Meissen oil pot and cover

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TITLE: Meissen oil pot for a Plat de Ménage
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 6¾" 17.2cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 71.202 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1947.
This oil pot 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 oil pot was part of a plat de ménage that served as a centerpiece on the dining or banqueting table, also known as an ‘Epargne’ from the French épargner’ meaning to serve and often made in silver or silver gilt. The plat de ménage held cruet sets containing various condiments like olive oil and vinegar, mustard, salt, spices, and sugar for guests to season their food during service in the French style of three main savory courses before the often spectacular dessert. In some services the Meissen modelers designed the vinegar pot with a grimacing mask at the base of the spout whereas the oil pot has a mask that smiles affably (not seen here). The two containers were used for dressing salads and vegetables much as they sometimes do today. The largest vessel on a plat de ménage was the lemon basket and centerpieces were exploited by the Meissen modelers for their sculptural potential by introducing figures and elaborate ornamentation.
The pot has a double scroll handle and the long thin spout allows for better control in pouring the liquid onto the food. The cover has a finial in the shape of an artichoke. Separated by bands of raised egg and dart molding are sprays of oriental or “Indian flowers” (indianische Blumen) and they represent the only stylistic influence from the Far East. This pot and the model identical to it except for the painted subjects (ID#71.201 a,b) derive their shape and ornament from contemporary silver vessels for a plat de ménage. Meissen developed the Indian flowers from Chinese and Japanese motifs with chrysanthemums and peonies featured most frequently on the manufactory’s porcelain.
On the ‘plat de ménage’ see Hantschmann, K., “The ‘plat de ménage’: The Centrepiece on the Banqueting Table”, in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 106-119.
For a similar model see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lusthei, S. 171-173. Johann Joachim Kaendler’s work book records two occasions when he modeled oil and vinegar pots, in June 1733 and January 1734, but it is not clear to which version this pot belongs, see Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Johann Joachim Kaendler 1706-1775, 2002 , pp.19-20, p. 22.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 182-183.
Currently not on view
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
European form / Kakiemon decoration (overall style)
overall: 634 in; 1610.36 cm
overall: 6 11/16 in x 5 1/8 in x 3 1/2 in; 16.9545 cm x 13.0175 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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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