Meissen teapot in the form of a monkey and young

Meissen teapot in the form of a monkey and young

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TITLE: Meissen teapot in the form of a monkey with young
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 6¾" 17.2cm
OBJECT NAME: Monkey teapot
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.15
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in blue on unglazed base.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1945.
This teapot in the form of a monkey with young 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.
Molded in the shape of a monkey mother with two young forming the spout and handle, the model was the work of Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) and is mentioned in his work book entry for July 1735 (Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Johann Joachim Kaendler 1706-1775, Edition Leipzig, 2002, p.33). Several of these teapots exist, but most are painted. The cover for the bowl held by the young monkey on its mother’s back is missing.
Monkeys were a common sight in the palaces and great houses of the eighteenth century. Popular pets, the belts worn by the monkeys in this teapot represent the means by which these animals were secured to a chain. They entertained city and country people at the seasonal fairs and festivals, teased them on the city streets, and performed tricks for their amusement under the direction of their human captors, so making them familiar to people across society. Monkeys were part of the trade in exotic animals from Africa, Central and South America, and Asia, and their fate in Europe was often to sicken and die when separated from their natural habitat in the ownership of Europeans ignorant of their needs.
The teapot is an example of the popular series of vessels in the form of animals produced by European porcelain and earthenware manufacturers in the eighteenth century, although the zoomorphic vessel has a much longer and distinguished history that can be traced back to antiquity.
An interesting account of the animal trade is in Robbins, L. E., 2002, Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris.
For a fine example of a painted version of this piece see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p. 492.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 272-273.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
white (overall color)
monkey teapot (overall style)
monochrome (overall surface decoration color name)
overall: 6 3/4 in; 17.145 cm
overall: 6 3/4 in x 6 3/4 in x 3 1/2 in; 17.145 cm x 17.145 cm x 8.89 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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