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Meissen bowl

Meissen bowl

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TITLE: Meissen Bowl
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 3 in. 7.6cm; D. 6in. 15.3cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1735
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1979.0120.05
(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, 1959.
The bowl 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 psychoanalysis 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.
The bowl is in the style of early Böttger porcelains designed by the Dresden court goldsmith, Johann Jacob Irminger (1635-1724), but with the mark of crossed swords in underglaze blue it was made, or finished, in or after 1725. Irminger adapted his designs for many of the Böttger red stonewares and porcelains from vessels made in silver or gold, and from cut and polished stone ornaments in the quartz family like agate, chalcedony, and jasper. The bowl featured here does not have a rim that finishes in a fine outward flare, characteristic of most Meissen bowls and tea bowls of this early period (see for comparison ID number 75.186 with applied acanthus tendrils), so its history and purpose is not entirely clear. Given the bowl's rather inferior quality, it might be a trial piece for a later porcelain body introduced in the 1720s.
Laurel leaves, molded separately and applied to the bowl, rise from the foot ring, and this pattern can be seen on many examples of Böttger red stonewares and porcelains, especially the vases. Like the acanthus motif, laurel has its origins in the ornament of ancient Greece, where the plant was sacred to Apollo and used in purification rituals. More familiar perhaps is the mythical story of Apollo’s pursuit of the nymph Daphne, who not returning his passion, flees from him to her father the river god, Peneus. Rescue comes by transforming his daughter into a laurel tree.
On Böttger stoneware and porcelain see Pietsch, U., 1993, Early Meissen Porcelain: a Private Collection; by the same author, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens.
Zimmerman, E., 1908, Die Erfindung und Fruhzeit des Meissner Porzellans: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Keramik.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 268-269.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1725-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
white (overall color)
in the style of Boettger porcelain (overall style)
overall: 3 in x 6 in; 7.62 cm x 15.24 cm
overall: 3 1/8 in x 6 in; 7.9375 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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