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Meissen figure of a boy in costume

Meissen figure of a boy in costume

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a boy in costume
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4¾" 12.1 cm.
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1765-1770
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.31
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This figure 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.
Several figures of children representing characters in the Italian Comedy appeared in 1765, some of them modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775)in the 1750s before the Seven Years War (1756-1763), then remodeled and repaired after the war by the new modeler from France, Michel Victor Acier(1736-1799), who joined Meissen in 1764. This figure represents the Italian Comedy character Scaramouche, although not in the black clothing traditionally worn by this rogue portrayed as an untrustworthy gentleman’s servant prone to get himself into trouble and extricating himself by landing someone entirely innocent in his predicament. In print sources Scaramouche frequently appears as a musician or a dancer, and the figure here is one of many child subjects that represent dancing.
Many of the child figures are diminutive versions of adult subjects, especially gardeners, earlier modeled by Kaendler and again retouched and repaired by Acier in the 1760s. Child musicians, vintners and street traders (see the pastry seller 1993.447.03), children dressed in the Turkish style (see 1992.0427.16), children dancing (see 1992.0427.09), are common themes. Drawings by, and engravings after, the French painter François Boucher, were the models for many of the child figures, especially the pastoral subjects and flower girls.
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 figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
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.
On the Italian Comedy figures see Meredith Chilton, 2001, Harlequin Unmasked: The Commedia dell’Arte and Porcelain Sculpture,.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 466-467.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1765-1770
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 (overall style)
overall: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall: 4 13/16 in x 2 1/8 in x 2 1/2 in; 12.22375 cm x 5.3975 cm x 6.35 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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