Meissen octagonal plate

TITLE: Meissen octagonal plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 8¾" 22.3cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 61.66
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords and a “K” in a double circle, all in underglaze blue; “22” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Galerie Almas, Munich, Germany, 1957.
This plate 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 octagonal plate from a dinner service has elaborate decoration in underglaze blue, onglaze enamel and gold in the Imari style after a Japanese prototype. A vase of chrysanthemums and peonies occupies the center encircled by a wide border containing stylized peonies, prunus blossoms, phoenixes or Japanese hō-ō birds, and kara-shishi lion dogs. Polychrome flowering twigs are painted on the underside of the plate.
Lion dogs originated in Chinese Buddhism and were adopted in Japan as protective animals, often seen as sculptures of a male and female pair placed at the entrances to Buddhist and Shinto shrines, at the threshold to secular buildings, and in people’s homes. The lion is, of course, not native to Japan or China, and the significance of the animal as representative of wisdom and courage came from Buddhist India and Central Asia. The hybrid creature of lion and dog emerged from the faithful nature of Chinese lap dog breeds with their long ears and bushy tails, and the lion and dog were thus conflated in their protective role first in China and then in Korea and Japan. There is not much consistency in their appearance which has always been fluid in the imagination of Japanese artists and artisans.
Japanese Imari wares came from kilns near the town of Arita in the north-western region of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island and were exported by the Dutch through the port of Imari from their base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. Decorated in the Aka-e-machi, the enameling center in Arita, Imari wares are generally distinguished from those made in the Kakiemon style by the darker palette of enamel colors and densely patterned surfaces, some of which are clearly derived from Japanese and South-East Asian textiles and known in Japan as brocade ware (nishiki-de), but there are considerable variations within this broad outline. Unlike the Kakiemon style a high proportion of Japanese Imari wares combined underglaze blue painting with overglaze enamel colors.
Original Japanese Imari collected by the European aristocracy was much admired for its opulent decorative style. When no longer imported to Europe imitations of the Imari style gained wider popularity later in the eighteenth century, most notably in the products of the English Worcester and Derby porcelain manufactories, and Royal Crown Derby continues to produce a derivative pattern called Traditional Imari today.
On the Japanese Imari style and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750; Rotondo-McCord, L., 1997, Imari: Japanese Porcelain for European Palaces: The Freda and Ralph Lupin Collection; Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon; Goro Shimura, 2008, The Story of Imari: the Symbols and Mysteries of antique Japanese Porcelain.
See also Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 110.
On animal symbolism see K. M. Ball (1927 and 2004) Animal Motifs in Asian Art.
On the impact of Chinese porcelain in a global context see Robert Finlay, 2010, The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 194-195.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Imari (overall style)
overall: 8 3/4 in; 22.225 cm
overall: 1 1/8 in x 8 25/32 in x 8 25/32 in; 2.8575 cm x 22.3139 cm x 22.3139 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object