Meissen dish

TITLE: Meissen dish
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 13½" 34.2cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1730
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 73.31
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords with a dot above the pommels in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Acquired in 1973, source unknown.
This dish 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 dish, painted in onglaze enamels in the Imari style, also has decorative motifs characteristic of the Chinese famille verte porcelains. In the blue panels there are stylized chrysanthemum medallions and on the white reserves fly phoenixes or Japanese hō-ō birds and a butterfly. An elaborate floral arrangement fills the central reserve of the dish. On the underside of the flange are three floral sprigs, fish, and shrimps painted in underglaze blue.
Several Chinese dishes of the Kangxi period (1662-1722) are in the porcelain collection of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden to which this Meissen dish is clearly related. When the Chinese resumed porcelain production at Jingdezhen following civil unrest after the collapse of the Ming dynasty in 1644 they lost no time in imitating Japanese porcelain, and the Imari style had export potential for the Chinese on the European market where Japanese Imari was in great demand, and Chinese success in imitating Japanese Imari contributed largely to the collapse of the export trade in Japan by the middle of the eighteenth century. The Meissen dish represents a highly successful fusion of both Chinese and Japanese decorative elements, convincingly Far Eastern for the European market.
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 and the Chinese through the port of Imari from their trading 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 anchored by dark blue, iron-red, and gold forming densely patterned surfaces influenced by contemporary textile designs.
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.
For examples of a Chinese plate imitating Japanese Imari decoration alongside a Meissen plate very similar to the one seen here see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, p.246.
On Chinese famille verte porcelains see Valenstein, S. G., 1975 (1989), A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, pp. 227-236.
For a detailed account of the 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, and with another example of the Chinese version of this pattern on p.236. See also Rotondo-McCord, L., 1997, Imari: Japanese Porcelain for European Palaces: The Freda and Ralph Lupin Collection; Goro Shimura, 2008, The Story of Imari: the Symbols and Mysteries of antique Japanese Porcelain.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.196-197.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1725-1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamel and gold (overall color)
Imari (overall style)
overall: 13 1/2 in; 34.29 cm
overall: 2 11/16 in x 13 5/8 in; 6.7945 cm x 34.6075 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
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


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