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. 9⅛" 23.2cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffeepot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.57 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “L” in gold; “C” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
This coffeepot 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 pear-shaped coffeepot has gold and black enamel scrolled cartouches on each side framing finely painted battle scenes between European and Ottoman military in overglaze purple enamel. On the cover two vignettes depict the same subject. Many of the Meissen battle scenes were based on engravings after the work of battle scene painters Georg Philipp Rugendas the Elder (1666-1742)and August Querfurth (1696-1761), among many other artists who documented the cavalry battles and skirmishes fought on European soil in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. In 1683, following a two month siege of the city of Vienna, Habsburg armies forced the Ottoman military into retreat, but the threat to Central and Eastern Europe from the Ottoman Empire remained vivid in the European imagination, and there were many more conflicts ahead. There was still a strong sense of the topicality of these subjects which explains their presence on this coffeepot.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and battle scenes 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.
The gold decoration on this coffeepot was painted and polished by others in the manufactory specializing in this work. Although not from the same service which has a different pattern of gold decoration compare the coffeepot with the pair of cups and saucers (ID number 1983.0565.57Aa,Bb).
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 the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On the subject of war in prints see Clifton, J., Scatone, L. M., Fetraci, E., 2009, The Plains of Mars: European War Prints, 1500-1825.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 326-327.
Currently not on view
Object Name
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)
battle scenes (overall style)
overall: 9 1/8 in; 23.1775 cm
overall: 9 1/4 in x 6 11/16 in x 5 1/16 in; 23.495 cm x 16.98625 cm x 12.85875 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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