Meissen tea caddy

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Description
TITLE: Meissen tea caddy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 3⅞" 9.9cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1725-1730
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.19ab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 783
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “95” in gold on inside of cover (gold painter’s number).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1948.
This tea caddy 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 caddy of a hexagonal baluster shape has six panels divided by single gold-painted flutes in which river scenes are painted in overglaze polychrome enamels. The subjects are characterized by the presence of cloudy skies animated by flocks of birds below which tiny figures move through rural landscapes and waterside scenes. One panel with a bare windblown tree before a large country house is characteristic of the work of Dutch artist Jan van de Velde II (1593-1641). Waterside scenes and landscapes with accessory (staffage) figures by Dutch artists were very popular through the eighteenth century, even though many of the original paintings and prints belong to the seventeenth century. Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns applied in many branches of the applied arts.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage 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. On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers, and the equipage for these hot beverages, made in silver and new ceramic materials like Meissen’s red stoneware and porcelain, was affordable only to the elite of European society. Less expensive versions for storing and preparing these products were made from various kinds of wood, from tin, from japanned materials, and in earthenware pottery. This tea caddy shape was modeled originally from a prototype in 1715 by the court goldsmith Johann Jacob Irminger (1635-1724) and remained in production until the early 1730s.
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.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On tea, coffee, and chocolate equipage see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 102-103.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1725-1730
1725-1730
maker
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome and gold (overall color)
harbor scenes (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 3 7/8 in; 9.8425 cm
overall: 3 7/8 in x 3 in x 3 in; 9.8425 cm x 7.62 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
1981.0702.19ab
catalog number
1981.0702.19ab
accession number
1981.0702
collector/donor number
783ab
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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