Meissen cup and saucer


TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 2⅝" 6.7cm; Saucer: D. 5" 12.8cm

OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1725-1730


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.30 ab



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “//” incised on cup.

PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.

This cup and saucer 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 onglaze enamel pattern painted on this simple cup and saucer was adapted by Meissen painters from a Japanese prototype in the Dresden royal collection. Known as the “rock and chrysanthemum” pattern it has, typically, a branch of heavy chrysanthemum blooms arching upwards from behind a rock with grasses and ferns around it. Animating the composition on the saucer is a colorful bird. Japanese painters of the Edo period were highly sensitive observers of nature, but in the porcelains exported to Europe the laws of natural growth were often abandoned in the interests of making the product more attractive to European sensibilities, largely under the influence of Dutch traders.

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.

For a detailed account of the 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 Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection and Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.

For more examples and details about this pattern and its variations see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 208-220.

For a similar design on an octagonal-shaped two-handled cup and a saucer see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.302.

Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 178-179.

Date Made: ca 1725-17301725-1730

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: 1983.0565.30abCatalog Number: 1983.0565.30abAccession Number: 1983.0565Collector/Donor Number: 50ab

Object Name: cupsaucer

Physical Description: blue underglaze (overall color)polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)kakiemon (joint piece style)hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels (overall color)Measurements: cup: 2 5/8 in; 6.6675 cmsaucer: 5 in; 12.7 cmoverall cup: 2 5/8 in x 3 3/4 in x 2 3/4 in; 6.6675 cm x 9.525 cm x 6.985 cmoverall saucer: 1 3/16 in x 5 1/8 in; 2.9845 cm x 13.0175 cm


Record Id: nmah_1415483

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.