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Meissen leaf dish

Meissen leaf dish

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TITLE: Meissen leaf dish
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: L. 10⅜" 26.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Leaf dish
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.07
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: W. H. Lautz, New York, 1963.
This leaf dish 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.
Molded in the shape of a large cabbage leaf, these items were fairly common in Meissen’s production. It is likely they were used during the service of dinners in the French style in which dishes were placed in a decorative manner on the table from which diners selected food for their plate. Each course was carefully designed for an impressive display, but the visual climax of the dinner was the dessert, the course in which specially designed vessels in porcelain and glass supported artfully placed fruits, sweetmeats, jellies and creams, and for which the confectioners created elaborate table decorations in sugar that were augmented by porcelain figures and centerpieces.
The Meissen Manufactory produced several versions of serving vessels in the shape of fruits and vegetables, for example: melon, pomegranate, and peach-shaped teapots based on Chinese and Japanese models, asparagus boxes, a cabbage tureen (see Den Blaauwen, A. L., 2000, Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum, p.341), and the eighteenth-century table, whether furnished in silver, porcelain or faience, featured exuberant displays of flora and fauna tumbling over soup tureens and center pieces. Numerous manufactories of both porcelain and fine earthenware produced vessels in the forms of cabbages and cauliflowers, which were especially popular.
On the Meissen dinner services and table decorations see Ulrich Pietsch “Famous Eighteenth-Century Meissen Dinner Services” and Maureen Cassidy-Geiger “”The Hof-Conditorey in Dresden” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 94-105; 120-131; for a wider study of court table decorations see Bursche, S., 1974, Tafelzier des Barock.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 282-283.
Currently not on view
Object Name
dish, leaf
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
cabbage leaf (overall style)
overall: 10 3/8 in; 26.3525 cm
overall: 2 3/16 in x 10 7/16 in x 8 in; 5.55625 cm x 26.51125 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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