Meissen red stoneware cup

MARKS: None.
PURCHASED FROM: Ars Domi (Dr. Adreina Torré), Zurich, 1969.
This cup is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of European 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 collector and 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 cup was made in red stoneware, a very hard and dense type of ceramic similar in appearance to the Chinese Yixing ceramics which inspired their imitation at Meissen. Red stoneware, enriched with iron oxides, preceded porcelain in the Dresden laboratory where physicist, mathematician, and philosopher, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651-1708) and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) experimented with raw materials fused by solar energy amplified through a burning glass. Success in red stoneware was an important step towards development of white porcelain.
The bell-shaped cup, of unglazed red-brown stoneware has a large and somewhat awkward lyre-shaped handle. The lines on the lower quarter of the cup and on the foot ring were turned into the clay when it was at a “leather-hard” stage; strong enough to hold its shape, but still with sufficient moisture in the clay to turn the detail smoothly. Red stoneware did not require a glaze as it was a dense material impervious to liquids. There were no Chinese prototypes for cups with handles and this object was therefore a European design.
On red stoneware see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp.15-19.
On Yixing stonewares see Lo, K.S., 1986, The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day; Fang Lili, 2011, Chinese Ceramics, Cambridge University Press, p. 115 Zisha-the Taste of Tea.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 22-23.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
monochrome, rust (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, stoneware, refined (overall material)
overall: 2 3/4 in; 6.985 cm
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection

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