Meissen tea bowl and saucer (part of a service)


TITLE: Meissen tea and coffee service (incomplete)

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: Coffeepot and cover: H. 9¼" 23.5cm; Cream jug and cover: H. 5⅜" 13.7cm;

Teapot and cover: H. 4½" 11.4cm; Rinsing bowl: H. 3⅜" 8.5cm;

Sugar bowl and cover: H. 4¼" 10.8cm; Cup and saucer (468): Cup: H. 2¾" 7cm,

Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3 cm; Cup and saucer (469) Cup: H. 1¾" 4.5cm,

Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3cm;

Tea bowl and saucer: Bowl: H. 1¾" 4.5cm; Saucer: D. 2¾" 7cm

OBJECT NAME: Tea and coffee service

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1750-1760



Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE: The Hans Syz Collection

ID NUMBER: 61.69 A-H



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

MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “W” in purple on most pieces (painter’s mark); various impressed numbers (2,4,24,53,59,64,66).

PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.

This cup and saucer is from a tea and coffee service in 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.

All the items from this tea and coffee service have elaborate overglaze polychrome rococo cartouches of vines, scrolls, and trellises framing harbor scenes with accessory figures at work on or near the water, and pastoral scenes featuring the elegant so-called “Watteau” figures. Sources for enamel painted harbor scenes and landscapes came from the vast number of prints after paintings by Italian, Dutch, and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1730s until the 1760s. 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 European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656) and Jan van de Velde (1593-1641). Here the idealized landscapes and harbor scenes form the setting through which the nobility and landed gentry walk, ride, and take their ease, surveying their possessions removed from the formality of the court. In the early 1740s the manufactory began to acquire a collection of copperplate engravings on which the Meissen painters based their “Watteauszenen” (Watteau scenes), and they became so much in demand that eleven painters were appointed to specialize in work on this theme. Meissen used the shapes of the pieces in this service many times with some variation on details like handles, spouts, and finials.

The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage.

The “W” painted in purple possibly refers to the painter’s mark of Johann Benjamin Wentzel (or Wenzel 1696?-1765) who appears in the Meissen records as a painter of “landscapes and views” in 1750.

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

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

Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 334-335.

Date Made: 1750-1760

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:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: CE.61.69GabCatalog Number: 61.69GabCollector/Donor Number: 469Accession Number: 240074

Object Name: cupsaucer

Physical Description: blue (cup color)blue (saucer color)purple (saucer color)polychrome (component surface decoration color name)landscape (joint piece description of decoration)landscape (overall description of decoration)ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (cup material)ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (saucer material)Measurements: overall cup: 1 3/4 in x 3 7/8 in x 3 1/8 in; 4.445 cm x 9.8425 cm x 7.9375 cmoverall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 1/4 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.335 cm


Record Id: nmah_579877

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