Meissen figure: allegory of the seasons (autumn)

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure of a man with grapes
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 5⅝" 14.3 cm
OBJECT NAME: Figure
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745-1755
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 78.429
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 328
ACCESSION NUMBER:
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
This figure 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 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.
Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) may have modeled this figure to represent fall in a group emblematic of the Four Seasons. There are several models of vintners but this figure is designed to hold condiments in the basket alongside the figures representing winter, spring, and summer and was part of a group in a plat de ménage, a centerpiece for the table that held salt, pepper, spices, mustards and lemons. Allegorical groups representing the seasons, the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, the four continents of the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Africa, the four senses of touch, smell, sight, and sound, were modeled at Meissen in several versions. This figure belongs to a group that is modest in comparison to the more ambitious and larger scale plats de ménage.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then carefully cut into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.61-67. On the plat de ménage in the same publication see p. 112.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, p.454-455.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1745-1755
1745-1755
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 5 5/8 in x 3 1/2 in x 2 5/8 in; 14.2875 cm x 8.89 cm x 6.6675 cm
ID Number
CE.78.429
catalog number
78.429
accession number
1978.2185
collector/donor number
328
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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