Meissen cup and saucer (part of a service)

Meissen cup and saucer (part of a service)

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TITLE: Meissen: Part of a tea service
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Coffeepot: H.7" 17.8cm; Teapot: 4⅜" 11.1cm; Cups H. 2" 5.1cm; Saucers: D. 5¾" 14.6cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea service
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745-1760
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.52a,b; 53a,b; 54AB
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 147a,b; 148a,b;149AB
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; Maltese cross impressed on coffeepot; “53” impressed on saucers.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
These pieces from a tea service are in 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.
Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony (reg. 1733-1763), ordered a large service for Tsarina Elizabeth of Russia (reg. 1741-1761) on the occasion of the marriage of her nephew Karl Peter Ulrich Duke of Holstein-Gottorf (later Tsar Peter III, reg. 1761-1762) to Princess Sophia Augusta Frederica of Anhalt-Zerbst (laterTsarina Catherine II, reg. 1762-1796). The service was one of the early diplomatic gifts produced at Meissen on a large scale, and included a tea and coffee service in the 400 items sent to Russia in 1745.
Unpainted sections on this service are decorated with the “raised flowers” (erhabene Blumen) in relief; a pattern modeled for a service in 1741and ordered two or three years later by the Berlin merchant, art dealer, and porcelain entrepreneur Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky (1710-1775). The enamel painted sections contain the double-headed imperial eagle with St. George on the pectoral shield, which is one of the emblems on the chain of the Imperial Order of St. Andrew First Called, and the cross of St Andrew can be seen on the saucers. The Order of St. Andrew was founded in 1698 by Tsar Peter I the Great. The naturalistic German flowers are painted in overglaze enamel in a style that followed the German woodcut flowers (Holzschnittblumen) that appear on the service for the Tsarina, indicating that these pieces were a later addition to the service, or made at a later date for the Russian market. The gold border decorating the rims was the work of a specialist gold painter.
In the eighteenth century tea, coffee, and chocolate was served in the private apartments of aristocratic women, usually in the company of other women, but also with male admirers and intimates present. In affluent middle-class households tea and coffee drinking was often the occasion for an informal family gathering. Coffee houses were exclusively male establishments and operated as gathering places for a variety of purposes in the interests of commerce, politics, culture, and social pleasure.
On the service for Tsarina Elizabeth see Lydia Liackhova, chapter 4 “In a Porcelain Mirror: Reflections of Russia from Peter I to Empress Elizabeth” in Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2008, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts 1710-63; Ulrich Pietsch “Famous Eighteenth-Century Meissen Dinner Services” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.101-102.
On tea and coffee drinking see see Ukers, W. H., 1922, All About Coffee, and 1935, All About Tea; on the practice of drinking tea, coffee, and chocolate see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850; See also Weinberg, B.A., Bealer, B.K., 2002, The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug. On the coffee house see Ellis, M. 2011, The Coffee House: A Cultural History.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 290-291.
Currently on loan
Object Name
date made
ca 1745-1760
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamel and gold (overall color)
floral painting and relief modeling (overall style)
russian imperial eagle and st. andrew's cross (overall description of decoration)
blue underglaze (overall color)
cup: 2 in; 5.08 cm
saucer: 5 3/4 in; 14.605 cm
overall cup: 2 in x 4 3/8 in x 3 5/8 in; 5.08 cm x 11.1125 cm x 9.2075 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/16 in x 5 3/4 in; 2.69875 cm x 14.605 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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