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: 1740-45



Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.10ab



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “95” impressed on cup; “61” impressed on saucer.

PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.

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 cup and saucer have solid gold grounds on their interior surfaces, and in white reserves there are waterside landscape scenes with figures. The Meissen painters generally based their images on prints after the numerous landscapes, real and imaginary, painted, etched, and engraved by seventeenth-century Dutch, Flemish and French artists, and Meissen painters were encouraged to use their imagination to ensure that their work was unique to each porcelain piece in a set of vases, a snuff box, or table service. For this reason it is often impossible to trace a Meissen subject to a specific print. The popularity of these subjects eclipsed the earlier fascination with Chinese and Japanese designs and was symptomatic of the nobility’s idealized projection of their persons into a pastoral context.

The scenes on the exterior of the cup and interior of the saucer represent the landowning class in a rural context. It could be assumed that the grand mansion in the background of the painting on the saucer is the home of the well-dressed couple with a child in the foreground. On the cup, in a continuous rural landscape, a man on horseback addresses a woman who has her hand on a large basket, perhaps full of fish as the river is close by. In the background we see a church surrounded by a small village.

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 Dutch artists, especially Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). These print series were intended to bring pleasure in viewing diverse landscape subjects that led a person on a journey or opened a window for the imagination.

The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers, and polishing in particular required careful handling of the porcelain because of its tendency to spring apart. On this cup and saucer the marks from polishing can be seen on the gold ground surrounding the enamel painted subjects, and they are especially clear on the saucer.

On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters 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.

On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.

On Dutch landscape painting see Gibson, W. S., 2000, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael.

Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 304-305.

Date Made: ca 1740-17451740-1745

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: 1987.0896.10abCatalog Number: 1987.0896.10abAccession Number: 1987.0896Collector/Donor Number: 120ab

Object Name: cupsaucer

Physical Description: blue underglaze (overall color)hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)rural landscape with figures (overall style)Measurements: cup: 2 5/8 in; 6.6675 cmsaucer: 5 in; 12.7 cmoverall cup: 2 3/4 in x 3 5/8 in x 2 7/8 in; 6.985 cm x 9.2075 cm x 7.3025 cmoverall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 3/16 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.1445 cm


Record Id: nmah_1415543

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