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: 1984.1140.31
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “16” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Andreina Torré, Zurich, Switzerland, 1960.
This plate is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of European 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.
This plate has a petal-shaped rim with the old ozier (alt Ozier) basket weave pattern in relief on the flange and with insects and flowers painted in purple onglaze enamel at regular intervals. In the center of the plate an imaginary creature somewhat like a camel sits between two flowering plants with scattered insects and flowers above and below.
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 Asian sources and from printed material available in Europe like Conrad Gesner’s Historia Animalium of 1551-1558 and reprinted well into the 17th century, in which are depicted animals both real, imaginary, and a mixture of both. Other Meissen painters worked in Löwenfinck’s style, and this plate is an example of one that was painted four years after he left the manufactory and it is therefore not his work.
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 Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 232-236.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 218-219.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
purple enamel and gold (overall color)
beast of fable (Fabeltier) (overall style)
overall: 9 1/4 in; 23.495 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 9 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 23.6855 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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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