Meissen tea bowl and saucer: one of a pair

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Description
TITLE: Meissen: Pair of tea bowls and saucers
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Bowls: H. 2" 5.1cm; Saucers: D. 5⅜" 13.7cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowls and saucers
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1750
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1989.0715.23 Aab; Bab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 89 Aab;Bab
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “52” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This tea bowl and saucer is one of a pair 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 tea bowls, with rims molded in the shape of petals, are painted in overglaze enamel with naturalistic flowers. European flowers began to appear on Meissen porcelain in about 1740 as the demand for Far Eastern patterns became less dominant and more high quality printed sources became available in conjunction with growing interest in the scientific study of flora and fauna. For the earlier style of German flowers (deutsche Blumen) Meissen painters referred to Johann Wilhelm Weinmann’s publication, the Phytantoza Iconographia (Nuremberg 1737-1745), in which many of the plates were engraved after drawings by the outstanding botanical illustrator Georg Dionys Ehret (1708-1770). The more formally correct German flowers were superseded by mannered flowers (manier Blumen), depicted in a looser and somewhat overblown style based on the work of still-life flower painters and interior designers like Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699) and Louis Tessier (1719?-1781), later referred to as “naturalistic” flowers.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. In the late eighteenth century flower painters were even busier and consumer taste for floral decoration on domestic “china” has endured into our own time, but with the exception of a manufactory like Meissen most floral patterns are now applied by transfers and are not hand-painted directly onto the porcelain. Specialist gold painters applied ornament on the rims.
In the eighteenth century tea, coffee, and chocolate was served in the private apartments of aristocratic women, usually in the company of other women, but also with male admirers and intimates present. In affluent middle-class households tea and coffee drinking was often the occasion for an informal family gathering. Coffee houses were exclusively male establishments and operated as gathering places for a variety of purposes in the interests of commerce, politics, culture, and social pleasure.
On graphic sources for Meissen porcelain see Möller, K. A., “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.85-93; Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1996, ‘Graphic Sources for Meissen Porcelain’ in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31, pp.99-126.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On the history of the consumption of coffee and tea see Weinberg, B.A., Bealer, B.K., 2002, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug. See also Ukers, W. H., 1922, All About Coffee and 1922 All About Tea; on the practice of drinking tea, coffee, and chocolate see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850; On the coffee house see Ellis, M. 2011, The Coffee House: A Cultural History.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 380-381.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750
1750
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
European flowers (overall style)
Measurements
bowl: 2 in; 5.08 cm
saucer: 5 3/8 in; 13.6525 cm
overall tea bowl: 1 15/16 in x 3 3/8 in; 4.92125 cm x 8.5725 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/4 in x 5 1/2 in; 3.175 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
1989.0715.23Bab
catalog number
1989.0715.23Bab
accession number
1989.0715
collector/donor number
89B
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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