Meissen cup and saucer

<< >>
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H.1½" 3.8cm; Saucer: D. 4¾" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.13ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; two dots overglaze in iron-red; “10” impressed on cup (former’s number).
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.
Painted in onglaze purple enamel are waterside scenes in white reserves within a yellow onglaze ground. On the saucer a group of fine buildings surrounded by a high wall stand by a river; the interior and exterior of the cup feature rocky riverside landscapes.
The enduring popularity of waterside and landscape subjects, especially the tranquil rural scenes depicted in prints by artists like Jan van de Velde II, held particular appeal for people who felt themselves confined by city and court. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure. Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns applied in many branches of the applied arts.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) 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. Onglaze colored grounds, like the yellow ground seen here were applied onto the surface of the glaze either with a stippling brush in which the pigment was flicked onto the surface of the glaze from the loaded brush, or applied in powder form from a pad, a difficult technique that required skill in order to achieve an even coat with good depth of color. Gold rim lines were applied by another worker in the painting division.
On seventeenth-century Dutch art see Gibson, W.S., (2000) Pleasant Places: the rustic landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael; Goddard, S.H., (1984) Sets and Series: prints from the Low Countries, exhibition catalog, Yale University Art Gallery.
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. 306-307.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
purple enamel, yellow ground, gold rim lines (overall color)
river scenes (overall style)
cup: 1 1/2 in; 3.81 cm
saucer: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall cup: 1 5/8 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 7/8 in; 4.1275 cm x 8.89 cm x 7.3025 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.54 cm x 12.065 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


Add a comment about this object