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Meissen cup and saucer

Meissen cup and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 1⅝" 4.2cm; Saucer: D. 5¼" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.08 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “66” or “99” impressed on cup; “2” impressed on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, 1943.
This cup 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 cup and saucer have flowering prunus in relief on their exterior surfaces and this type of decoration revived in the 1740s is reminiscent of the early Böttger porcelains with similar ornament based on Chinese Dehua (blanc de Chine) porcelains with the prunus branches in high relief; prototypes with this pattern were in the royal collections in Dresden and made available to Johann Friedrich Böttger as models for early Meissen porcelain. In 1745 Johann Joachim Kaendler revived some of the patterns from the first decade of Meissen’s production that were particularly admired.The motif of the flowering prunus came from Chinese sources where plum trees depicted in late winter and early spring bloom symbolized resilience and rebirth after winter and the harbinger of spring.
The manufactory employed “mechanics” (Mechaniker), men who could maintain and oversee the use of machinery for the processing of materials, but also invent tools and devices that extended and supported the skills of mold makers and turners, ensuring a standard in uniformity and quality in the production of table services in particular. Most of Meissen’s vessels were made in plaster of Paris molds rotated on a wheel with the turner (Dreher) using a template or profile to guide the shape to an even thickness so as to avoid distortion in the firing. Oval forms were made using machines designed to carry a profile that followed an eccentric movement guided by a jig. All wares were turned in rough form and the porcelain allowed to air dry until it could hold its own shape before refining the surface with iron turning tools, smoothing away blemishes with a sponge, and polishing with a small piece of ivory or horn: all these mechanical devices and tools were made in the manufactory, sometimes improved upon and made by workers themselves. (See Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, p. 100).
On blanc de Chine in the Hickley Collection, Singapore, see Kerr, R., and Ayers, J., 2002, Blanc de Chine Porcelain from Dehua, and especially the contribution by Eva Ströber, “Dehua Porcelain in the Collection of Augustus the Strong in Dresden.”
For evidence of the Meissen Manufactory’s technical workers the methods employed see Rückert, R. 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 220-221.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740-1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
monochrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (cup material)
blue underglaze (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
white (overall color)
raised prunus blossoms (overall style)
cup: 1 5/8 in; 4.1275 cm
saucer: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall cup: 1 3/4 in x 3 3/4 in x 2 3/4 in; 4.445 cm x 9.525 cm x 6.985 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.8575 cm x 12.065 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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