Meissen coffee pot and cover


TITLE: Meissen coffeepot and cover

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: H. 7¾" 19.7cm

OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1725-1735


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 69.81 a,b



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “ .+.” impressed former’s mark.

PURCHASED FROM: Hans Backer, London, England, 1947.

This coffeepot and cover 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 coffeepot and cover are quatrefoil in horizontal section and have alternating panels of white and purple luster. Painted in the white panels are leopard-like creatures under blue bamboo and flowering vines in the Japanese Kakiemon style. Within the purple luster panels small reserves in white contain birds perched on branches and the luster is painted over with a gilt trellis pattern. The signature Japanese Kakiemon motif usually depicts a tiger with bamboo, but on this Meissen version the animal’s spots suggest a leopard which might have been the Meissen painter’s choice or an export design originating in Arita, Japan. A spotted leopard-like feline can be seen cavorting with tigers in the early encyclopedia of Tekisai Nakamura, the Kinmōzuii of 1666 ( Japan has no wild tigers or leopards and images of these creatures came from China. In the Kakiemon-style of painting these wild creatures assumed a stylized and more playful aspect with the bamboo represented as an abstracted reference to their Asian mainland habitat.

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 Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants through the island of Dejima, 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 there and at the annual Leipzig Fair, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.

On Kakiemon porcelain see 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, and Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the Fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750.

On 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. 124-125.

Date Made: 1725-1735

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: CE.69.81abCatalog Number: 69.81abAccession Number: 287702Collector/Donor Number: 660ab

Object Name: coffeepot

Physical Description: hard-paste porcelain (overall material)purple luster, gold, polychrome enamels (overall color)Kakiemon (overall style)Measurements: overall: 734 in; 1864.36 cmoverall: 7 1/2 in x 4 7/8 in x 3 3/4 in; 19.05 cm x 12.3825 cm x 9.525 cm


Record Id: nmah_1414547

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