Meissen leaf dish (Hausmaler)

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TITLE: Meissen small Leaf dish (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: L. 4" 10.2 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Leaf dish
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1715-1720
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 75.194
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: Blumka Gallery, New York, 1948.
PROVENANCE: Collection of Oscar Bondy, Vienna .
This leaf dish 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.
The leaf dish was made in the Meissen manufactory but painted outside by an independent artist. Hausmalerei is a German word that means in literal translation ‘home painting’, and it refers to the practice of painting enamels and gold onto the surface of blank ceramics and glass in workshops outside the manufactory of origin. Beginning in the seventeenth century the work of the Hausmaler varied in quality from the outstanding workshops of Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland), to the less skilled efforts of amateur artists. Early Meissen porcelain was sought after for this purpose, and wealthy patrons of local enameling and gilding workshops purchased undecorated porcelain, often of outmoded or inferior quality, which was then enameled with subjects of their choice. Hausmalerei was at first acceptable to the early porcelain manufactories like Meissen and Vienna, and Meissen sent blank porcelain to Augsburg workshops for decoration, but as the market became more competitive they tried to eradicate the practice. It was a temptation for Meissen porcelain painters to take on extra work as Hausmaler to augment their low pay, and the manufactory cautioned or imprisoned them if Hausmalerei activity was suspected or discovered.
Painted on Böttger porcelain, probably by the Silesian Hausmaler Ignaz Preissler, the small leaf dish made at the Meissen manufactory imitates the form of Chinese brush washers made in milky white blanc de chine fired in the Dehua kilns in Fujian Province. The dishes were luxury items for the use of scholars who practiced calligraphy. In China the dishes were not decorated except for a floral sprig on the base of the dish that served as a stabilizer. The Meissen copy also has a sprig on the base with the typical twig-shaped handle. On the interior of the dish the European Hausmaler has used iron-red and gold pigment to paint a water nymph holding a basket of fruit while she rests on a dolphin. Painted on the exterior is a stag, some birds and a cupid framed by elaborate strapwork. These motifs are common to many ornamental designs dating back to the sixteenth century. Many examples of leaf dishes exist, but their purpose in a West European context is not clear.
On Hausmaler see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 43-46.
On the work of Ignaz Preissler see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1989, “’ Repraesentatio Belli, ob successionem in Regno Hispanico....”’: A Tea Service and Garniture by the Schwarzlot Decorator Ignaz Preissler” Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 24, pp. 239-254.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.528-529.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1715-1720
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
monochrome, red (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 4 in; 10.16 cm
overall: 1 5/8 in x 4 3/16 in x 3 5/16 in; 4.1275 cm x 10.63625 cm x 8.41375 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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