Meissen teapot and cover


TITLE: Meissen teapot and cover

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: H. 4½" 11.4cm


PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1735-1740


Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 74.138 ab



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; incised former’s mark belonging to Andreas Schiefer or Scheiber 1690-1761).

PURCHASED FROM: Hans Backer, London, England, 1947. Ex. Coll. F. Neuburg.

This teapot 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.

This lobed melon-shaped teapot and cover painted in the Japanese Kakiemon style has rice straw fences behind which grow chrysanthemums that drift over the surface of the white porcelain. Rice straw fences occur frequently in the enamel painted porcelains from Arita that were exported to Europe, and the motif is a Japanese one introduced to paintings of the Momoyama period (1573-1615) after Chinese works that feature brushwood and bamboo fences. This ancient method of fencing, still in use today, takes available brushwoods or grain bundles and binds the material to horizontal lengths of bamboo, a type of fencing favored in Japanese tea gardens where the fence supports or contains flowering plants and vines for greater privacy.

Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on Deshima (or Dejima) in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants through the island of Dejima, and the Chinese also resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.

On Japanese Kakiemon porcelain see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750,with another melon-shaped teapot made at Meissen on p.265; see also Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection.

For the former’s mark and biography see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, p.126.

On the impact of Chinese porcelain in a global context see Robert Finlay, 2010, The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History.

Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 162-163.

Date Made: ca 1735-17401735-1740

Maker: Meissen Manufactory

Location: Currently not on view

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.74.138abCatalog Number: 74.138abCollector/Donor Number: 686abAccession Number: 315259

Object Name: teapot

Physical Description: blue (overall color)polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)kakiemon (joint piece style)Measurements: overall: 4 1/2 in; 11.43 cmoverall: 4 3/16 in x 7 3/16 in x 4 1/4 in; 10.6045 cm x 18.2245 cm x 10.795 cm


Record Id: nmah_572629

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