Meissen tea bowl and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: tea bowl: H. 1¾" 4.5cm; Saucer: D. 5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1735-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.11ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; five-pointed star impressed on saucer (former’s mark, possibly Gottfried Bergmann 1709-1753); eight-pointed star in a circle impressed on bowl (former’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
This tea bowl 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 tea bowl and saucer has a yellow onglaze ground with white reserves containing onglaze purple enamel paintings of Dutch riverside scenes. Scattered purple flowers are painted over the yellow ground.
Sources for enamel painted river scenes and landscapes came from the vast number of paintings and prints by Italian, Dutch, and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640) On the saucer we see a large tower windmill on the banks of a river beside a bridge over which a rider crosses on horseback, in the far background stands a post windmill, and these structures refer to the significant role they played in Dutch commercial life, principally in draining the land and sawing wood for construction and shipbuilding, but also facilitating the production of textiles, paper, gunpowder, dyes and tannin, as well as processing grain, tobacco, and spices. On the tea bowl there is a river scene with a post windmill in one reserve, and in the other a river scene with small craft moored before a dwelling nearby. Dutch local and long-distance trade supplied many of the inland states of German speaking Europe with necessary and desirable goods, not least Chinese and Japanese porcelains that first aroused the desire of princely collectors like Saxony’s Augustus II (1670-1733).
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 lightly 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.
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, and on color grounds see pp. 267-274..
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. 304-305.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1735-1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
river scenes (overall style)
bowl: 1 3/4 in; 4.445 cm
saucer: 5 1/8 in; 13.0175 cm
overall tea bowl: 1 7/8 in x 3 1/8 in; 4.7625 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 1/4 in; 2.8575 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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