muster für Lackierer (Patterns for Lacquerers), and the 1688 publication by John Stalker and George Parker A Treatise for Japanning and Varnishing.
On the problem of attributing work to Martin Schnell see Kopplin, M., Lacquer Painting on Böttger Stoneware: Three Walzenkruge and the problem of attribution to Martin Schnell,
See also Kopplin, M., van Aken-Fehmers, M.S., Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2004, Schwartz Porcelain: the lacquer craze and its impact on European porcelain, exhibition catalog of the Staatlicher Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg.
On Yixing stonewares see Lo, K.S. 1986, The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 30-31
Currently not on view
Object Name
coffee pot and cover
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
dark brown stoneware (overall material)
black glaze; painted in gold (overall color)
overall: 8 in x 6 5/8 in; 20.32 cm x 16.8275 cm
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
catalog number
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection

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