Meissen tea bowl and saucer

Meissen tea bowl and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Tea bowl: 2" 5.1cm; Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1725-1730
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1981.0702.13 ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Caduceus mark (Merkurstab) in underglaze blue; “N=353/W” engraved (Johanneum mark); “/” incised.
PURCHASED FROM: Max Gluckselig, New York, 1945.
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 in octagonal shape have green grounds forming a wide band for a diaper pattern containing individual flowers in blue, light and dark pink, all with yellow centers. Painted in the Kakiemon style in the center of the saucer is an iron-red chrysanthemum plant.
The chrysanthemum (kiku in Japan) has been a treasured flower since its introduction from China no later than the eighth century, and the stylized sixteen petal chrysanthemum became the seal that represents the imperial family. The emblem is used frequently as a decorative motif in modern day Japan. When a Meissen painter depicted the flower on this saucer the chrysanthemum was a relatively recent seventeenth-century introduction to Europe, reaching North America during the colonial period.
The caduceus mark (Merkurstab) was in use at Meissen in 1722 and its application continued into the early 1730s. With the single serpent the mark resembles more closely the staff of the Greek healer of antiquity, Asclepius, and not the twin serpents on the winged staff of Hermes or Mercury, the winged messenger god of ancient Greece and Rome, but there is evidence to suggest that it was used as a pseudo Chinese mark and may have been appropriated for use later in the 1720s by the Parisian merchant Rodolphe Lemaire.
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 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.
For a detailed account of the 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. See also Impey, O., Jörg, J. A., Mason, C., 2009, Dragons, Tigers and Bamboo: Japanese Porcelain and its Impact in Europe, the Macdonald Collection.
On the caduceus mark see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 30-31.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 180-181.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
ca 1725-1730
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
Kakiemon (overall style)
bowl: 2 in; 5.08 cm
saucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall tea bowl: 2 in x 3 1/8 in x 3 1/8 in; 5.08 cm x 7.9375 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/4 in x 5 5/16 in x 5 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 13.5255 cm x 13.5255 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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