Meissen tea caddy and cover

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Description
TITLE: Meissen tea caddy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 4⅛" 10.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1725-1730
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.02ab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 692
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “28” in gold (gold painter’s number).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
This tea caddy 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 tea caddy of a hexagonal baluster shape has six panels divided by single gold-painted flutes in which harbor scenes are painted in overglaze black enamel known as Schwarzlot; a transparent enamel painted onto the surface of the glaze and then scratched through to achieve a quality not unlike an etched and engraved print from which the Meissen painters derived many of their subjects. This caddy is painted in the style of Christian Friedrich Herold. Alternating scenes of merchants striking deals and laborers preparing cargo fill the panels, while on the lid a vignette depicts a figure sitting before two barrels.
Ideas for enamel painted harbor scenes came from the large number of prints, often after paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century, that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). In these scenes Dutch merchants are seen conducting business with their foreign counterparts. These merchant subjects (Kauffahrtei) drew on the global trade in luxury goods and commodities from India, the Far and Near East, a trade that held high interest for the consumers of exotic goods fascinated by their origin in distant cultures.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers.
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. Less expensive versions for storing and preparing these products were made from various kinds of wood, from tin, from japanned materials, and in earthenware pottery. This tea caddy shape was modeled from a silver prototype in 1715 by the court goldsmith Johann Jacob Irminger (1635-1724) and remained in production until the early 1730s.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On tea, coffee, and chocolate equipage see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 110-111.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1725-1730
ca 1725-1730
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
black enamel (Schwarzlot) and gold (overall color)
harbor scenes (Kauffahrtei) (overall style)
Measurements
overall: 4 1/8 in; 10.4775 cm
overall: 4 1/8 in x 3 in x 3 in; 10.4775 cm x 7.62 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
1983.0565.02ab
accession number
1983.0565
catalog number
1983.0565.02ab
collector/donor number
692ab
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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