Meissen coffee pot and cover

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TITLE: Meissen coffeepot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 7⅜" 18.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1735-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.55ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “B” in gold (also on inside of cover); (cross with four dots) impressed (former’s mark)
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1952. Ex Coll. Eichinger
This coffeepot 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 psychoanalysis 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 coffeepot has a sea-green ground with two quatrefoil reserves on both the cover and the pot framed with a gold line. In one reserve there is a painting of an elegant couple sitting before a rural dwelling that is in disrepair; the woman talks with an elderly peasant while a younger man approaches with a basket full of fruit; the gentleman picks fruit from a tree. In the other reserve handsomely dressed figures are seen in a park before an imposing building. Two extremes of wealth and poverty are depicted here, and for eighteenth-century nobility social rank was an important matter. The nobility were in the minority, greatly outnumbered by the rural poor, the urban laborer, merchant, and professional classes. The subjects on this coffeepot make no comment on the vast social and economic gulf between the nobility and the poor, instead they affirm the old social hierarchy that would not face serious challenges until the nineteenth century in the German territories.
Sources for enamel painted subjects of rural scenes came from numerous prints after paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Jan van de Velde (1593-1641).
Many European artists north of the Alps travelled to Italy and painted subjects featuring the architecture and landscapes they saw there in both urban and rural contexts. Architects and designers of parklands were also strongly influenced by the French style epitomized at Versailles, and hybrid French and Italian styles were imitated across Europe in the early eighteenth century.
Tea, coffee, and chocolate were served in the private apartments of eighteenth-century aristocratic women, usually in the company of other women, but also with male admirers and intimates present. In affluent middle-class households tea and coffee drinking was often the occasion for an informal family gathering. Coffee houses were exclusively male establishments and operated as gathering places for a variety of purposes in the interests of commerce, politics, culture, and social pleasure that could reach a less polite form as depicted on the punch bowl after William Hogarth’s A Midnight Modern Conversation (ID number 1983.0565.40).
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93, and on colored grounds see pp. 267-274.
On the introduction of caffeine drinks see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850; Weinberg, B.A., Bealer, B.K., 2002, The World of Caffeine:The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug. On the coffee house see Ellis, M. 2011, The Coffee House: A Cultural History.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 296-297.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1735-1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamel and gold (overall color)
landscapes with figures (overall style)
overall: 7 3/8 in; 18.7325 cm
overall: 7 5/16 in x 5 1/8 in x 3 3/4 in; 18.6055 cm x 13.0175 cm x 9.525 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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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