Meissen chinoiserie coffeepot and cover

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Description
TITLE: Meissen chinoiserie coffeepot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 7" 17.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1730
SUBJECT: Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.363 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 563 a,b
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “72” in gold (gold painter’s mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Julius Carlebach, New York, 1945.
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.
Meissen’s chinoiserie period began in the 1720s following the arrival from Vienna of Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775) who brought with him superior skills in enamel painting on porcelain. His highly significant contribution to Meissen was to develop a palette of very fine bright enamel colors that had so far eluded the team of metallurgists at the manufactory, and that were new to onglaze enamel colors on faience and porcelain in general. Höroldt and his team of painters used these colors to great effect in his singular vision of chinoiserie subjects, many of them based on drawings from what later became known as the Schulz Codex; a facsimile copy of the Schulz Codex can be seen in Rainer Behrend’s Das Meissener Musterbuch für Höroldt-Chinoiserien: Musterblätter aus der Malstube der Meissener Porzellanmanufaktur (Schulz Codex) Leipzig, 1978. Application of the term chinoiserie to this class of Meissen porcelains is problematic, however, because Johann Gregor Höroldt developed his ideas from a variety of sources and referred to the “chinoiseries” as “Japanese” (Japonische) figures, an early modern generic term for exotic artifacts and images imported from the East.
On one side of the coffeepot a servant brings a tray of food to a man sitting at a table in an exotic garden setting, on the other side a woman tends two children at play. On the cover are scenes of the preparation of tea, a subject common to many chinoiseries. Items like this passed through many hands in Meissen’s painting division where artisans applied specialist skills in the enamel painting of figures, flowers and foliage, gold scrollwork, and the polishing of the gold after firing.
Meissen tea and coffee services of this early period were often sent as gifts to members of European royalty favored by the Saxon and Polish courts. They served as tokens of loyalty and affection to relatives in other royal houses with family connections to the Saxon House of Wettin.
Chinoiserie is from the French Chinois (Chinese) and refers to ornamentation that is Chinese-like. The style evolved in Europe as Chinese luxury products began to arrive in the West in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries through the major European trading companies. Artisans were quick to incorporate motifs from these products into their work and to imitate their material qualities, especially the Chinese lacquers, embroidered silks, and porcelains, but their imitation was not informed by first-hand knowledge of China or an understanding of Chinese conventions in two-dimensional representation, and instead a fanciful European vision emerged to become an ornamental style employed in garden and interior design, in cabinet making, faience and porcelain manufacture, and in textiles. Illustrated books began to appear in the second half of the seventeenth century that describe the topography of China, its peoples and their customs, and these sources were copied and used by designers, artists, printmakers, and artisans including Johann Gregor Höroldt at Meissen.
On Johann Gregor Höroldt see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 17-25.
On gift-giving see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2008, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts 1710-1763.
On chinoiserie see Impey, O., 1997, Chinoiserie: the Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and Decoration; on the porcelain trade and European exposure to the Chinese product see the exhibition catalog by Emerson, J., Chen, J., Gardner Gates, M., 2000, Porcelain Stories: from China to Europe
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 78-79.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1725-1730
1725-1730
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
gold (cover color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
chinoiserie (joint piece style)
"gold" (overall color)
black (overall color)
blue (overall color)
Measurements
overall: 7 in; 17.78 cm
overall: 7 in x 5 5/16 in x 3 25/32 in; 17.78 cm x 13.5255 cm x 9.6139 cm
ID Number
CE.76.363ab
catalog number
76.363ab
collector/donor number
563ab
accession number
1977.0166
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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