Meissen cup and saucer


TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer L. 5⅜" 13.7cm, W. 4⅞" 12.4cm

OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: ca. 1730-1740

SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.09ab



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “22” in gold (gold painter’s number).

PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.

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 quatrefoil shaped cup and saucer has a basket weave design on the exteriors with flowers in relief (erhabene Blumen) enclosed in reserves. On the interiors elaborate scrollwork in purple, iron-red and gold frame waterside subjects in polychrome onglaze enamels. The delicate scrollwork design belongs to the earlier baroque style at Meissen. On the interior of the cup two men in a small boat sail at the entrance to a harbor with buildings in view behind them. On the saucer a man rides a white horse while leading another brown horse beside him. In the background is a coastal landscape with a harbor in the distance.

Sources for enamel painted subjects like these ones came from the vast number of prints after paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). Many of these landscape and waterside scenes were imaginary, and paintings of existing locations were often altered by the artist. Meissen painters were also encouraged to use their imagination in enamel painting using the prints as a guide. These subjects can be seen on items like fans, enameled copper objects, and painted interiors as well as on porcelain and faience. Their appeal lay in the pleasure of contemplating the tranquility and beauty of the landscape, or the fascination with trade represented in the harbor scenes. Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns applied in many branches of the applied arts.

The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. Decorative scrollwork was the responsibility of another painter specializing in this form of decoration.

On Meissen sources for enamel painted subjects see Möller, K.A. “ ‘…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on Graphic Originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.84-93; Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1996, ‘Graphic Sources for Meissen Porcelain’ in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31, pp.99-126.

On sets of prints see Goddard, S. H., 1984, Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries.

Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts

Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 298-299.

Date Made: ca 1730-17401730-1740

Maker: Meissen Manufactory

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: Germany: Saxony, Meissen

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


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1987.0896.09abCatalog Number: 1987.0896.09abAccession Number: 1987.0896Collector/Donor Number: 435ab

Object Name: cupsaucer

Physical Description: blue (cup color)blue (saucer color)gold (cup color)gold (saucer color)polychrome (component surface decoration color name)landscapes (joint piece description of decoration)landscapes (overall description of decoration)ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (cup material)hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)rural landscape and harbor scenes (overall style)Measurements: cup: 1 7/8 in; 4.7625 cmsaucer: 5 3/8 in x 4 7/8 in; 13.6525 cm x 12.3825 cmoverall cup: 2 in x 4 1/4 in x 3 1/8 in; 5.08 cm x 10.795 cm x 7.9375 cmoverall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 1/2 in x 4 7/8 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.97 cm x 12.3825 cm


Record Id: nmah_1415542

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.