Meissen Böttger porcelain tea bowl and saucer (Hausmalerei)

Meissen Böttger porcelain tea bowl and saucer (Hausmalerei)

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PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
These tea bowls and saucers are 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 collector and 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 Germany, 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.
January 15, 1708, is the date for the earliest known recipe for white hard-paste porcelain, but it took five more years of experiments and trials to develop a product for the market. So-called Böttger porcelain denotes the early years of production from 1713 until Böttger’s death in 1719, but versions of his hard-paste porcelain continued in use until the 1730s.
The tea bowls and saucers have sprays of rosebuds applied to the exteriors painted in green and gold. Elaborate scrollwork winds around the floral relief decoration. The interiors of the tea bowls have elaborate scrollwork hanging from their rims, and in bowl B on the right you can see an owl perching on a branch. The interiors of the saucers have chinoiseries placed on scrollwork consoles with solid gold frames falling from the rims. This work is by the Augsburg Hausmaler Abraham Seuter(1689-1747).
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers, and such luxury items like these were affordable only to the elites of European society. Many of the Meissen tea and coffee services of this early period were produced for diplomatic and royal family gifts.
On the Hausmaler Abraham Seuter see Ducret, S., 1971-1972, Meissner Porzellan bemalt in Augsburg 1718 bis um 1750 Vols. 1-2.
On diplomatic gift giving see Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2008, Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts 1710-1763
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 492-493
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
Physical Description
hard-paste Boettger porcelain (overall material)
painted in onglaze gold and green (overall color)
cup: 1 3/4 in; 4.445 cm
saucer: 5 1/8 in; 13.0175 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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