Meissen plate

Meissen plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¼" 23.5cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.23
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “16” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Galerie Fischer, Lucerne, Switzerland, 1947.
PROVENANCE: Ex Coll. C. H. Fischer
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 has a petal-shaped rim and is painted in onglaze enamels with three butterflies on the flange and with a horse-like creature of fable (Fabeltier) prancing in the center flanked by exotic plants; two birds fly above the scene.
The Meissen artist accredited with the introduction of the imaginary beasts of fable (Fabeltiere) is Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck (1714-1754) who developed a painting style quite different to that of the director of the painting division, Johann Gregor Höroldt (1696-1775). Löwenfinck joined the manufactory in 1727, but his career as a painter at Meissen was short following completion of his apprenticeship in 1734. In 1736 he left Saxony under a cloud following a serious conflict with another worker at Meissen that had legal consequences he wished to avoid. Nevertheless, his work at the manufactory, and subsequently at several faience manufactories in the German territories, is considered exceptional in quality and originality.
The fabulous beasts (Fabeltiere) came from East Asian sources and from printed material available in early modern European publications depicting animals both real, imaginary, or a mixture of both. Although published in the mid-sixteenth century Conrad Gessner’s four-volume Historia Animalium was still a major reference work over one hundred years later, reprinted and copied by authors and publishers many times over.The creature on this plate has the body and legs of a strange piebald horse, but its long neck and bizarre head with long ears are more reptilian, like the little dragons seen on Japanese Kakiemon porcelain and copied by Meissen painters (see ID# 74.136). The flowing tail and spikey mane also refer to creatures depicted on Japanese Kakiemon wares in the Dresden collections. Other Meissen painters worked in Löwenfinck’s style, and this plate is an example of one that was painted about four years after he left the manufactory.
On the Meissen painter Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck see the exhibition catalog Phantastic World: Painting on Meissen Porcelain and German Faience by Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck 1714-1754, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, 2014, and Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 171-173.
For more examples of this class of subjects see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 232-236.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collectio: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 216-217.
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)
beast of fable (Fabeltier) (overall style)
blue underglaze (overall color)
overall: 9 1/4 in; 23.495 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 9 1/4 in; 3.175 cm x 23.495 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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