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Meissen dish

Meissen dish

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TITLE: Meissen dish
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¾" 24.8cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1741-1745
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.06
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “21” impressed; “//” incised.
PURCHASED FROM: H. Bachrach, London, England, 1947.
This 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 dish has a border molded in the basket weave relief pattern known as old Brandenstein (Alt Brandenstein) which was first recorded as the work of modeler Johann Friedrich Eberlein in 1741. The center of the dish has the motif of the yellow tiger and bamboo tangled in a thicket of flowers and painted in the Japanese Kakiemon style in onglaze enamels surrounded by a circle of scattered flowers; bunches of flowers with birds and insects decorate the plate’s rim. The symmetry of the design is not characteristic of Japanese Kakiemon wares and Meissen designers adapted motifs from Kakiemon prototypes for the dinner service of which this dish was once a part.
The yellow tiger and bamboo pattern was first adopted from a Japanese model for Meissen’s Yellow Lion Service (Gelber Löwe), even though the animal wrapped around a bamboo is clearly a tiger (see ID #: 1983.0565.05). There are no records to confirm that this particular service was reserved for court use only, but the molded relief, old Brandenstein, was named such after the chief officer of the kitchens (Oberküchenmeister) at the Saxon court, Friedrich August von Brandenstein, who visited the Meissen manufactory early in 1741 and placed an order for a full dinner service. A tea and coffee service was also made with the old Brandestein relief pattern and the same motif of the tiger and bamboo with flowers, birds, and insects.
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.
Tigers are not native to Japan, but the animal gained potent symbolic status when adopted from Chinese Buddhist culture in about the sixth century C.E. The tiger, associated with courage in Japanese culture is also representative of the wind, and when depicted with bamboo the creature can symbolize the wind rustling through bamboo. In the dense and impenetrable bamboo forest the tiger is perceived as the only animal capable of moving through its thickets, and the image on this plate may have a residual reference to the tiger’s symbolic relationship to the wind and the forest.
For further information and other examples from this service as well as the tea and coffee service see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Pozellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, pp. 453-459; den Blaauwen, A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, pp. 230-232.
On the Japanese Kakiemon style and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750; Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection;
Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.
On the meaning of the tiger and bamboo in oriental art see K. M. Ball (1927 and 2004) Animal Motifs in Asian Art.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 128-129.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Kakiemon (European) (overall style)
overall: 9 3/4 in; 24.765 cm
overall: 2 1/8 in x 9 3/4 in; 5.3975 cm x 24.765 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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