Meissen cup and saucer

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Description
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H.2¾" 7cm; Saucer: L. 5½" 14cm, W. 4¾" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE:
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.47a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 40 a,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “3” impressed on saucer; “44” in purple on cup.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This cup and saucer 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 cup and saucer of quatrefoil shape have Watteau scenes painted in overglaze enamels on white panels alternating with German flowers (deutsche Blumen) painted on panels with a sea-green ground. Figures of couples in landscapes decorate the saucer, and on the cup they represent characters from the French adaptation of the Italian Comedy that was highly popular at the Paris city fairs.
In the work of French artist Jean Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) we see the development of the fêtes galantes based on the outdoor entertainments in private and public pleasure parks that represent youthful elite society removed from the conventions of court protocol. Watteau’s works depicted conversational, theatrical, and amorous encounters set in idealized pastoral surroundings where the fleeting nature of temporal pleasures hangs over the delicately poised gatherings, and they struck a chord with living protagonists.
In the early 1740s the manufactory began to acquire a collection of copperplate engravings on which the Meissen painters based their “Watteauszenen” (Watteau scenes), and they became so much in demand that eleven painters were appointed to specialize in work based on these sources.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, with staffage (figures and animals) and Watteau 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.
The gold ornament on the cup and saucer was the work of another specialist in the manufactory’s painting division.
This type of cup and saucer with similar decorative motifs is associated with the porcelain painter Helena Wolfsohn, who had a studio in Dresden from 1843-1878 next to her store where she sold porcelain, glass, ivories, and fans, among other small luxury articles. The studio took in blanks or seconds (imperfect wares rejected by porcelain manufactories) and decorated them in the style of eighteenth-century products using the mark D under a crown to identify the work with the city of Dresden – there were many other porcelain painters operating in Dresden at the time and marks can be confusing. It is not difficult, however, to distinguish Wolfsohn’s enamel painting from the eighteenth-century originals.
On Antoine Watteau see Thomas Crow, 1985, Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris, chapter II, ‘Fêtes Galantes and Fêtes Publiques’, pp. 55-75. See also Sheriff, M. D., (ed.) 2006, Antoine Watteau: Perspectives on the Artist and the Culture of His Time.
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. 342-343.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1745
1745
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Watteau scenes and German flowers (overall style)
Measurements
cup: 2 3/4 in; 6.985 cm
saucer: 4 3/4 in x 5 1/2 in; 12.065 cm x 13.97 cm
overall cup: 2 3/4 in x 3 13/16 in x 2 9/16 in; 6.985 cm x 9.68375 cm x 6.50875 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/4 in x 5 7/16 in x 4 3/4 in; 3.175 cm x 13.81125 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
1983.0565.47ab
catalog number
1983.0565.47ab
accession number
1983.0565
collector/donor number
40
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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