Meissen figure of a drinker

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure of a drinker
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4¾" 12.1 cm
OBJECT NAME: Figure
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745-1750
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 75.190
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 432
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords on an unglazed base.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
This figure 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.
A figure of a man drinking, variously described as Dutch or Polish, was modeled by Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1685-1749) in the mid-to-late 1740s. Figures of this type were not seen in isolation, but formed part of a group representing the world of the rural peasant or city people of foreign lands displayed alongside sugar sculptures on the dessert table for the entertainment of guests. Small models of dwellings completed the illusion of place created in miniature form. The Saxon court held events in which its members impersonated people living on the land, creating for themselves a fantasy about those living on the opposite spectrum of the social hierarchy.
Figures of drinkers, or topers, were common to the repertoire of small-scale sculpture in many eighteenth-century porcelain manufactories, and in the fine earthenware and faience manufactories.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then carefully cut into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
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.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 424-425.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1745-1750
1745-1750
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall: 4 7/8 in x 2 1/2 in x 3 9/16 in; 12.3825 cm x 6.35 cm x 9.04875 cm
ID Number
CE.75.190
catalog number
75.190
collector/donor number
432
accession number
319073
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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