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Meissen plate

Meissen plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 10" 25.4cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.25
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “/” incised; “67” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: H. Bachrach, London, England, 1947.
This plate 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 plate, modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler, has a petal-shaped edge with a brown rim line and floral sprays painted in the Japanese Kakiemon style. In the center of the plate a butterfly rests on a flowering branch in a pattern influenced by Chinese famille verte onglaze and underglaze enamel painting of the K’ang Hsi period (1662-1722); famille verte refers to the group of Chinese porcelains with a color palette dominated by translucent emerald green enamel pigments. Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1670-1733), collected a large amount of famille verte porcelain from China, and another Meissen pattern, the “hawk” (see ID# 1983.0565.33), was based also on this family of Chinese porcelains.
The onglaze enamel painted design on the plate is an example of the Meissen Manufactory’s use of motifs with both Japanese and Chinese origins, and the pattern was intitially in production for the Parisian dealer Rodolphe Lemaire in 1730. Following exposure of Lemaire’s and Count Hoym’s fraudulent activities the pattern was used on services made for the Saxon court; an inventory of the Hubertusburg Royal Saxon Hunting Lodge lists a large service “painted with a butterfly and with a wavy rim.” The lodge was used by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland (1696-1763) not just for hunting in the surrounding forests, but also for lavish court banquets and entertainment. A tureen with the same pattern and with handles modeled in the shape of wild boar heads can be seen in the digital collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum:
On the Hoym-Lemaire affair see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band I, and for more details and further examples of this pattern see Band II, S. 344-356.
On Chinese famille verte see Valenstein S.G., 1975 (1989) A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, pp.227-236.
For three Meissen pieces with the same pattern see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 252-253.
On the impact of Chinese porcelain in a global context see Robert Finlay, 2010, The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 168-169.
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 (overall color)
Kakiemon/Chinese famille verte (overall style)
overall: 10 in; 25.4 cm
overall: 1 5/8 in x 10 1/8 in; 4.1275 cm x 25.7175 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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