Meissen cup and saucer

Meissen cup and saucer

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
TITLE: Meissen cup and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H 1½" 3.8cm; Saucer D. 4¾" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.12ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; two dots overglaze in iron-red and “10” impressed on cup; “11” impressed on saucer (former’s numbers).
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
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 exteriors of both the cup and saucer have yellow onglaze grounds. On the interior of the saucer there is a finely painted and well composed onglaze enamel painting of a man and a dog crossing a high bridge over a river. A fisherman stands on the left bank of the river with a village in the background and just discernible is a windmill in the far distance. In white reserves on the exterior of the cup there are river and harbor scenes also painted in black with some iron-red.
Waterways formed a major conduit for trade in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, and artists produced a large number of paintings and prints that featured everyday life alongside rivers, canals and harbors. The enduring popularity of waterside and landscape subjects, especially the tranquil rural scenes depicted in prints by artists like Jan van de Velde, held particular appeal for Europeans confined to city and court. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure. Printed images enriched people’s lives and a series of prints might take the viewer on a journey, real or imaginary. Prints performed a role in European visual culture later extended by photography and film, and they provided artisans and artists with images, motifs, and patterns applied in many branches of the applied arts.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. Onglaze colored grounds, like the yellow ground seen here were applied onto the surface of the glaze either with a stippling brush in which the pigment was flicked onto the surface of the glaze from a lightly loaded brush, or applied in powder form from a pad, a difficult technique that required skill in order to achieve an even coat with good depth of color. Gold rim lines were applied by another worker in the painting division.
On seventeenth-century Dutch art see Gibson, W.S., (2000) Pleasant Places: the rustic landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael; Goddard, S.H., (1984) Sets and Series: prints from the Low Countries, exhibition catalog, Yale University Art Gallery.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 306-307.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
harbor scenes (overall description of decoration)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
black enamel, yellow ground, gold rim lines (overall color)
river scenes (overall style)
bowl: 1 1/2 in; 3.81 cm
saucer: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall cup: 1 5/8 in x 3 5/16 in x 3 in; 4.1275 cm x 8.4455 cm x 7.62 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.54 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
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