Meissen plate

Description
TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9½" 24.2cm
OBJECT NAME: Plate
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.21
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 971
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “16” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1956.
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.
The plate has a petal-shaped edge with evenly dispersed sprays and scattered flowers on the rim. On the left of the plate a bird flies toward another perched on a branch of bamboo under a pine tree above a flowering prunus that grows beside a rock with a hole in it. The Meissen painting division adapted the pattern from a prototype in the Dresden collections, and there are variations in the design when applied to other Meissen products; see for example the tobacco jar ID# 1981.0702.23.
In Chinese art the plum, pine, and bamboo trees represent the Three Friends of Winter for their simultaneous display of blossom and green foliage in late season snow. Japanese enamel painters on porcelain imitated motifs in Chinese landscape painting, but more broadly Japan also absorbed Chinese traditions in the design of their gardens that incorporated rocks as aesthetic and symbolic features. Mountains, revered by the Chinese since antiquity, were sites of supernatural powers associated with the Immortals of mythology, and by the Tang (A.D. 618-907) and Song (907-1279) dynasties rocks found appreciation in garden settings for aesthetic as well as spiritual reasons. When the Mongol invasion brought an end to the Song dynasty Chinese immigrants to Japan brought with them ideas that took shape in the Japanese gardens of the monasteries and the cultured elite. Japan’s urban society of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries developed a romantic sensibility towards nature that was formalized in their garden design.
Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
On the Japanese Kakiemon 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. See also Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.
For more examples and details about this pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 237-245
For a similar plate with the Three Friends of Winter see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p. 277.
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. 148-149.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
1740
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 9 1/2 in; 24.13 cm
overall: 1 5/16 in x 9 5/8 in; 3.3655 cm x 24.4475 cm
ID Number
1981.0702.21
accession number
1981.0702
catalog number
1981.0702.21
collector/donor number
971
subject
Manufacturing
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
Art
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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