TITLE: Meissen tea bowl (with Vienna saucer)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H.1⅝" 4.2cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1730 Tea bowl (Meissen)
1750-1755 Saucer (Vienna)
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.38 AB
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 919 AB
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue on tea bowl; shield in underglaze blue, and “70” incised on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans Backer, London, England, 1952.
This tea bowl, with a matching saucer made in Vienna, 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 pattern on this tea bowl and saucer painted in overglaze enamel, purple luster, and gold comes from Johann Schmischek’s (1585-1650) Groteschgen Büchlein (Little Book of Grotesques) published in Munich in 1630, and the patterns were originally designed for the ornamentation of guns, hence the hunting dog confronting a wild boar on the saucer and another dog chasing a hare on the tea bowl; Schmischek is listed as an arquebusier in contemporary catalogs which probably indicates his work as a designer of ornament for this class of weaponry. Not many Meissen pieces with this pattern exist today, and that suggests that the design was not successful or that the service was a private commission. These pieces are further complicated by the fact that the saucer appears to have been made in Vienna, and a sugar bowl with a Du Paquier Vienna mark passed through Christie’s salerooms in 2005. The saucer may have been a replacement and the sugar bowl a replacement or an addition to the set that may well have been in Vienna in the mid-eighteenth century.
Experts suggest on the one hand that the decoration on the tea bowl was the work of a Hausmaler, an enamel painter outside the Meissen manufactory, or on the other hand, that the presence of purple luster indicates decoration at Meissen; purple luster was not usually seen outside the manufactory in the 1720s. It is also possible that an outside decorator could have mastered the technique of handling purple luster as this style is not typical of Meissen in the 1730s.
To view the Vienna saucer see ID number 1983.0565.38B
Two tea bowls and saucers with very similar patterns can be seen in Ulrich Pietsch, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum and Art Gallery (The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and D.Giles Ltd: Jacksonville FL and London UK, 2011) p.521. Comparable items are in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA; the British Museum (1955.0708.1)and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London UK (202&A-1854); the Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Sweden.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 276-277.
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