Meissen plate


TITLE: Meissen plate

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¼" 23.5cm


PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1735-1740


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.05



(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 plate 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 the German States, 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 plate has a basket weave relief on the rim in the old ozier (Alt Ozier) pattern first modeled in 1735.

The onglaze enamel design belongs to the yellow lion pattern (Gelber Löwe), even though the animal wrapped around a bamboo and looking towards an ancient prunus tree is clearly a tiger. There are many Meissen pieces in existence with this pattern and it was first produced for the Parisian dealer Rodolphe Lemaire. On discovery of Lemaire’s fraudulent activity aided by Count Hoym extant pieces carrying this pattern (of which the dish with ID # 69.62 is one) were confiscated and placed in the Japanese Palace that housed the porcelain collection of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670-1733); much admired at court the design possibly got the name “yellow lion”because of the animal’s association with kingship.

This plate is one of several versions of the yellow lion service that the Meissen Manufactory produced for the court and for diplomatic gifts.

Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the former Hizen Province (now the Saga Prefecture) on the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors principally in iron-red, green, sea- green, blue, and pale yellow attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. Arita potters began to export to Europe through the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) in the middle of the seventeenth century when Chinese porcelain was in short supply during the civil war that led to the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644.

Tigers are not native to Japan, but the animal gained potent symbolic status when adopted from Chinese Buddhist culture in about the sixth century C.E. The tiger, associated with courage in Japanese culture is also representative of the wind, and when depicted with bamboo the creature can symbolize the wind rustling through bamboo. In the dense and impenetrable bamboo forest the tiger is perceived as the only animal capable of moving through its thickets, and the image on this plate may have a residual reference to the tiger’s symbolic relationship to the wind and the forest. Although Europeans were for the most part unaware of Japanese mythology associated with the tiger, this and other images based on Japanese prototypes must have aroused curiosity as well as aesthetic pleasure.

On the Yellow Lion Service see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 95-96, p.277. For a detailed account see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 265-289.

On the Japanese Kakiemon style and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750; Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection

See also Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.

On the tiger in East Asian animal symbolism see K. M. Ball (1927 and 2004) Animal Motifs in Asian Art.

Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 128-129.

Date Made: ca 1735-17401735-1740

Maker: Meissen Manufactory

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Germany: Saxony, Meissen

Subject: Manufacturing


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass, The Hans C. Syz Collection, Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection, Art, Domestic Furnishings


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1983.0565.05Accession Number: 1983.0565Catalog Number: 1983.0565.05Collector/Donor Number: 409

Object Name: plate

Physical Description: hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels (overall color)Kakiemon (overall style)Measurements: overall: 9 1/4 in; 23.495 cmoverall: 1 1/4 in x 9 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 23.6855 cm


Record Id: nmah_1405958

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