Meissen tea bowl and saucer

Meissen tea bowl and saucer

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Bowl: H. 2⅝" 6.7cm; Saucer: D. 5¾" 14.6cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730-1739.
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.01 ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue “//” incised.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This tea bowl and saucer 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 tea bowl and saucer, fluted to resemble the lotus flower, bear the so-called “red and yellow squirrel” or “flying fox” pattern painted in onglaze enamels from a Japanese Kakiemon prototype made for export to Europe.
The “red and yellow squirrel” pattern, also known as the “flying fox” pattern due to the somewhat ambiguous characteristics of the animals, was reproduced late into the eighteenth century at Meissen.The grapevine was a popular motif in Chinese painting of the T’ang dynasty (618-906) when Chinese influence on the culture of Japan was especially potent during the Nara period (710-784). The grapevine and squirrel motif was adopted by the Japanese possibly from Korea, and in both China and Korea the grapevine symbolizes fertility and the wish for many children. In China the squirrel, like the rat, with their persistent foraging for food symbolize the virtues of hard work and prosperity.The doubt about the identity of the “squirrels” has led to the idea that the creature hurtling through the air is a fox (Japan does have an indigenous giant flying squirrel [musasabi] that inhabits the island of Kyushu), but in the early Edo period there was an inclination among artisans to depart from nature and stylize decorative motifs, allowing for playful invention rather than faithful representation, and this latitude is evident in the illustrated books and encyclopedias published during the later seventeenth century. In Japanese folklore the fox is especially significant as a shape-shifting animal with many tails and powers that interfere with human life, usually but not always mischievous or malevolent, and the kitsune like the tanuki (Japanese wild dog) remain very much alive in Japanese popular culture today.
On the tea bowl and saucer the animals inhabit a garden landscape where flowering and fruiting vines are held in check by rice straw fences. There are in existence many Meissen works with this pattern on a wide range of vessels.
Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on the island of Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki. The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese also resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen). Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
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, and Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection. For more examples of the “squirrel” pattern see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp.268-270.
For further examples and details about this pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 297-309. Julia Weber suggests that the Parisian dealer Rodolphe Lemaire provided the Japanese prototype for this pattern in about 1730 as no example has yet been traced in the royal collections in Dresden.
For an example of the early Edo Period encyclopedias see Kashiragaki zōho kinmō zui taisei by Nakamura Tekisai (1629-1702) on
On the Japanese spirit world see Michael Dylan Foster (2008), Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 134-135.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
ca 1730-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
blue (overall color)
bowl: 2 5/8 in; 6.6675 cm
saucer: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
overall cup: 2 3/4 in x 3 1/8 in; 6.985 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 5/8 in x 5 11/16 in; 4.1275 cm x 14.4145 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
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object