Meissen figure group of a mother and child

Meissen figure group of a mother and child

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TITLE: Meissen figure group of a mother and child at a dressing table
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 7¼ " 18.4cm
OBJECT NAME: Figure group
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1761-1770
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.29
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARK: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1949.
This figure group 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 Germany, 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.
Jacques-Phillippe Le Bas (1707-1783) etched and engraved this subject of a mother and child preparing to leave the house after the painting by Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) La Toilette du Matin (The Morning Toilet) executed in 1741. It entered the Meissen repertory of figure groups when intimate family subjects depicting middle-class society became popular in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century. The Meissen figure group, modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775), introduces movement into the subject through flowing drapery that is not expressed in Chardin’s restrained painting. The lap dog and the cat are Meissen additions not present in the original painting or the engraving by Le Bas.
Jacques-Phillippe Le Bas was prolific in the production of prints in mid-eighteenth-century Paris. He operated a large studio and trained printmakers in his own school. Engravings by Le Bas, and from his workshop, found their way into the collections of prints used at Meissen and Sèvres in the mid-eighteenth century. He specialized in the production of topographical subjects, and prints after the paintings of the Flemish artist David Teniers (1610-1690), and the Dutch artist Philips Wouverman (1619-1668).
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The group is painted in overglaze enamel colors and gold.
On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp. 61-67.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 444-445.
Currently not on view
Object Name
figurine, group
date made
ca 1761-1770
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue underglaze (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
figure group (overall style)
overall: 7 1/4 in x 9 in; 18.415 cm x 22.86 cm
overall: 7 5/16 in x 8 3/4 in x 4 3/8 in; 18.57375 cm x 22.225 cm x 11.1125 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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