Meissen figure of a hunter

Meissen figure of a hunter

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a huntsman
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 6¼" 15.9 cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.372
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
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.
In his work book Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) records repairs made to a figure of a Dutch hunter with his shotgun in his right hand, his powder flask slung over his left shoulder, and his dog lying at his feet. The original mold was destroyed completely during the Seven Years War when the Meissen Manufactory was in the hands of Frederick II of Prussia who invaded Saxony in 1756. The model was repaired for re-molding in 1764 after hostilities ceased. (See Johann Joachim Kaendler, 2002, Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Leipzig, p. 128, September 1764).
Hunting subjects were very popular in just about every branch of the visual arts in the eighteenth century. All facets of the hunt can be found from violent depictions of the kill to a hunter and his dog at rest as seen in this figure. Not all hunting subjects represented the court chase. Hunting on a less excessive and damaging scale took place informally as part of the husbandry of farming and the management of estates.
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully 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. It is possible that figures with this subject were used to decorate the dessert table at feasts celebrating a hunt, and then later collected for display in cabinets.
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.
Johann Joachim Kaendler, Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Leipzig: Edition Leipzig, 2002, p. 128, September 1764.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 464-465.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
male figure with dog (overall style)
overall: 6 1/4 in; 15.875 cm
overall: 6 1/16 in x 3 1/8 in x 2 3/8 in; 15.39875 cm x 7.9375 cm x 6.0325 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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