Meissen plate

TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¼" 23.5cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 74.139
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “16” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1945.
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.
With a petal-shaped edge and a gold rim line the plate has a molded basket weave border in the old ozier (Alt Ozier) pattern. Painted in onglaze enamels the center of the plate contains the so-called “bee” pattern after the insects’ striped bodies (Bienenmuster). Adapted from Chinese and Japanese prototypes, the design is Meissen’s own, with three winged insects around a spray of stylized East Asian flowers tied with a ribbon that drifts above the ground.
Meissen’s “Indian flowers” is a generic term for compositions of peonies and chrysanthemums as well as more fanciful designs like the “bee” pattern that bear little resemblance to known botanical or insect species. India is highly likely to be the source for this type of pattern through the printed and painted textiles that reached Japan through the Indian Ocean trade and also mediated through Chinese silks imported by the Japanese from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. India was the powerhouse for textile production in the sixteenth century and one of the principal forces behind the development of a global trade network through the seventeenth century. The Mughal emperors who ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent and Afghanistan at that time constructed beautiful gardens and encouraged the use of floral motifs in the arts and artisan trades. At first naturalistic in their representation in Mughal court painting floral designs became stylized under the reign of Shah Jahan (1628-1658)and the printed and painted cottons of later Mughal rule reflected this development.
Indian textiles were prized in Japan in the early Edo period, especially in conjunction with the tea ceremony where they were used to clean, wrap and store tea making utensils.
For an example of a plate with the same pattern but without the molded basket-weave relief on the rim and with a brown rim line rather than gold see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.250.
On the textile trade in early modern Japan see Denney, J., ‘Japan and the Textile Trade in Context’ in Peck, A., (ed.) 2013, Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile trade 1500-1800, pp. 57-65.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 174-175.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 9 1/4 in; 23.495 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 9 3/8 in; 3.175 cm x 23.8125 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession number
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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