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Meissen octagonal plate

Meissen octagonal plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9½" 24.2cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.36
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “22” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Galerie Jürg Stuker, Bern, Switzerland, 1964.
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.
Meissen based the shape of this softly molded octagonal plate on a Chinese prototype in the Dresden collections. Following the Chinese famille verte porcelains much admired by Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and characterized by their translucent emerald green enamel patterns, the famille rose palette was even more attractive to Europeans. Ruby glass and rose pink enamel colors were developed in Europe before they were seen in China; it is not clear how the transmission from Europe to China occurred, if indeed it did so by that route, but most likely it was through enameled objects taken to China by Europeans through trade or as diplomatic gifts. The translucent ruby red pigment, derived from the presence of nanoparticles of colloidal gold in glass, was painted over, or mixed with, an opaque white to give various shades of pink.
Peonies on a gold scrolled background decorate the rim of the plate and in the center the composition has motifs from the Chinese“hundred antiques” that include a vase containing a chrysanthemum, scholars’ scrolls, a gameboard, and a peony in bloom. The motifs depicting the “hundred antiques” do not amount to that number exactly but refer to the notion of a quantity of various objects associated with antiquity, the arts, learning, and the natural world that were valued by the Chinese elite, especially the scholars. An interloper of Manchu origin the Khang-Hsi emperor (1662-1722) encouraged revival of traditional Han Chinese culture to gain greater security and stability for the empire under the Qing dynasty. In addition to their role as objects of connoisseurship and contemplation in the Confucian tradition the emblems of the “hundred antiques” were used as decorative motifs common to Chinese textiles, furniture, lacquer wares, and ceramics.
Two plates with the same impressed number “22” are in the collection of Ernst Schneider, Schloss Lustheim, in Munich, see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 398-399.
A terrine now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and made at the earlier date of about 1735 has a similar pattern to that in the center of the plate, see den Blaauwen, A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, p. 44. See also the plate dated 1735 in Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p. 237.
On famille rose enamel see Valenstein, S. G., 1975 (1989), A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, p.242, and
Needham, J., 2004, Kerr, R., Wood, N., Vol. 5, Part 12, Science and Civilization in China: Ceramic Technology, p.634.
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. 224-225.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
famille rose (overall style)
blue (overall color)
overall: 9 1/2 in; 24.13 cm
overall: 1 3/16 in x 9 1/2 in; 2.9845 cm x 24.13 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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