Meissen cup and saucer

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Description
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H.1⅝" 4.2cm; Saucer: D. 4⅝" 11.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.05 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 39 a,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “52” impressed on cup; “66” or “99” impressed on saucer.
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 blue scale pattern on the rim of the saucer and top exterior of the cup frames overglaze enamel paintings of songbirds perched on foliage. Although not as common as flower patterns Meissen produced several of these tea and coffee services with bird subjects framed by the scale pattern in blue or purple (see the chocolate pot, ID number 64.441). The birds seen here were possibly based on Eleazar Albin’s A Natural History of Birds (London 1738) or the German publication Sammlung Verschiedener Auslandischer und Seltener Vogel (‘Collection of various foreign and uncommon birds’ Nuremberg 1749-1776) in which the engraver Johann Michael Seligmann based his hand-colored plates on two other works, the Natural History of Uncommon Birds (London 1743-1751) by George Edwards, and Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (London 1731-1743).
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower 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. The blue scale design and the gold rim lines on this cup and saucer were applied by Meissen workers specializing in these decorative embellishments.
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.
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 tea and coffee drinking see Weinberg, B.A., Bealer, B.K., 2002, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug; On coffee see Ukers, W. H., 1922, All About Coffee and 1935, 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, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, 1979, pp. 414-415.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
mid 18th century
mid-18th century
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
ornithological subjects (overall style)
Measurements
cup: 1 5/8 in; 4.1275 cm
saucer: 4 5/8 in; 11.7475 cm
overall cup: 1 11/16 in x 3 9/16 in x 2 13/16 in; 4.28625 cm x 9.04875 cm x 7.14375 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.54 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
1992.0427.05ab
catalog number
1992.0427.05ab
accession number
1992.0427
collector/donor number
39
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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