Meissen cup and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3cm.
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.58 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “P” impressed on cup; “JN” or “JM”incised on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This tea 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.
Painted in overglaze purple enamel the subjects of Ottoman and European soldiers at rest while on a campaign are framed by cartouches painted in gold and black on the front of the cup and in the center of the saucer.
Many of the Meissen military subjects 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 others who documented the cavalry battles and skirmishes fought on European soil in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. The enamel paintings on the tea cup and saucer are after engravings of original works by 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 east Europe from the Ottoman Empire remained vivid in the European mind and imagination, and there were yet more conflicts like the Great Northern War against Sweden and the War of the Spanish Succession that engaged many European countries. This explains the topicality of these subjects well into the eighteenth century.
The tea cup and saucer are of the same pattern as the two coffee cups ID# 1983.0565.45Aab and 45Bab. The enamel and gold is in good condition which suggests the pieces were displayed and not put into use.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, battle scenes, and other subjects with figures 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.
Ornamental gold painting and polishing of the fired gold was the work of other specialists in the manufactory.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On the subject of war in prints see Clifton, J., Scatone, L. M., Fetvaci, E., 2009, The Plains of Mars: European War Prints, 1500-1825.
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: 1 7/8 in; 4.7625 cm
saucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall cup: 1 13/16 in x 3 7/8 in x 3 1/16 in; 4.60375 cm x 9.8425 cm x 7.77875 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 3/8 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.6525 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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