Meissen plate

Meissen plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9⅛" 23.2cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1729-1731
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.41
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in overglaze blue; “N=72/W” engraved (Johanneum mark).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1948.
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 circular plate has a tiger and a bamboo design that straddles the transition from flange to well in which there is the coat of arms of Poland-Lithuania applied at a later date. The tiger and bamboo pattern is painted in the Kakiemon style in a limited palette of iron-red, sea-green, gold, and black. The design was first produced for the Parisian dealer Rodolphe Lemaire, and 85 plates were recovered from the possession of his accomplice Count Hoym in 1731 when their fraudulent scheme to sell Meissen imitations of Far Eastern porcelains as original Japanese and Chinese items was uncovered. The onglaze crossed swords mark on this plate indicates that it was made for Lemaire who intended to erase and replace it with a pseudo Japanese cipher for resale in France. The inventory describes the pattern as “red lion” even though this creature is obviously a tiger. The design is a copy of two Japanese prototypes that were once in the Dresden collection of August II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
Only a few plates carry the somewhat clumsily painted Polish-Lithuanian coat of arms, and with no mention of their presence in the inventory of 1779 it is possible that they were applied after this date, (see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 294-295). Poland and Lithuania together existed under dynastic rule from 1385 until the two countries were united formally at the Union of Lublin in 1569. In the seventeenth century Poland-Lithuania was a powerful early modern state but subject to pressure from neighbors, especially Russia, and increasingly weakened by wars and its own internal conflicts. With support from Russia, Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, was elected King of Poland-Lithuania in 1697, a position that with the exception of five years he managed to hold until his death in 1733. His son Friedrich Augustus III continued as Polish regent until his death in 1763 when the union of Saxony-Poland-Lithuania came to an end.
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 North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
On Japanese Kakiemon porcelain 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, and for this pattern in particular see p.262. See also Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection
For a detailed account of this pattern and the coat of arms puzzle see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 290-295.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 284-285.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
ca 1725-1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
blue underglaze (overall color)
overall: 9 1/8 in; 23.1775 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 9 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 23.6855 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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