Meissen saucer

Meissen saucer

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TITLE: Meissen saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1735-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.04
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “7” in gold (gold painter’s number); “//” incised (fomer’s mark, probably Johann Gottlieb Geithner 1701-1761).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This saucer 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 saucer has a sea-green onglaze ground on the exterior, and on the interior a leaf and strapwork (Laub-und Bandelwerk) frame in purple and gold encloses an onglaze enamel painting of a harbor scene with small craft sailing close to a rocky shore.
The harbor scenes of the seventeenth century represented to the Dutch their success in trade from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Far East at a time when the Republic was the most prosperous seafaring nation in Europe. The popularity of these subjects extended into the eighteenth century, and introduced at Meissen in the 1720s they remained in the manufactory’s repertoire 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 Dutch artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary.
Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns used in many branches of the applied arts.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures 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. Decorative leaf and strapwork was the responsibility of other painters specializing in this form of decoration. 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.
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.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 118-119.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1730-1740
Meissen Manufactory
overall: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
overall: 125 in x 5 5/8 in x 5 5/8 in; 317.5 cm x 14.2875 cm x 14.2875 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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