Meissen figure group: a pair of lovers

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TITLE: Meissen: A pair of lovers
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 5⅝" 14.4 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Figure group
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: 66.173
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: Leopold Blumka, New York, 1949.
PROVENANCE: Ex Coll. Oscar Bondy.
This figure group 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.
Modeled in several versions, Meissen figure groups depicting lovers began to appear in the late 1730s and early 1740s. Particularly well known are the so-called crinoline figure groups based on the fashionable balloon skirts worn by women following the French court style and displaying the social intimacies of court life. In this figure group the couple follow more closely the erotic subject matter of the painter François Boucher (1703-1770). Count Heinrich von Brühl (1696-1763) collected works by Boucher, and commissioned work from the Meissen modelers based on Boucher’s drawings and prints in his collection; many of these works are now in the collection of The Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Engravings after William Hogarth’s (1697-1764) The Rake’s Progress series depicting The Orgy also served as the base from which the Meissen modelers interpreted several amorous figure groups.
Count Heinrich von Brühl became director of the Meissen manufactory in 1733. Under Friedrich August III (1696-1763) the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, von Brühl held high office, and in 1746 became the first individual to hold the position of Prime Minister in the State. He was immensely wealthy and lived extravagantly. Many commissions undertaken by the Meissen Manufactory between 1733 and the outbreak of the Seven Years War in 1756 were for Count Brühl.
Meissen figures and figure groups were usually modeled in clay, and then carefully cut into separate pieces from which individual molds were made. Porcelain clay was then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original state, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece was then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work was arduous and required the making of many molds from the original model.
The male figure is dressed in Spanish style, and the group is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.
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.
This model is attributed to Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) or to Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1696-1749). See Yvonne Adams, 2001, Meissen Figures 1730-1775: The Kaendler Years, p.55.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, p.428-429.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 5 5/8 in; 14.2875 cm
overall: 6 1/16 in x 5 9/16 in x 4 5/8 in; 15.39875 cm x 14.12875 cm x 11.7475 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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