Meissen figure: man with pug dog

Meissen figure: man with pug dog

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a man with a pug dog
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4¾" 12.1 cm.
OBJECT NAME: Figure group
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.369
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARK: None
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This figure group 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.
Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) received a commission from Elector of Saxony and King of Poland August III to model a family group of pug dogs in 1741, and in 1736 Kaendler's work book records the re-modeling of 4 cane handles with pugs. (“4 Stock Hacken mit Mops geandert…” see Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Johann Joachim Kaendler 1706-1775, Leipzig, 2002, p.39). In this piece a man plays with a pug performing its tricks.
Pugs, or “Mops” in German, are an ancient breed known in China in at least 500 BCE that became a favored dog in the imperial court in about the 1st century. Pugs became popular lap dogs after they were introduced to Europe by Dutch merchants in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, especially in Holland and England. By the eighteenth century it was de rigeur for aristocratic men and women to own pugs with their even temperament and sociability towards humans.
The pug was emblematic of the Order of the Pug, a secret society modeled on Freemasonry. Pope Clement XII forbade Roman Catholics to join a Freemasons Lodge, and the Order of the Pug was a ruse to side-step his edict. The illegitimate son of the Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Count Rutowski, established a lodge in Dresden in 1741 with his Turkish mistress Fatima; women were admitted to this alternative Masonic Order of the Pug.
This figure group was modeled by Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1696-1749), a talented sculptor who worked in collaboration with Kaendler on several projects until his death in 1749 (see ID number 60.168 for a pair of pug dogs modeled by Kaendler).
Meissen models of pugs and of figures with pugs like this one are numerous and they are found in many public and private collections. Count Heinrich von Brühl, (1700-1763) who held high office in Saxony during the electoral rule of Frederick Augustus III (1696-1763), was very fond of pugs and his favorite dog was modeled from life by Johann Joachim Kaendler in life size.
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 group is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.
On the pug dog models see Ulrich Pietsch and Claudia Banz, 2010,Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.307-308.
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: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 422-423.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
figure group (overall style)
overall: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall: 4 7/8 in x 2 7/8 in x 3 in; 12.3825 cm x 7.3025 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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