Meissen tea bowl and saucer (Hausmaler)

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TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Bowl: 115/16" 4.9 cm
Saucer: 5" 12.8 cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1715-1720 Meissen
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992. 0427. 22 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
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 Germany, 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 were made in the Meissen Manufactory but painted outside by an independent artist. Hausmalerei is a German word that means in literal translation ‘home painting’, and it refers to the practice of painting enamels and gold onto the surface of blank ceramics and glass in workshops outside the manufactory of origin. Beginning in the seventeenth century the work of the Hausmaler varied in quality from the outstanding workshops of Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland), to the less skilled efforts of amateur artists. Early Meissen porcelain was sought after for this purpose, and wealthy patrons of local enameling and gilding workshops purchased undecorated porcelain, often of out-moded or inferior quality, which was then enameled with subjects of their choice. Hausmalerei was at first acceptable to the early porcelain manufactories like Meissen and Vienna, and Meissen sent blank porcelain to Augsburg workshops for decoration, but as the market became more competitive they tried to eradicate the practice. It was a temptation for Meissen porcelain painters to take on extra work as Hausmaler to augment their low pay, and the manufactory cautioned or even imprisoned them if Hausmalerei activity was suspected or discovered.
The fierce fighting depicted on the exterior of the tea bowl and the interior of the saucer is based on prints that represent Europeans in one of many battles against Ottoman forces, a conflict that culminated in the Battle of Vienna fought on 12 September 1683 following a two month siege of the city. Publishers produced fine print collections to commemorate events of military and political importance, and collectors bought editions for their libraries. Wealthy patrons commissioned independent local enamellers to decorate a blank set of porcelain or glass bought from a manufacturer, but based on sources held in their own print collections.
The Hausmaler decoration may have been executed in Vienna. The scene on the saucer is after a print by G.C. Bodenehr after a work by Georg Philip Rugendas, published by Jeremiah Wolff of Augsburg. The interior of the bowl is painted with emblems of war. The enamel painted scenes show no sign of use, indicating that the cup and saucer were placed on display in a cabinet.
On Hausmaler see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 43-46.
For the print source for the painting on the saucer see de Blaauwen A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, pp.184-186.
See also Clifton, J., Scarone, L. M., Fetraci, E., 2009, The Plains of Mars: European War Prints, 1500-1825.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 562-563.
Currently not on view
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
battle scene (overall style)
overall tea bowl: 1 7/8 in x 3 in; 4.7625 cm x 7.62 cm
overall saucer: 15/16 in x 4 15/16 in; 2.38125 cm x 12.54125 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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