Meissen cup and saucer: one of a pair

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TITLE: Meissen: Pair of cups and saucers
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cups: H. 2¾" 7cm; Saucers: D. 5¼" 13.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Pair of cups and saucers
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.57 Aab, Bab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “P” impressed on saucer; “63” impressed on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This pair of coffee cups and saucers comes 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.
Elaborate gold cartouches frame finely painted purple overglaze battle scenes between European and Ottoman military. On the saucers the cartouche frames the same subject. Many of the Meissen battle scenes were based on engravings after the work of battle scene painters Georg Philipp Rugendas the Elder (1666-1742)and August Querfurth (1696-1761), among many other artists who documented the cavalry battles and skirmishes fought on European soil in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. The subjects on these cups and saucers are attributed to engravings after Rugendas. In 1683 following a two month siege of the city of Vienna, Habsburg armies forced the Ottoman military into retreat, but the threat to Central and Eastern Europe from the Ottoman Empire remained vivid in the European imagination, and there were still many more conflicts ahead. There was still a strong sense of the topicality of these subjects which explains its presence on these cups and saucers. The enamel and gold painting is in good condition which suggests that these items were displayed and not put to use.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor scenes, and battle scenes were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. Gold painting was the responsibility of another painter specializing in this form of decoration.
The coffee cups and saucers are of the same pattern as the tea cup and saucer ID# 1983.0565.58ab. Although not from the same service which has a different pattern of gold decoration compare these pieces with the coffeepot (ID number 1983.0565.57 a,b).
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.
On the subject of war in printmaking see James clifton, Leslie M. Scatone, Ermine Fetvaci, 2009, The Plains of Mars: European War Prints 1500-1825.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 328-329.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
purple and black enamel and gold (overall color)
battle scenes (overall style)
cup: 2 3/4 in; 6.985 cm
saucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall cup: 2 11/16 in x 3 15/16 in x 2 13/16 in; 6.82625 cm x 10.00125 cm x 7.14375 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 5/16 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.49375 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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