Meissen miniature vase

Meissen miniature vase

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TITLE: Meissen miniature vase
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 31/16 ; 7.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Miniature vase
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1723-1735
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacture
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.29
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: Gift from Emily Syz, 1942.
This miniature vase 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 vase has a gourd-like shape painted with stylized orchids based on Imari designs. Delicately painted and punctuated with a band of abstract pattern in iron-red on the shoulder a miniature vase like this was most likely seen on the elaborately decorated dessert tables at court banquets or in a porcelain room as part of a schematic decoration, and may have been one of a series. Generally identified as Indian flowers these designs began to appear on Meissen porcelain in the mid-1720s when Johann Gregor Höroldt introduced brilliant new enamel colors to the manufactory’s painting division. Stylized representations of peonies, chrysanthemums, lotus plants, pomegranate fruits, and prunus blossoms can be recognized alongside more fanciful flowers. On larger Meissen vessels the Indian flowers are often bold and rich in color, but clearly more restrained when seen on smaller objects like this miniature vase, which has characteristics of both the Imari and Kakiemon styles.
The term “Indian” described in general the exotic goods shipped to Europe from the the Indian subcontinent and the Far East during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Meissen painters under Johann Gregor Höroldt’s direction studied the Chinese and Japanese floral motifs on porcelain in the Dresden collections held at the Japanese palace, copying and adapting their designs from the originals to suit European taste.
On the use of the Dresden collections for Meissen designs see Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, p.24.
On Imari and Kakiemon-style porcelains see Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 176-177.
Currently not on view
Object Name
vase, miniature
date made
ca 1725-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Indian flowers (overall style)
overall: 3 1/16 in; 7.77875 cm
overall: 2 7/8 in x 1 1/2 in; 7.3025 cm x 3.81 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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