Meissen cup and saucer: one of a pair

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Description
TITLE: Meissen pair of chinoiserie cups and saucers
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cups: H.3⅛" 8cm; Saucers: D.5⅜" 13.7cm
OBJECT NAME: Pair of cups and saucers
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1723-1725
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.15Aa,b;Ba,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 680Aa,b;Ba,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “13”in gold (gold painter’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947. Ex. Coll. E.L. Paget
This pair of cups and saucers 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.
The chinoiserie style belongs to the distinctive period in Meissen’s history that began in 1720 with the arrival from Vienna of Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775). Höroldt brought with him superior skills in enamel painting on porcelain, and his highly significant contribution to Meissen was to develop a palette of very fine bright enamel colors that had so far eluded the team of metallurgists at the manufactory, and that were new to onglaze enamel colors on faience and porcelain in general. Application of the term chinoiserie to this class of Meissen porcelains is problematic, however, because Johann Gregor Höroldt developed his ideas from a variety of sources and referred to the “chinoiseries” as “Japanese” (Japonische) figures, an early modern generic term for exotic artifacts and images imported from the East.
The beaker-shaped cups and saucers have enamel painted chinoiseries framed by gold, purple luster, and two shades of iron-red scrollwork. Gold scrollwork runs in a band on the interior rims of the cups and saucers. Chinoiserie figures sit, stand or kneel on a dais while birds and large insects flutter above their heads.
Chinoiserie is from the French Chinois (Chinese) and refers to ornamentation that is Chinese-like. The style evolved in Europe as Chinese luxury products began to arrive in the West in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries through the major European trading companies. Artisans were quick to incorporate motifs from these products into their work and to imitate their material qualities, especially the Chinese lacquers, embroidered silks, and porcelains, but their imitation was not informed by first-hand knowledge of China or an understanding of Chinese conventions in two-dimensional representation, and instead a fanciful European vision emerged to become an ornamental style employed in garden and interior design, in cabinet making, faience and porcelain manufacture, and in textiles. Illustrated books began to appear in the second half of the seventeenth century that describe the topography of China, its peoples and their customs, and these sources were copied and used by designers, artists, printmakers, and artisans including Johann Gregor Höroldt at Meissen.
Meissen tea and coffee services of this early period were often sent as gifts to members of European royalty favored by the Saxon and Polish courts. They served as tokens of loyalty and affection to relatives in other royal houses with family connections to the Saxon House of Wettin.
On Johann Gregor Höroldt see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 17-25.
On chinoiserie see Impey, O., 1997, Chinoiserie: the Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and Decoration; on the porcelain trade and European exposure to the Chinese product see the exhibition catalog by Emerson, J., Chen, J., Gardner Gates, M., 2000, Porcelain Stories: from China to Europe.
On gift-giving see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2008, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts 1710-1763.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 68-69.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1723-1725
1723-1725
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland
Physical Description
porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
chinoiserie (overall style)
Measurements
cup: 3 1/8 in; 7.9375 cm
saucer: 5 3/8 in; 13.6525 cm
overall cup: 3 3/16 in x 2 7/8 in; 8.0645 cm x 7.3025 cm
overall saucer: 7/8 in x 5 5/16 in; 2.2225 cm x 13.5255 cm
ID Number
1981.0702.15Bab
catalog number
1981.0702.15Bab
accession number
1981.0702
collector/donor number
680Bab
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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