Meissen underglaze blue oval platter

Description
TITLE: Meissen underglaze blue oval platter
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: L. 18" 45.7cm; W. 11¾" 29.9cm
OBJECT NAME: Platter
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca.1775
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 78.426
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 1404
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: The Art Exchange, New York, 1964.
This oval platter 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 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 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.
Early in Meissen’s history Johann Friedrich Böttger’s team searched for success in underglaze blue painting in imitation of the Chinese and Japanese prototypes in the Dresden collections. Böttger’s porcelain, however, was fired at a temperature higher than Chinese porcelain or German stoneware. As in China, the underglaze blue was painted on the clay surface before firing, but when glazed and fired the cobalt sank into the porcelain body and ran into the glaze instead of maintaining a clear image like the Chinese cobalt blue painted porcelains. The Elector of Saxony and King of Poland Augustus II was not satisfied with the inferior product. Success in underglaze blue painting eluded Böttger’s team until Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775) appropriated a workable formula developed by the metallurgist David Köhler (1673-1723). Success required adjustment to the porcelain paste by replacing the alabaster flux with feldspar and adding a percentage of porcelain clay (kaolin) to the cobalt pigment. Underglaze blue painting became a reliable and substantial part of the manufactory’s output in the 1730s.
The platter functioned as an underplate for an oval tureen (not in the collection), with handles molded in a rocaille ornament; a European style of the mid-eighteenth century that referred, somewhat loosely at times, to natural forms like shells, rocks, flowing water, and foliage. In 1728, the model maker Gottlieb Kirchner (b.1706) introduced a small device for making oval-shaped forms. Further improvements led to a more robust machine developed by the organ builder Johann Ernst Hähnel in 1740, which was granted a patent by the Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus II (1670-1733)making larger scale vessels easier to model.
The flower pattern seen here marks a departure from the designs inspired by Chinese and Japanese porcelains. Called the “German flowers” (deutsche Blumen) the pattern was introduced in the 1740s in polychrome and underglaze blue. Painted in a naturalistic manner the pattern was often accompanied by insects and butterflies. On the stand here you see a later version of the so-called "naturalistic" flowers, painted more loosely than the earlier style.
Underglaze blue painting requires skills similar to a watercolor artist. There are no second chances, and once the pigment touches the clay or biscuit surface it cannot be eradicated easily. Many of Meissen’s underglaze blue designs were, and still are, “pounced” onto the surface of the vessel before painting. Pouncing is an old technique in which finely powdered charcoal or graphite is allowed to fall through small holes pierced through the outlines of a paper design, thereby serving as a guide for the painter. Pouncing also ensured a relative standard in patterns repeated on Meissen tea and dinner services.
On underglaze blue painting at Meissen see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 22-23.
J. Carswell, 1985, Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain and its impact on the Western World.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 264-265.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1775
1775
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
monochrome, blue (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 11 3/4 in x 18 in; 29.845 cm x 45.72 cm
overall: 3 3/4 in x 18 in x 11 3/4 in; 9.525 cm x 45.72 cm x 29.845 cm
ID Number
CE.78.426
catalog number
78.426
accession number
1978.2185
collector/donor number
1404
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
subject
Manufacturing
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Art
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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