Meissen teapot and cover

MARKS: "//" incised on base, no marks on silver.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans Backer, London, England, 1947.
This little teapot is part of 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 collector and New York dealer Adolf Beckhardt (1889-1962), formerly of Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany. Dr. Syz, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, collected Meissen porcelain while engaged in a professional career in psychoanalysis 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 teapot is formed from red stoneware, a clay colored with red earth and iron oxide, and developed by Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) and his team at the laboratory in the Jungfernbastei in Dresden in December 1707. Vessels and small figures made from this material appeared at the Leipzig Easter Fair in May 1710, the same year in which the manufactory opened in Meissen, about thirty miles from Dresden. The teapot shares some characteristics with sixteenth-century Chinese Yixing stoneware tea vessels , but early Meissen red stoneware pieces were diverse, and many items designed by the court goldsmith Johann Jacob Irminger (1635-1724) followed the European style of contemporary gold and silverware, and in this case the Bohemian technique of faceted glass. This teapot is a hybrid of Chinese and European styles, and although it looks as though the many facets were formed by a glass cutting tool, the vessel was made in a plaster mold; a solid model of the teapot was made and the facets were cut into the surface. A plaster mold taken from the model picked up the faceted pattern, and red stoneware clay was then worked into the mold by a potter who very skillfully produced an even thickness of the material to make this very light little teapot. The handle and spout were probably made in separate molds and added afterwards. The surface of the teapot was then polished with the same technique used for polishing glass and stone. There is a crack around the lower part of the teapot, and the silver mounting was possibly applied to prevent the vessel from springing apart. The silver lid may be a replacement for one that was broken. The spout probably had a silver mounting which has been lost.
It was difficult to produce consistent results with red stoneware. When fired in the kiln it required a lower temperature than white porcelain, and variation in the color occurred frequently. The decorative techniques seen here were slow to execute and expensive. Eventually, it became impractical to continue production of red stoneware alongside the highly desirable white porcelain. However, the earlier invention of this material was an important step towards the development of hard-paste porcelain.
Pietsch, U. Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection, 2011, pp. 15-18.
Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, 1979, pp.28-29.
Currently not on view
Object Name
teapot and cover
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
ceramic (overall material)
overall: 4 1/4 in; 10.795 cm
place made
ID Number
collector/donor number
accession number
catalog number
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
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
depicted in
Syz, Hans; Miller II, J. Jefferson; Rückert, Rainer. Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection
Pietsch, Ulrich. Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

7/18/2013 3:51:10 PM
Bottger worked in the Jungfernbastei fortress from September 1707 until he died. I believe his laboratories were three rooms below ground; do you know what the layout of these rooms were like? Are there any sketches of these lab plans?
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