Meissen coffee pot and cover

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Description
TITLE: Meissen coffeepot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 8¼" 21cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1740
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 74.133ab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 421ab
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “yy” impressed (former’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
This coffeepot 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 small coffeepot has a yellow onglaze ground with white reserves on the pot and the cover, which has a finial in the form of an artichoke. In the reserves the onglaze enamel painted subjects on the pot are of harbor scenes depicting merchants conducting business while laborers wait for their orders; on the cover a man sails a small craft on the river, and a woman with a large basket on her back approaches the sea shore.
Sources for enamel painted harbor and waterside scenes came from the vast number of prints 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). Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European and American visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns used in many branches of the applied arts.
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, and so was the painting of the so-called “Indian flowers” (indianische Blumen) seen on the yellow ground outside the reserves.
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 pp. 267-274.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On Dutch prints see Goddard, S.H., 1984, Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 116-117.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
1740
maker
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 8 1/4 in; 20.955 cm
overall: 8 in x 5 5/16 in x 4 1/8 in; 20.32 cm x 13.5255 cm x 10.4775 cm
ID Number
CE.74.133ab
catalog number
74.133ab
accession number
315259
collector/donor number
421ab
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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