Meissen cup and saucer

<< >>
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer: D. 5⅜" 13.7cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1760-1770
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1989.0715.01 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “56” impressed on saucer; “52” impressed 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 have rococo cartouches framed in gold that contain overglaze enamel painted subjects of children in pastoral settings; on the cup two boys and a girl mimic adult behavior and on the saucer a boy pretends to be a soldier as he passes a boy wooing a young girl who sits beside him. The exterior of the cup and interior of the saucer have a purple scale pattern with gold crosses painted inside each scale in imitation of a decorative style developed at the Sèvres manufactory outside Paris, and known at Meissen as the Mosaique pattern.
The children mimic the adult behaviour seen in the paintings of Jean Antoine Watteau (1684-1721), Jean Baptiste Pater (1695-1736), and Nicholas Lancret (1690-1743). Watteau developed the subject of the fêtes galantes from the outdoor entertainments in private pleasure parks that represent youthful elite society in retreat from the conventions of court protocol. His works depicting conversational and amorous encounters set in idealized pastoral surroundings, where the fleeting nature of temporal pleasures hangs over the delicately poised gatherings, struck a chord with the 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 on this theme.
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 or salary. The Mosaique pattern was painted by a worker who specialized in this type of decoration, and young women who were employed at the manufactory following the Seven Years War (1756-1763) were often assigned to this work – the Mosaikmalerinnen. Ornamental gold painting and polishing on this cup and saucer was the work of another specialist in the painting division.
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. 344-345.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750-1760
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
children in pastoral setting (overall style)
cup: 1 7/8 in; 4.7625 cm
saucer: 5 3/8 in; 13.6525 cm
overall cup: 1 13/16 in x 3 13/16 in x 3 1/8 in; 4.60375 cm x 9.68375 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 3/16 in x 5 3/8 in; 3.01625 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


Add a comment about this object