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TITLE: Meissen chinoiserie tankard and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 7½" 19.1 cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.20
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “AHS” goldsmith’s mark on silver cover near handle; inscriptions by later owners on cover.
PURCHASED FROM: Rosenberg and Stiebel, New York, 1955.
This tankard 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.
Meissen’s chinoiserie style began in the1720s with the arrival from Vienna of Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775) who brought with him superior skills in enamel painting on porcelain. His highly significant contribution to Meissen was to develop a palette of very fine bright enamel colors that had so far eluded the team of metallurgists at the manufactory, and that were new to onglaze enamel colors on faience and porcelain in general.
This tankard belongs to Meissen chinoiseries attributed to the enamel painter Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck (1714-1754) who developed a style distinctly different to that of Johann Gregor Höroldt. He entered the manufactory at the age of 13, the oldest of three boys apprenticed to the painting division at Meissen and whose father was an underglaze blue painter. Talented though he was Löwenfinck ran into trouble at Meissen following a serious dispute with another manufactory employee resulting in legal action taken against him by the Meissen authorities. He fled Saxony for this reason as well as his desire to escape the irksome conditions under Johann Gregor Horoldt and low pay at Meissen. After his flight Löwenfinck worked as a painter on faience in Bayreuth but fearing extradition to Saxony he fled again to Ansbach and worked subsequently at Fulda, Höchst, and Strasbourg-Hagenau. His distinctive style was, and still is, much admired.
The subject painted on the tankard shows a richly dressed man directing preparations for a tea ceremony, while in the foreground a man pacifies a large dog. Indian flowers (indianische Blumen) that frame the scene are a Meissen elaboration of the Kakiemon and Imari style chrysanthemums and peonies on Japanese porcelains in the Saxon Elector’s collections in Dresden. Löwenfinck developed a graphic illustrative style that took inspiration from a variety of western and East Asian sources; to include, for example, the decorative style of Chinese Jingdezhen porcelain of the Yongzheng period (1723-1735), Japanese Kakiemon porcelains, European engravings that formed the chinoiserie style based on seventeenth-century illustrated books descriptive of China, and in particular the eighteenth-century work of Petrus Schenk Junior, and engravings after the Dutch genres of harbor and landscape painting. The servant standing on the extreme right holding a parasol is based on a figure in a print by Petrus Schenk junior, and the same scene appears on a stand for a writing set, but probably not painted by Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck; for comparison see the article by A.L. den Blaauwen, “Keramik mit Chinoiserien nach Stichen von Petrus von Schenk junior”, in Keramos: Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft der Keramikfreunde , 31, Januar 1966, S. 1-13, Abb. 9, Faltblatt 21.
The mountings are of silver, and on the thumb piece a lion’s front paws rest on a globe. The center of the cover holds a Danish gift coin dated 1704 with the head of King Frederick IV, and this piece was possibly a gift for a favored member of the Danish royal household or an envoy at the Dresden court.
Tankards are generally found only in beer-drinking countries, and in early-modern Europe the urban middle-class beer drinker had stoneware and tin-glazed tankards mounted with tin or pewter with rich variations in regional styles. Pewter and glass tankards were also common. Goldsmiths produced luxury vessels for the ruling elite and wealthy merchant classes, and the Meissen porcelain tankards mounted with silver and silver gilt represent this type of object.
On Johann Gregor Höroldt see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 17-25.
On the Meissen painter Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck see the exhibition catalog Phantastiche Welten: Malerei auf Meissener Porzellan und deutsche Fayencen von Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck 1714-1754, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2014, and Rainer Rückert, 1990, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18 Jahrhunderts, pp.171-173.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 94-95.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1735
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
porcelain (overall material)
overall: 7 1/2 in; 19.05 cm
overall: 7 5/16 in x 6 in x 4 1/2 in; 18.6055 cm x 15.24 cm x 11.43 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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