Meissen sugar bowl and cover

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TITLE: Meissen sugar bowl and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 4⅛" 10.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar bowl
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 74.134.ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “D” in gold on cover (gold painter’s mark); “53” impressed on base (former’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
This sugar bowl 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.
This sugar bowl with a flower finial on the cover has a yellow onglaze ground with white reserves that contain onglaze enamel paintings featuring "Kauffahrtei" scenes in which merchants conduct business and direct laborers who handle their cargoes.
Harbor and waterside scenes with accessory figures were very popular during the eighteenth century, although many of the original paintings were the work of Dutch artists of the seventeenth century. These subjects can be seen on items like fans, enameled copper objects, and painted interiors as well as on porcelain and faience. Their appeal lay in the representation of the picturesque that sparked the imagination, and the harbor scenes made reference to the commercial trade from distant lands that captured European fascination for what were perceived to be exotic peoples and material goods. Many of the original Dutch paintings and prints were of imaginary places or only loosely based on existing topographies, and Meissen painters were encouraged to use their imagination when working from print sources.
The yellow ground color was applied by flicking a brush loaded with color onto the glazed surface of the object prepared with a layer of gum for adhesion. The reserves were masked out before application of the ground color. Solid ground colors were much admired, and the Meissen manufactory produced porcelain sets designed to match interior color schemes. The technique was developed more successfully at the French Sèvres manufactory later in the eighteenth century.
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. Gold painting was the responsibility of another specialist in this form of decoration.
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, and on colored grounds see pp. 267-274.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rainer Rückert, 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 118-119.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
"gold" (overall color)
blue (overall color)
gold (cover color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 4 1/8 in; 10.4775 cm
overall: 4 1/8 in x 4 5/8 in; 10.4775 cm x 11.7475 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
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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