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: 5¼" 13.3cm

OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany




Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.15ab



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “17” impressed on saucer.

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.

On this relatively unadorned cup and saucer figures are seen in idealized rural landscapes.

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 they were encouraged to use their own imaginations to ensure that their work was unique to each porcelain piece in a set of vases or a 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 themselves into a pastoral context, often with reference to the classical past in the inclusion of Italianate ruins or to the genre of Dutch paintings and prints that refer to the destruction incurred during the struggle with Spain in the early decades of the Eighty Years War (1568-1648).

On the saucer a well-dressed man and woman look out across a rural landscape with a farm in the distance. On the cup a continuous rural landscape has within it a peasant couple watching cattle with their dog before a ruined building. The women has a child resting on her lap.

Ruins feature is many paintings and prints from the Low Countries in the seventeenth century. Ruined and damaged buildings were indeed part of the landscape following the struggle against Spanish rule over a long period of eighty years (1568-1648).

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. Flower and fruit painters were more numerous than in other divisions, but according to demand painters were required to switch from one specialist area to another. On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers.

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. 310-311.

Date Made: ca 17401740

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: 1987.0896.15abCatalog Number: 1987.0896.15abAccession Number: 1987.0896Collector/Donor Number: 496ab

Object Name: cupsaucer

Physical Description: blue underglaze (overall color)hard-paste porcelain (overall material)polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)rural landscapes with figures (overall style)Measurements: cup: 2 5/8 in; 6.6675 cmsaucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cmoverall cup: 2 3/4 in x 3 7/8 in x 2 7/8 in; 6.985 cm x 9.8425 cm x 7.3025 cmoverall saucer: 1 3/16 in x 5 5/16 in; 2.9845 cm x 13.5255 cm


Record Id: nmah_1415549

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