Meissen figure of a girl dressed as a Harlequin

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure of a girl cupid dressed as a harlequin.
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 3¼" 8.3 cm
OBJECT NAME: Figure
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.32
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 65
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: None
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This figure 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 Germany, 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 figure, modeled by Kaendler, represents a female harlequin from the ‘putti in disguise’ series. Her wings have broken off. The Meissen cupids, the ‘costumed cupids’ or putti in disguise, represent a large group of about eighty figures modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) in the 1750s and remodeled by Michel Victor Acier (1736-1799) after the Seven Years War in 1764. Usually, but not always, identified by the presence of wings on their backs, cupids represent many of the trades and artisanal activities, the Italian Comedy characters, allegorical and emblematic themes.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
On Cupid see Grafton, A., Most, G.W., Settis, S., eds. 2010, The Classical Tradition, pp. 244-246.
On the Italian Comedy figures see Chilton, M., 2001, Harlequin Unmasked” the Commedia dell’ arte and porcelain sculpture
On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.61-67.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, p.472-473.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1760
1760
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
cupid figure (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 3 1/4 in; 8.255 cm
overall: 3 3/8 in x 1 3/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 8.5725 cm x 4.445 cm x 3.81 cm
ID Number
1987.0896.32
catalog number
1987.0896.32
accession number
1987.0896
collector/donor number
65b
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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