Meissen bowl

This rinsing bowl 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 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 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.
This bowl was once part of a tea and coffee service onto which were painted topographical scenes of Saxon places of interest. Featured on the bowl is the Königstein Fortress, built on the top of the rocky prominence in the center left of the image, which lies south of Dresden close to the river Elbe seen on the right. The fortress, which still exists, stands on an outcrop of sandstone sculpted over millenia by the waters of the Elbe, and it is situated in a region unique to this part of south-eastern Germany known as Saxon Switzerland, later to become a landscape fascinating to early nineteenth century painters like Caspar David Friedrich. The second painting depicts the Sonnenstein castle above the town of Pirna, which lies south-east of Dresden on the banks of the Elbe. In the sixteenth century Pirna flourished as a merchant town, and was a center for Protestant minorities seeking refuge from persecution in Catholic Central Europe. Bernardo Belotto/Caneletto (1721-1780), the nephew of Giovanni Antonio Caneletto (1697-1768), his pupil and assistant in Venice before leaving to study in Rome, painted several scenes of Pirna, but at the Meissen Manufactory both these images, painted in onglaze enamels, were after engravings executed in 1726 by Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752). Thiele painted many landscapes of Saxon sites, and among his pupils were artists who later developed what became known as the Dresden landscape school, active until well into the nineteenth century. The bowl is an example of Meissen’s use of sources from the work of contemporary artists, an exchange made possible through the increasing volume of prints supplied to the manufactory. (Marx, H., Die Schoensten Ansichten aus Sachsen: Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752) zum 250 Todestag, 2002).
The bowl has a sea-green ground color, and the images in the reserves are painted in polychrome enamels. The interior and exterior gold scrollwork and foot ring frame the piece. The interior has another miniature landscape that remains unidentified and is probably imaginary, surrounded by elaborate scrollwork in purple and iron-red enamels and gold. When part of a tea and coffee service, the bowl was used to take the last dregs of a beverage before a cup was rinsed and refilled. It is likely that a service of this kind was not much used in a practical sense, but put on display for admiration. (See a milk pot from this service in Pietsch, U., Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, 2011, p.379, for a sugar bowl see The Rita and Fritz Markus Collection of European Ceramics and Enamels, Museum of FIne Arts, Boston, 1984, p. 128.).
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1735
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
ploychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
topographical views (overall style)
overall: 3 in x 6 in; 7.62 cm x 15.24 cm
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
ID Number
collector/donor number
accession number
catalog number
The Hans C. Syz Collection
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
Related Publication
Pietsch, Ulrich. Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.