Meissen chinoiserie sugar box and cover

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Description
TITLE: Meissen chinoiserie sugar box and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 3⅛" 8cm; L. 4½" 11.4cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar box
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1723-1724
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1982.0796.04a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 731a,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “K.P.M.” (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur) and crossed swords in underglaze blue; “62” in gold on base and on inside of cover (gold painter’s marks).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947. Ex. Coll. Mrs. Studd.
This sugar box 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 chinoiserie style belongs to the distinctive period in Meissen’s history that began in 1720 with the arrival from Vienna of Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775). Höroldt brought with him superior skills in enamel painting on porcelain, and his highly significant contribution to Meissen was to develop a palette of very fine bright enamel colors that had so far eluded the team of metallurgists at the manufactory, and that were new to onglaze enamel colors on faience and porcelain in general. Application of the term chinoiserie to this class of Meissen porcelains is problematic, however, because Johann Gregor Höroldt developed his ideas from a variety of sources and referred to the “chinoiseries” as “Japanese” (Japonische) figures, an early modern generic term for exotic artifacts and images imported from the East.
The octagonal sugar box with its pagoda-shaped finial on the cover has enamel painted chinoiseries of a man playing with a baby, another man blows on a fire to boil a kettle and another drinks from a bowl. The male figure on the box holding a curved wand with three objects attached (possibly bells or clappers pointing towards a dog-like animal can be seen in plate 8 of Rainer Behrend’s facsimile copy of the Schulz Codex, Das Meissener Musterbuch für Höroldt-Chinoiserien: Musterblätter aus der Malstube der Meissener Porzellanmanufaktur (Schulz Codex) Leipzig, 1978. On the cover are scenes of tea preparation, below which there are two bands of diaper and scroll patterns painted in iron-red.
Chinoiserie is from the French Chinois (Chinese) and refers to ornamentation that is Chinese-like. The style evolved in Europe as Chinese luxury products began to arrive in the West in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries through the major European trading companies. Artisans were quick to incorporate motifs from these products into their work and to imitate their material qualities, especially the Chinese lacquers, embroidered silks, and porcelains, but their imitation was not informed by first-hand knowledge of China or an understanding of Chinese conventions in two-dimensional representation, and instead a fanciful European vision emerged to become an ornamental style employed in garden and interior design, in cabinet making, faience and porcelain manufacture, and in textiles. Illustrated books began to appear in the second half of the seventeenth century that describe the topography of China, its peoples and their customs, and these sources were copied and used by designers, artists, printmakers, and artisans including Johann Gregor Höroldt at Meissen.
Meissen tea and coffee services of this early period were often sent as gifts to members of European royalty favored by the Saxon and Polish courts. They served as tokens of loyalty and affection to relatives in other royal houses with family connections to the Saxon House of Wettin.
On Johann Gregor Höroldt see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 17-25.
On chinoiserie see Impey, O., 1997, Chinoiserie: the Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and Decoration; on the porcelain trade and European exposure to the Chinese product see the exhibition catalog by Emerson, J., Chen, J., Gardner Gates, M., 2000, Porcelain Stories: from China to Europe
On gift-giving see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2008, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts 1710-1763.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 80-81.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1723-1724
1723-1724
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland
Physical Description
porcelain (overall material)
polychrome (overall color)
chinoiserie (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 3 1/8 in x 4 1/2 in; 7.9375 cm x 11.43 cm
overall: 3 1/8 in x 4 5/16 in x 3 5/16 in; 7.9375 cm x 10.9855 cm x 8.4455 cm
ID Number
1982.0796.04ab
catalog number
1982.0796.04ab
accession number
1982.0796
collector/donor number
731ab
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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