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Meissen leaf dish

Meissen leaf dish

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TITLE: Meissen leaf dish
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: L. 12½" 31.7cm; W. 8⅞" 22.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Leaf dish
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730-1739
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.11
(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, 1945.
This leaf dish 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.
The oval leaf-shaped dish, based on a Japanese Kakiemon design, has a partly molded interior across two thirds of the surface with the so-called red and yellow squirrel pattern painted in onglaze enamels on the remaining one third with no molding.
The “red and yellow squirrel” or “flying fox” pattern was popular and reproduced late into the eighteenth century, but like many of the animals seen on Japanese Kakiemon porcelain and its European imitations these creatures have long confused Europeans. From China, Japan adopted and made its own a rich mythology and folklore of animals real and imaginary. From the 1660s to the 1780s animals appeared in illustrated Japanese encyclopedias, illustrated catalogs, and cosmologies of the early Edo period with the real world of nature represented alongside the creatures of myth and folklore. The fox in particular lives in the Japanese imagination as a shape-shifting entity, a trickster capable of causing havoc. The red squirrel or fox flying through the air may well represent the multi-tailed kuda-gitsune, a spirit fox with powers of a malevolent or beneficial nature that still appears in contemporary manga, but it is likely a squirrel, and Japan has a native flying squirrel. The spotted yellow creature eating from the vine below is similar to motifs of squirrels eating grapes frequently depicted in Korean and Japanese decorative arts. The animals inhabit a garden landscape where flowering and fruiting vines are held in check by brushwood fences.
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 former Hizen Province (now the Saga Prefecture) on the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors principally in iron-red, green, sea- green, blue, and pale yellow attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. Exposure to Japanese porcelain through the Dutch East India Company roused a passion for its collection among the European ruling elite of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many of whom already had amassed large collections of Chinese porcelain.
On the Japanese Kakiemon style and its European imitators see Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection; Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750. See also Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.
For more details and examples of the squirrel pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 297-309.
For an example of the early Edo Period encyclopedias see Kashiragaki zōho kinmō zui taisei by Nakamura Tekisai (1629-1702) on
On the Japanese spirit world see Foster, M. D., (2008), Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 134-135.
Currently not on view
Object Name
dish, oval
date made
ca 1730-1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
overall: 8 7/8 in x 12 1/2 in; 22.5425 cm x 31.75 cm
overall: 1 11/16 in x 12 5/8 in x 9 in; 4.2545 cm x 32.0675 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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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