Meissen saucer

TITLE: Meissen saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 4⅝" 11.8cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 72.16
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
Gift from Dr. Andreina Torré, Ars Domi, Zurich, Switzerland, 1972.
This 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 interior of this saucer has a design in the Japanese Kakiemon style of two cranes and a bamboo trellis on which stylized flowers grow. On the exterior of the saucer there is a purple ground. The Meissen pattern was based on a Japanese Kakiemon prototype but it is not an exact copy.
Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
For millennia cranes have held symbolic meaning across the globe featuring in the myths and legends of many peoples with a rich presence in visual culture from antiquity to the present day. In Japan the indigenous red-crowned crane is sacred and associated with longevity, fidelity, prosperity, and good health. Cranes commonly live for 40-60 years and they pair for life which accounts for their popularity as a symbol in Japan for a long and happy marriage, and they are often used as decoration on a bride’s kimono. The birds on this saucer are stylized and not faithful to the Japanese tradition of painting in which the red-crowned crane is easily identifiable.
For comparison see this subject painted on a tankard and cover in Hawes, S., Corsiglia, C., 1984, The Rita and Fritz Markus Collection of European Ceramics and Enamels, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, pp. 111-113. For an example of the pattern on a pair of cups and saucers see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.286, and for other objects with the same pattern see pp.284-285; see also den Blaauwen, A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, pp. 221-222 for an example of the design on a pair of vases with yellow grounds.
On the Japanese Kakiemon style and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750, with an example of the same pattern on a Meissen butter tub and cover p. 264, and for an example of the pattern on a Chelsea porcelain plate see p. 283.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 150-151.
Currently not on view
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
kakiemon (overall style)
overall: 1 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.54 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Andreina Torre
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Industry & Manufacturing
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


Add a comment about this object