PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1968.
This leaf dish 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 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 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.
January 15, 1708, is the date for the earliest known recipe for white hard-paste porcelain, but it took five more years of experiments and trials to develop a product for the market. So-called Böttger porcelain denotes the early years of production from 1713 until Böttger’s death in 1719, but versions of his hard-paste porcelain continued in use until the 1730s.
This small dish is based on a Chinese brush washer made in milky white porcelain, the so-called blanc de chine fired in the Dehua kilns in Fujian Province. The dishes were produced in molds for the use of scholars who practiced calligraphy, and in China they were not decorated except for a floral sprig on the base that served as a stabilizer. The Meissen copy also has a floral sprig on the base with the typical twig-shaped handle (compare with ID numbers CE*75.194 and CE*75.193, A,B, painted by a Hausmaler; an enamel painter who worked outside the Meissen Manufactory). It is not clear how these objects were used in Western Europe.
For comparable examples see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.84.
On Blanc de Chine see Kerr, R., Ayers’, J., 2002, Blanc de Chine: Porcelain from Dehua, (catalog of the Hickley Collection in Singapore), with a contribution from Eva Ströber on the Dresden collection of Dehua porcelain.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcleain and Hausmalerei, pp.44-45.
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