Meissen figure of a ballad seller

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a ballad seller
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4⅞" 12.4 cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 78.431
(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, 1944.
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.
This figure of a ballad seller comes from Marcellus Laroon’s (the Elder 1653-1702) Cryes of the City of London Drawne after the Life, a set of engravings published in 1687 by Pierce Tempest (1653-1712). Laroon’s drawings of the vendors, entertainers, charlatans, and rogues who inhabited the commercial heart of London in the late seventeenth century is a rich compendium of urban street life when the city was the foremost financial, marketing, and maritime center in Europe.
The ballad seller depicted here, modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775), was known as Roger Teasdale, and his partner, Mrs. Parker, was modeled by Peter Reinicke. In Laroon’s original work the two ballad sellers are seen together with the caption “A Merry New Song.” The ballad is a form of narrative poetry, often sung to well-known tunes, and with a long history of use as a popular form of storytelling or the delivery of news about significant events of the time, usually with a ribald, scurrilous or satirical twist. Published in 1720, the ballad called The Infallible Doctor is a rare example of a quack doctor’s patter that might apply to the figure of the quack doctor, ID number 74.140.
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. Figures from The Cries of London series were used for table decorations and collected for cabinet displays in private apartments.
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 ballads see the Bodleian Library website:
On the figures of Mrs. Parker and Roger Teasdale see Yvonne Adams, Meissen Figures 1730-1775 The Kaendler Years Atglen PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2001, p.41.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, p.458-459.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 4 7/8 in; 12.3825 cm
overall: 4 15/16 in x 1 15/16 in x 2 in; 12.54125 cm x 4.92125 cm x 5.08 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession 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


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