Meissen figure of a grape seller


TITLE: Meissen figure of a grape seller

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: 5¼" 14.6 cm.


PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1753-1754

SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 76.371



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

MARK: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.

PURCHASED FROM: E. Pinkus, New York, 1943.

This figure 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 Germany, 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.

Paris and London, two bustling commercial cities, generated a large population of street vendors providing hot beverages like coffee and chocolate, bread rolls, pies, and buns. Fruits and vegetables from nearby farms were sold when in season, as well as luxury fruits like oranges and lemons imported from Spain. Grapes, which this young man sells, were of course available in France, but had to be transported across country to Paris. Herbs and items like watercress were collected in the countryside and sold on the streets for use in salads and for medicinal purposes.

This figure, probably modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler(1706-1775) and Peter Reinicke (1715-1768, belongs to a series taken from designs for the Cries of Paris by the Parisian engraver Christophe Huet (1692-1765), and possibly commissioned by Johann Joachim Kaendler on a visit to Paris in the early 1750s. In this second series of the Cries of Paris the style of modeling is less animated than the earlier group modeled by Kaendler after the drawings by Edmé Bouchardon. The figure carries a pair of scales over his left arm for weighing the grapes.

The subject of street traders in the visual arts has a long history reaching back into the cities of the ancient world. City inhabitants, especially the working poor who lived in cramped accommodations with little or no facilities for cooking, depended heavily on the fast food and drink provided by street vendors and bake houses. Street sellers were themselves poor, and the range of goods sold or bartered varied widely, limited only by what could be carried by the individual, wheeled in a barrow, or loaded onto a donkey, mule or ass sometimes pulling a cart. People of a higher social class regarded street traders with contempt on the one hand, but also as colorful curiosities on the other, often in conflict with one another and with city authorities. In 1500, a series of anonymous woodcuts titled the Cries of Paris was an early example of what became a highly popular genre in print form well into the nineteenth century, and especially so in commercially active cities like Paris and London where street sellers formed not only part of the spectacle of display and consumption, but also the raucous sound of the street as they vocalized their merchandise

Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then carefully cut into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.

The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.

On street traders see Shesgreen, S., 1990, The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon.

On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.61-67.

Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 454-455.

Date Made: ca 1750-17601750-1760

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:

Credit Line: Dr. Hans Syz

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: CE.76.371Catalog Number: 76.371Accession Number: 1977.0166Collector/Donor Number: 243

Object Name: figurine

Physical Description: blue (overall color)polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)Measurements: overall: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cmoverall: 5 5/8 in x 2 1/2 in x 2 1/8 in; 14.2875 cm x 6.35 cm x 5.3975 cm


Record Id: nmah_570086

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