Meissen tea caddy

Meissen tea caddy

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
TITLE: Meissen tea caddy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 4" 10.2cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca.1730-1735
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1982.0796.08
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “13” in gold (gold painter’s number).
PURCHASED FROM: Julius Carlebach, New York, 1944.
This tea caddy 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 tea caddy forms part of what was a richly decorated tea service with two tea bowls and saucers (ID numbers 1982.0796.09 Aab Bab); the cover on the caddy is a restoration. Leaf and strapwork (Laub-und Bandelwerk) frames enclose overglaze enamel painted Kauffahrtei in which merchants of European and Asian origin conduct business, direct and cajole laborers in handling cargo.
Sources for harbor scenes came from the large number of prints after paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). Many of these harbor and waterside scenes were imaginary, and paintings of existing locations were often altered by the artist. Meissen painters were encouraged to use their imagination in enamel painting using the prints as a guide. These subjects can be seen on items like fans, enameled copper objects, and painted interiors as well as on porcelain and faience. Their appeal lay in the pleasure derived from fascination with commercial trade in exotic material goods and contact with peoples from distant lands.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (people and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. The scrollwork in gold and the leaf and strapwork painted in purple and iron-red enamel, purple luster, and gold was the work of other specialists in the painting division. Gold polishing was yet another category of work in the painting division that required great care to avoid damage to products, especially delicate tea bowls and saucers. Most items manufactured at Meissen passed though many hands in their making.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers, and the equipage for these hot beverages, made in silver and new ceramic materials like Meissen’s red stoneware and porcelain, was affordable only to the aristocratic and business elites of European society.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On tea, coffee, and chocolate equipage see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 116-117.
Currently not on view
Object Name
caddy, tea
date made
ca 1730-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome and gold (overall color)
harbor scenes (overall style)
overall: 4 in; 10.16 cm
overall: 4 1/8 in x 2 5/8 in x 1 3/4 in; 10.4775 cm x 6.6675 cm x 4.445 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
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object