Meissen Böttger porcelain sugar box (Hausmaler)

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Description
TITLE: Meissen sugar box and cover (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: L. 4⅜" 4.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar box
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1713-1720 (Meissen)
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.65 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 725
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: None
PURCHASED FROM: Leopold Blumka, New York, 1947.
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 psychoanalysis 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.
This sugar box was 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 imprisoned them if Hausmalerei activity was suspected or discovered.
The sugar box, with stippled gold decoration outside cartouches that contain chinoiseries in gold, has additional decorative motifs of birds perched on twigs on the inside of the cover and on the interior base of the box. The chinoiseries are framed by painting in gold and iron-red. The painting is the work of Hausmaler Barthlomäus Seuter (1678-1754) of Augsburg, about 1730-1740. The shape of the box is based on contemporary silver models.
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. For the growing numbers of people who could afford to purchase tea and coffee, but not the costly vessels for storage, preparation and the drinking of these beverages, less expensive versions of equipage became available made in earthenware pottery in imitation of Chinese blue and white porcelain, the so-called Delftwares or tin-glaze pottery, and also the tea bowls and saucers imported from China through the European East India Companies. By the middle of the eighteenth century European pottery and porcelain manufacturers provided consumers with less costly choices for the polite social practice of drinking tea and coffee.
Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850;
On the Augsburg Seuter family of Hausmaler see Ducret, S., 1971, Meissner Porzellan bemalt in Augsburg, 1718 bis um 1750, Band 1 Goldmalereien und bunte Chinoiserien.
On Hausmaler see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 43-46.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 494-495.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1713-1720
ca 1713-1720
maker
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
hard-paste Boettger porcelain (overall material)
painted in onglaze gold and iron-red (overall color)
Measurements
overall: 4 5/8 in; 11.7475 cm
overall: 3 in x 4 3/8 in x 3 5/16 in; 7.62 cm x 11.1125 cm x 8.41375 cm
ID Number
1983.0565.65ab
catalog number
1983.0565.65ab
accession number
1983.0565
collector/donor number
725
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection
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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