Meissen plate


TITLE: Meissen plate

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: D. 9⅛" 23.2cm


PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany



Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.14



(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “16” impressed.

PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1961.

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 with a petal-shaped edge and brown rim line has three sprays of omaneishi (Japanese valerian) stems on the flange, and in the center is a so-called phoenix flying above another bird that sits on a chrysanthemum plant with omaneishi and brushwood fences, an adaptation of the Japanese Kakiemon style after a prototype in the Dresden collections.

The mythological bird, often described as a phoenix or bird of paradise in the West, is the Japanese hō-ō bird derived from the immortal feng-huang bird in Chinese mythology. In Far Eastern myths the bird belongs to the upper air and never alights on the surface of the earth unless an event of great significance is imminent, generally its appearance is believed to be a beneficent omen.

Brushwood fences occur frequently in the enamel painted porcelains from Arita that were exported to Europe. This ancient method of fencing still in use today takes available brushwoods that are bound to horizontal lengths of bamboo and are favored for surrounding tea gardens and temples. In the past this simple method of constructing fences enclosed the small dwellings of working people, but it was later adopted in Japanese garden design where the fence supported or contained flowering plants and vines, provided privacy, and accentuated garden landscape features

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 North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.

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

For other examples of this pattern see den Blaauwen, A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, p.244; and on a tobacco jar see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p. 283; for more versions of this pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 231-234.

Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 160-161.

Date Made: ca 17401740

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: 1983.0565.14Accession Number: 1983.0565Catalog Number: 1983.0565.14Collector/Donor Number: 1167

Object Name: plateObject Type: plate

Physical Description: blue (overall color)hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)Kakiemon (overall style)Measurements: overall: 9 1/8 in; 23.1775 cmoverall: 1 5/16 in x 9 1/4 in; 3.3655 cm x 23.495 cm


Record Id: nmah_1405968

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