Meissen plate

Description
TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¼" 23.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Plate
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1750-1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 63.243
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 211
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “E” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This plate 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.
Painted with naturalistic flowers in overglaze enamels this plate has a basket weave relief border, the earliest of its type produced at Meissen called the Sulkowsky pattern, and named after Alexander Joseph von Sulkowsky (1695-1762) who was a favorite at the Saxon court rising to a position of considerable power before falling from grace in 1738. The Sulkowsky service was the first private commission for an armorial table service for which Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) introduced this particular basket weave design. Following Kaendler’s appointment to the manufactory in 1733 modeling techniques became more sophisticated, and the process of creating shallow relief patterns for table services was laborious and required considerable skill. The Sulkowsky pattern was followed by many more designs in relief for tablewares.
Introduced in about 1740, European flowers became a significant feature as a decorative element in Meissen’s production. At first the flower painters focused mainly on floral species native to Germany and referred to Johann Wilhelm Weinmann’s publication, the Phytantoza Iconographia (Nuremberg 1737-1745), in which many of the plates were engraved after drawings by the outstanding botanical illustrator Georg Dionys Ehret (1708-1770). Depicted on this plate are European flowers both native and naturalized – the tulip is a wild flower of Central Asian origin cultivated in Turkey as early as 1000 AD and in Europe from the sixteenth century. The more formally correct German flowers were superseded by mannered flowers (manier Blumen), depicted in this looser and somewhat overblown style based on the work of still-life flower painters and interior designers like Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699) and Louis Tessier (1719?-1781), later referred to as “naturalistic” flowers.
The plate has design elements from different periods in Meissen’s production: the Sulkowsky relief pattern originally modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler in 1733, and the naturalistic flowers of fifteen to twenty years later. The basket weave relief was based on Japanese examples of woven designs imitated on imported porcelain vessels and depicted in engravings by European travelers to the Far East.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. In the late eighteenth century flower painters were even busier and consumer taste for floral decoration on domestic “china” has endured into our own time, but with the exception of a manufactory like Meissen most floral patterns are now applied by transfers and are not hand-painted directly onto the porcelain.
On the Sulkowsky relief pattern see Reinheckel, G., 1968, ‘Plastiche Dekorationsformen im Meissner Porzellan des 18 Jahrhunderts’ in Keramos, 41/42, Juli/Oktober, pp. 52-55.
On graphic sources for Meissen porcelain see Möller, K. A., “Meissen Pieces Based on Graphic Originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.85-93; Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1996, ‘Graphic Sources for Meissen Porcelain’ in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31, pp.99-126.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 384-385.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
1740-1745
1750-1760
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 9 1/4 in; 23.495 cm
overall: 1 1/2 in x 9 3/16 in; 3.81 cm x 23.33625 cm
ID Number
CE.63.243
catalog number
63.243
accession number
250446
collector/donor number
211
211a
subject
Manufacturing
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
Art
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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