Meissen red stoneware tankard and cover

PURCHASED FROM: Leopold Blumka, New York, 1947.
This tankard is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of European 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 collector and 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 tankard was made in red stoneware, a very hard and dense type of ceramic similar in appearance to the Chinese Yixing ceramics which inspired their imitation at Meissen. Red stoneware, enriched with iron oxides, preceded porcelain in the Dresden laboratory where physicist, mathematician, and philosopher, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651-1708) and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) experimented with raw materials fused by solar energy amplified through a burning glass. Success in red stoneware was an important step towards development of white porcelain.
The tankard has a silver mounting on both the rim of the vessel and the cover with the hinge attached to the strap handle. Its simple form is enhanced by turned molding on the cover, the top, and base of the vessel. The red-brown stoneware is finished by polishing, a technique Böttger borrowed from glass making and lapidary work.
Tankards originated in beer-drinking countries, and in early modern Europe the middle-class beer drinker had stoneware and tin-glazed tankards with tin or pewter mountings that were rich in various regional styles. Pewter and glass tankards were also common. Goldsmiths produced luxury vessels for the merchant and ruling class, and the Meissen red stoneware tankards were transitional objects emulating vessels made from silver and from cut and polished semi-precious stones mounted with gold and silver gilt.
On Yixing stonewares see Lo, K.S., 1986, The Stoneware of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp.24-25.
Currently not on view
Object Name
tankard and cover
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
red stoneware (overall material)
polished red stoneware (overall color)
overall: 7 1/2 in; 19.05 cm
Place Made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection

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