Meissen chinoiserie tureen and cover

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TITLE: Meissen tureen and cover.
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 13⅛" 33.4cm; L. 15" 38.1cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1735-36
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 65.390
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; cross with four dots (former’s mark of Andreas Schiefer).
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
This tureen 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.
The oval tureen and cover has low relief basket weave borders in the Sulkowsky pattern first introduced by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) in 1733 on a service made for the Polish Count Alexander Joseph von Sulkowsky (1695-1762). The tureen has two bands of continuous chinoiserie scenes painted, not in the style of Höroldt, but in that of Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck who developed a distinctly different body of work to that of Johann Gregor Höroldt during his relatively short career at Meissen. The painting on the tureen is not the work of Löwenfinck himself, but of another unidentified follower of his style at Meissen. On the cover a servant carrying a basket of cut flowers and a kettle encounters a man carrying a bottle accompanied by a young boy; on the bowl of the tureen travelers walk through a landscape carrying bundles, baskets, and parasols, and a child supports an elderly man who is protected from the sun by a servant holding a parasol. Many of Löwenfinck’s designs feature travelers, people riding on exotic animals, and children playing pranks on adults.
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. Application of the term chinoiserie to this class of Meissen porcelains is problematic, however, because Johann Gregor Höroldt and his painters developed 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.
It is possible that a Meissen painter decorated this tureen at a date later than 1736; compare this tureen with one painted by Lowenfinck and illustrated in Pietsch, U. 2014, Phantastiche Welten: Malerei auf Meissener Porzellan und deutschen Fayencen von Adam Friedrich von Lowenfinck 1714-1715, S.168-169.
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 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: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 96-97.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1735-1736
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
chinoiserie (joint piece style)
overall: 13 1/8 in x 15 in; 33.3375 cm x 38.1 cm
overall: 13 1/8 in x 14 5/8 in x 9 in; 33.3375 cm x 37.1475 cm x 22.86 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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