Meissen tea bowl and saucer

<< >>
TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 2" 5.1cm; Saucer: D. 5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1989.0715.07a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “↗↗” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1962.
This tea bowl and saucer 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 butterflies and insects painted in onglaze enamels on this tea bowl and saucer were based on late sixteenth and seventeenth-century books made available to the Meissen manufactory, for example: Joris and Jacob Höfnagel’s Archetypa Studiaque Patris Georgii Hoefnagelii (1592), Maria Sybilla Merian’s Neues Blumenbuch (1675-1683) and Wenzel Hollar’s (1607-1677) illustrations of flora and fauna. These virtuoso works depicting plants and insects were used as pattern books by artists and artisans in the making of luxury artifacts well into the eighteenth century. Imagery of this kind appealed to the educated elite who developed an intense interest in nature in the search to understand flora and fauna according to the early modern concept of a planned creation of the world. Insects were appreciated for their uncommon beauty and mysterious life cycles.
The Meissen painter has copied the convention of depicting these insects with faint shadows, a conceit used by Joris Hoefnagel to trick the eye into seeing the creature as though it had just alighted on the surface of a page.
On the early sources for Meissen flower painting see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1996, ‘Graphic Sources for Meissen Porcelain’ in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31, pp.99-126
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.360-361.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
insects in the style of Hoefnagel (overall style)
cup: 2 in; 5.08 cm
saucer: 5 1/8 in; 13.0175 cm
overall tea bowl: 1 7/8 in x 3 1/4 in; 4.7625 cm x 8.255 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 5 3/16 in; 2.54 cm x 13.17625 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object