Meissen Boettger porcelain sugar box (part of a tea service)

PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
These pieces from a tea service are in 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 psychoanalysis 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.
In 1717, the inspector of the Meissen manufactory, Johann Melchior Steinbruck (1673-1723), recorded the introduction of a new type of decoration. This was the purple or pink luster developed by Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) for his white porcelain, and it was the only successful color breakthrough during his working life at Meissen. Preparation of the color required the use of gold, so it was used sparingly, but continued in production until the 1730s.
Currently not on view
Object Name
sugar box and cover
date made
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
gilt (overall production method/technique)
overall: 3 in x 4 1/2 in; 7.62 cm x 11.43 cm
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession 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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