Meissen coffee pot and cover

Meissen coffee pot and cover

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TITLE: Meissen coffeepot and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 8⅜" 21.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1735-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.44ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “a” in purple over the glaze on the base and inner cover (painter’s marks).
PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1960.
This coffeepot and cover 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 coffeepot and cover based on silver prototypes have purple grounds and in the reserve on one side of the pot a rural cottage with a figure emerging from the door stands near a river bank; in the other reserve a well-dressed family watch as a man sails a small vessel on the river. On the cover are two harbor scenes. The handle has old metal repairs.
Sources for enamel painted landscapes and river scenes came from the large number of prints after paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century, and they formed a major part of Meissen’s decorative output from the early 1730s until the 1760s.The enduring popularity of waterside and landscape subjects, especially the tranquil rural scenes depicted in prints by artists like Jan van de Velde, held particular appeal for city dwellers and for the nobility at court. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined, and for whom rural life represented a picturesque diversion. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure.
The colored ground was applied using a brush lightly loaded with purple enamel color which was then flicked onto the surface of the glaze, possibly preprared with gum arabic for adhesion. The reserves were either masked out or the ground color was carefully wiped off after application.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. 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.
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, and on colored grounds pp. 267-274.
On Dutch prints see Goddard, S. H., 1984, Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries.
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. 302-303.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1735-1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
land andscape and river scenes with figures (overall style)
overall: 8 3/8 in; 21.2725 cm
overall: 8 3/8 in x 6 1/4 in x 4 1/2 in; 21.2725 cm x 15.875 cm x 11.43 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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