Meissen cup and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer: D. 5½" 14cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.20 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “13” in gold; “52” impressed on saucer; “2” impressed on cup.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
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 heavily scrolled cartouches in gold and black frame a landscape with two men on horseback on the saucer and figures in a river scene on the cup. The subjects were drawn from Meissen’s print collection rich in works after the paintings of seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish artists who specialized in Italianate and native low country landscapes that often included a building and human activity. Although it is sometimes possible to identify the printed source of a Meissen enamel painter’s subject, it was often the case that painters adapted a composition freely rather than copy directly, and they were encouraged to do so in order to avoid lifeless repetition and impart a unique quality to each dinner, tea and coffee service.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and 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 was the work of other specialists in the painting division.
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 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. 320-321.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
genre scenes and German flowers (overall style)
cup: 1 7/8 in; 4.7625 cm
saucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall cup: 1 7/8 in x 3 7/8 in x 3 1/8 in; 4.7625 cm x 9.8425 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/16 in x 5 1/4 in; 2.69875 cm x 13.335 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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