Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. No re-opening date is available at this time. Check our website and social media for updates.

Meissen rinsing bowl

Meissen rinsing bowl

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
TITLE: Meissen rinsing bowl
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
OBJECT NAME: Rinsing bowl
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.14
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in undeglaze blue; “St” in gold (painter’s mark); “18” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
This rinsing bowl 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 subjects painted in polychrome enamels on this bowl were based on the large number of prints after paintings by Dutch artists of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1730s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many Dutch artists, especially Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde II(1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). Meissen painters often based their images on imaginary landscapes by Dutch artists, and were encouraged to use their imagination to ensure that their work was unique to each porcelain piece in a set of vases, a table or tea and coffee service.
The painting represents a continuous scene encircling the exterior of the bowl in which handsomely dressed so-called “Watteau” figures appear at rest on the banks of a river with their dog nearby, a man on horseback approaches along a path while a figure can be seen walking behind him. On the river a man and a woman are ferried to the opposite side. As the scene continues around the bowl a village appears in the distance and a man sits at rest beside the road. Subjects like this were symptomatic of the nobility’s idealized projection of their persons into a pastoral context that was perceived to be a site of simplicity and picturesque tranquility free of the obligations imposed by court society. At the same time it was a statement of land ownership where the privileged surveyed their possessions from their position of advantage?
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers.
Rinsing bowls were used to dispense with tea and coffee dregs before refilling cups or tea bowls with fresh liquid.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93. On Dutch landscape painting see Gibson, W. S., 2000, Pleasant Places: The Rustic Landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael.
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. 308-309.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, rinsing
date made
ca 1740-1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
rural landscape with figures (overall style)
overall: 3 3/8 in; 8.5725 cm
overall: 3 5/8 in x 7 in; 9.2075 cm x 17.78 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object