Meissen figure of a boy

<< >>
TITLE: Meissen figure of a boy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 7¾" 19.7cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1775-1780
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 73.175
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords and star in blue on flat, unglazed base.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
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.
The boy stands with arms outstretched, and belongs to the later eighteenth-century Meissen models that represent children and family groups, subjects like The Good Mother and The Happy Parents. Many of these models were the work of the French modeler at Meissen, Michel Victor Acier (1736-1799), and the subjects appealed to the increasingly affluent middle class who bought figures and figure groups for display in their homes. Following the publication of Swiss born writer Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Émile in 1762, there was a surge of interest in the nurturing and education of children, and the importance of the parental role in their upbringing. Many of Acier’s subjects derived from engravings after the French artist Jean Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805), who specialized in painting themes with strong moral content.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully 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 Meissen porcelain after the Seven Years War of 1756-1763 see Anette Loesch, “Meissen Porcelain from 1763 to 1815” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp. 35-51.
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.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, p.476-477.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1775-1780
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 7 3/4 in; 19.685 cm
overall: 7 13/16 in x 4 in x 4 1/8 in; 19.84375 cm x 10.16 cm x 10.4775 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
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


Add a comment about this object