Meissen figure of a gardener

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure of a gardener
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4⅛" 10.5 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Figure
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1750-1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.08
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 71
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARK: Crossed swords in blue on unglazed base.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This figure 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 first 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.
Meissen’s figures of gardeners appeared more commonly in the 1750s. Some of the figures are far too finely dressed to be serious gardeners, and the models were often based on the prints and drawings after works by artists like Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, with more refined modeling in response to the rococo style. Peter Reinicke (1715-1768) modeled several gardening subjects and these figures possibly formed part of the decorated dessert table at court banquets. Designed by the court confectioners the figures stood in elaborate gardens constructed out of a variety of materials, but the artificial did not displace natural flowers, both cut and potted they were in constant demand at court for table and interior decoration.
Gardeners were stock characters in many eighteenth-century plays and operas; like house servants they observed the lives of their masters and mistresses, sometimes becoming entangled in the plot as in Pierre-August Caron de Beaumarchais’s (1732-1799) controversial Marriage of Figaro of 1784. Gardening in eighteenth-century Europe was a lucrative commercial business for those engaged in the supply of seeds and plants to satisfy the increasing demand for stock to fill a country estate, a modest town or country garden, and even a window box in a city center. Global trade and exploration brought new and exotic plants to Europe that generated enthusiasm for gardening and hothouse cultivation.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.
On the global collectors who brought non-native plants to European and American gardens see Stuart, D.C., 2002, The Plants that Shaped Our Gardens.
On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.61-67.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 460-461.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750-1760
1750-1760
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
figure (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 4 1/8 in; 10.4775 cm
overall: 4 1/8 in x 2 1/8 in x 2 1/2 in; 10.4775 cm x 5.3975 cm x 6.35 cm
ID Number
1992.0427.08
accession number
1992.0427
catalog number
1992.0427.08
collector/donor number
71
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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