Meissen Böttger porcelain tankard

MARKS: None.
PURCHASED FROM: A. Wittekind, 1953.
PROVENANCE: Ex- collection Prince d’Arenberg.
This tankard 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 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.
January 15, 1708, is the date for the earliest known recipe for white hard-paste porcelain, but it took five more years of experiments and trials to develop a product for the market. So-called Böttger porcelain denotes the early years of production from 1713 until Böttger’s death in 1719, but versions of his hard-paste porcelain continued in use until the 1730s.
The tankard was probably modeled by the Dresden gold and silversmith Johann Jakob Irminger (1635-1724), and has applied relief decoration typical of his work; the cover is missing and metal mountings were not applied on this piece. The three medallions contain the cipher “AR”on the shield under a crown referring to the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland Augustus Rex. The top and base of the tankard have borders of applied acanthus leaves, an ornament used in architecture, interior design and on decorative objects during the baroque period.
Tankards originated in beer-drinking countries, and in early modern Europe the middle-class beer drinker had stoneware and tin-glazed tankards with tin or pewter mountings that were rich in various regional styles. Pewter and glass tankards were also common. Goldsmiths produced luxury vessels for the ruling class, and the early Meissen porcelain tankards, often mounted with gold and silver gilt joined this group of luxury items.
At the time this tankard was made Meissen had not yet developed durable enamel colors for white porcelain and similar decorative motifs to those seen on the red stonewares were applied in relief.
See Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.19.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.40-41.
Currently not on view
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
monochrome, (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 6 7/8 in; 17.4625 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession number
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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