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Meissen teapot and cover

Meissen teapot and cover

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TITLE: Meissen teapot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 5⅛" 13.1cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1730
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.02ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “
This teapot 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 teapot has a shape common to other Meissen services produced during the 1720s with a mask at the base of the spout. A rock and flower pattern is painted on the cover and the pot in the Japanese Kakiemon style representing a garden landscape, although the cover is a replacement of the original. Three square objects (little tables or pavilions in a garden setting) appear to hover above the landscape, and these are possibly motifs abstracted by Japanese painters from Kakiemon wares made for the domestic market.
The rocks painted on the teapot have holes in them with foliage visible through the aperture. Japanese enamel painters imitated motifs originally found in Chinese landscape painting on the Kakiemon style porcelains from Arita made for export, but more broadly Japan also absorbed Chinese traditions in the design of their gardens that incorporated rocks as aesthetic and symbolic features. Mountains, revered by the Chinese since antiquity, were sites of supernatural powers associated with the Immortals of mythology, and by the Tang (A.D. 618-907) and Song (907-1279) dynasties rocks found appreciation in garden settings for aesthetic as well as spiritual reasons. When the Mongol invasion brought an end to the Song dynasty Chinese immigrants to Japan brought with them ideas that took shape in the Japanese gardens of the monasteries and the cultured elite. Japan’s urban society of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries developed a romantic sensibility towards nature that was formalized in their garden design. The stylized motif on the teapot therefore represents a preoccupation with the natural world of considerable significance in Japanese cultural life, but its full meaning was bound to be obscure to the Meissen painters who copied the Japanese originals in the Dresden collections, and to European collectors of Japanese and Meissen porcelain who responded favorably to the Kakiemon style.
On the Japanese Kakiemon style and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750; Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection
On the significance of rocks in Chinese gardens see Keswick, M., 1978, The Chinese Garden: History, Art, and Architecture, pp. 169-178; Kuitert, W., 2002, Themes in the History of Japanese Garden Art, p. xiv; Fang Jing Pei (et al.), 1997, Treasures of the Chinese Scholar, p. 127.
On the impact of Chinese porcelain in a global context see Robert Finlay, 2010, The Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 178-179.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1725
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
blue underglaze (overall color)
overall: 5 1/8 in; 13.0175 cm
overall: 5 in x 6 11/16 in x 4 5/16 in; 12.7 cm x 16.9545 cm x 10.9855 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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