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. 2⅝" 6.7cm; Saucers: D. 5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Pair of cups and saucers
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1982.0796.03 Aa,b Ba,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 662 Aa,b Ba,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “55” in gold (gold painter’s marks); “3” impressed on both cups; “2” impressed on one saucer (former’s marks).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947. Ex. Coll. W.M. Mosely
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.
Meissen’s chinoiserie period began in the 1720s following the arrival from Vienna of Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775) who brought with him superior skills in enamel painting on porcelain. 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. Höroldt and his team of painters used these colors to great effect in his singular vision of chinoiserie subjects, many of them based on drawings from what later became known as the Schulz Codex; a facsimile copy of the Schulz Codex can be seen in Rainer Behrend’s Das Meissener Musterbuch für Höroldt-Chinoiserien: Musterblätter aus der Malstube der Meissener Porzellanmanufaktur (Schulz Codex) Leipzig, 1978. 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.
These cups and saucers represent late Meissen chinoiseries at about the time when European subject matter began to dominate the painters’ repertoire. On one of the cups we see a man painting as a companion and a child look on. On the other cup two men blow and fan the flames to boil a kettle while a man and child confront a bird with its wings outstretched. In another scene a pedlar shows three fish and a tame bird to a woman and child. On the interior of one of the saucers a figure sits under a palm tree as a man hastens away with a lantern in his hands, and on the other saucer a man holds a pennant aloft while another man sits at a low table smoking a long pipe. Items like these passed through many hands in Meissen’s painting division where artisans applied specialist skills in the enamel painting of figures, flowers and foliage, gold scrollwork, and the polishing of the gold after firing.
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.
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
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 78-79.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
1740
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland
Physical Description
porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
chinoiserie (overall style)
Measurements
cup: 2 5/8 in; 6.6675 cm
saucer: 5 1/8 in; 13.0175 cm
overall cup: 2 3/4 in x 3 3/4 in x 2 7/8 in; 6.985 cm x 9.525 cm x 7.3025 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 5 1/8 in; 2.54 cm x 13.0175 cm
ID Number
1982.0796.03Bab
catalog number
1982.0796.03Bab
accession number
1982.0796
collector/donor number
662Bab
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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