Meissen figure of a grape seller

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure of a grape seller
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 5¼" 14.6 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Figure
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1753-1754
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.371
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 243
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARK: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: E. Pinkus, New York, 1943.
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 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.
Paris and London, two bustling commercial cities, generated a large population of street vendors providing hot beverages like coffee and chocolate, bread rolls, pies, and buns. Fruits and vegetables from nearby farms were sold when in season, as well as luxury fruits like oranges and lemons imported from Spain. Grapes, which this young man sells, were of course available in France, but had to be transported across country to Paris. Herbs and items like watercress were collected in the countryside and sold on the streets for use in salads and for medicinal purposes.
This figure, probably modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler(1706-1775) and Peter Reinicke (1715-1768, belongs to a series taken from designs for the Cries of Paris by the Parisian engraver Christophe Huet (1692-1765), and possibly commissioned by Johann Joachim Kaendler on a visit to Paris in the early 1750s. In this second series of the Cries of Paris the style of modeling is less animated than the earlier group modeled by Kaendler after the drawings by Edmé Bouchardon. The figure carries a pair of scales over his left arm for weighing the grapes.
The subject of street traders in the visual arts has a long history reaching back into the cities of the ancient world. City inhabitants, especially the working poor who lived in cramped accommodations with little or no facilities for cooking, depended heavily on the fast food and drink provided by street vendors and bake houses. Street sellers were themselves poor, and the range of goods sold or bartered varied widely, limited only by what could be carried by the individual, wheeled in a barrow, or loaded onto a donkey, mule or ass sometimes pulling a cart. People of a higher social class regarded street traders with contempt on the one hand, but also as colorful curiosities on the other, often in conflict with one another and with city authorities. In 1500, a series of anonymous woodcuts titled the Cries of Paris was an early example of what became a highly popular genre in print form well into the nineteenth century, and especially so in commercially active cities like Paris and London where street sellers formed not only part of the spectacle of display and consumption, but also the raucous sound of the street as they vocalized their merchandise
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then carefully cut 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 street traders see Shesgreen, S., 1990, The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon.
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, pp. 454-455.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750-1760
1750-1760
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
overall: 5 5/8 in x 2 1/2 in x 2 1/8 in; 14.2875 cm x 6.35 cm x 5.3975 cm
ID Number
CE.76.371
catalog number
76.371
accession number
1977.0166
collector/donor number
243
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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