Meissen tankard (Hausmaler)

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TITLE: Meissen tankard (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 5¾" 14.6 cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730, Meissen
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.40
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in blue on unglazed base.
PURCHASED FROM: Blumka Gallery, New York, 1957. Ex. Coll. Dr. Hermann Freund.
This tankard 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.
The tankard was made in the Meissen manufactory but painted outside by an independent artist. There is no cover on this piece. Hausmalerei is a German word that means in literal translation ‘home painting’, and it refers to the practice of painting enamels and gold onto the surface of blank ceramics and glass in workshops outside the manufactory of origin. Beginning in the seventeenth century the work of the Hausmaler varied in quality from the outstanding workshops of Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland), to the less skilled efforts of amateur artists. Early Meissen porcelain was sought after for this purpose, and wealthy patrons of local enameling and gilding workshops purchased undecorated porcelain, often of out-moded or inferior quality, which was then enameled with subjects of their choice. Hausmalerei was at first acceptable to the early porcelain manufactories like Meissen and Vienna, and Meissen sent blank porcelain to Augsburg workshops for decoration, but as the market became more competitive they tried to eradicate the practice. It was a temptation for Meissen porcelain painters to take on extra work as Hausmaler to augment their low pay, and the manufactory cautioned or imprisoned them if Hausmalerei activity was suspected or discovered.
The tankard has an allegorical subject painted in the style of Hausmaler Hans Gottlieb von Bressler of Breslau who painted on porcelain for his own pleasure in the style of his teacher, the well-known Hausmaler Ignaz Bottengruber, also of Breslau. Count von Bressler became mayor of Breslau in 1766.
It is not clear what the allegory on this tankard depicts. The authors of the Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection suggest that the map represents the partition of Poland-Lithuania, but that process did not begin until 1772, well after Bressler was active as a Hausmaler.The subject may refer to the events of the Northern Wars with Sweden. Poland-Lithuania had already surrendered Kiev and land east of the river Dnieper to Russia in 1686, and in 1709 the Battle of Poltava was the point at which Swedish power in Northern Europe declined and Peter the Great began to establish Russian dominance in the Baltic region; a move that had serious consequences for Poland-Lithuania leading to the late eighteenth-century partitions that brought the commonwealth to an end. As King of Poland the Saxon Elector Augustus II was drawn into the Northern Wars against Sweden that finally ended in 1721, followed by the War of Polish Succession that broke out after his death in 1733. The allegory could also refer to the later Silesian wars of the early 1740s in which Poland lost territory to Prussia, and therefore painted by a Hausmaler at a later date.
For comparison see a tankard in the Victoria and Albert Museum:
On Hausmaler see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 43-46; Pazaurek, G. E., 1925, Deutsche Fayence und Porzellan Hausmaler.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 516-517.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
Hausmaler (overall style)
overall: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
overall: 5 3/4 in x 6 in x 4 1/16 in; 14.605 cm x 15.24 cm x 10.31875 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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