Meissen figure group representing the grape harvest

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Description
TITLE: Meissen figure group of children with a wine cask
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 8¾" 22.3 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Figure group
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Art
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 65.388
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 431
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, 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.
The figure group of six children represents an allegory of fall harvest. The wine cask has a lid on which two of the children rest and it can be used as a container. The children prepare the grapes for wine making, drink wine, and play musical instruments. One of the figures at the base of the wine cask is a cupid. Although the Meissen modelers produced figures of children quite early in the history of the manufactory, figures and figure groups featuring children and child cupids became more common after the Seven Years War (1756-1763).
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 group is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.
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 pp. 478-479.
Location
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1760
1760
maker
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Deutschland: Sachsen, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 8 3/4 in; 22.225 cm
overall: 8 7/8 in x 7 9/16 in x 6 1/4 in; 22.5425 cm x 19.20875 cm x 15.875 cm
ID Number
CE.65.388ab
catalog number
65.388ab
accession number
262623
collector/donor number
431
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
subject
Manufacturing
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
Art
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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