Meissen plate

TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 8¾" 22.3cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.33
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords and “K” in underglaze blue (painter’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1962.
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 plate, decorated in the Chinese Imari style after a Chinese prototype, is painted in underglaze blue and onglaze enamels with the “bough” or “branch” pattern (Astmuster). The twisted branches carry stylized peony and chrysanthemum blossoms with a butterfly hovering above the branches. The foliate border on the edge of the plate, painted in iron-red, is interrupted with four flowers painted in pale green.
Chinese porcelain production in the manufacturing center of Jingdezhen was thrown into disarray when civil unrest followed the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Qing in 1644. The Dutch East India Company turned to Japan where the production of exceptionally fine porcelain was well received in Europe. The Chinese re-entered the export market in the late seventeenth century and by the early 1700s Chinese porcelain painters were imitating Japanese Imari wares for the European and Asiatic trade. With a much smaller manufacturing base Japan could not compete when China began to produce imitations of Japanese Imari wares for which there was a high demand in Europe. By the middle of the eighteenth century Japanese porcelains were not equally competitive in quantity or price.
Examples of the Chinese Imari patterns entered the collection of the Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus II, and were made available to the Meissen Manufactory as models for production.
Original Japanese Imari collected by the European aristocracy was much admired for its opulent decorative style. Further competition to Japanese Imari production emerged later in the eighteenth century as the style gained in popularity in Europe. Today, the manufactories of English Worcester, Royal Crown Derby, and Derby porcelain continue to produce a derivative pattern called Traditional Imari.
For a similar plate alongside the Chinese prototype in the Dresden collection see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, p. 248. See also Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p. 258; Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 60-64.
On 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. 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.
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. 210-211.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1725-1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Imari (Chinese) (overall style)
overall: 8 3/4 in; 22.225 cm
overall: 1 in x 8 25/32 in; 2.54 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


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