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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. 1⅞" 4.8cm; Saucer: D. 5½" 14cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1745
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.21 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “20” in gold; “63” impressed on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1944.
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.
Elaborate scroll cartouches in gold and black frame the subjects painted in overglaze enamel on this cup and saucer. The cup has a man riding a horse toward the viewer through a rural landscape. The saucer shows an elegant couple walking away from the viewer through a village with their dog attracted by something to their right. Generally identified as Watteau figures after the French painter Jean Antoine Watteau (1685-1721) and followers like Jean Baptiste Pater (1695-1736), and Nicholas Lancret (1690-1743), these subjects have an attenuated relationship to their work. The couple stroll through a village reminiscent of Dutch and Flemish artists as they approach a windmill to their left with a church spire in the distance, and the Meissen manufactory accumulated a large resource of prints after the works of such artists as Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). The subjects on this cup and saucer owe as much to Dutch or Flemish precursors as they might do to Watteau, and they represent the attraction of the idealized landscape as an escape from the formality of court or confined city life. Meissen painters did not always copy directly from the prints made available to them, they adapted the compositions and took ideas from more than one source, and this was expected of them. It was often the case that a Meissen landscape painter and a figure painter had their own specialist input to the decoration of one piece. Scattered German flowers (deutsche Blumen ) are painted on the white areas outside the cartouches.
Scattered German flowers (deutsche Blumen ) and insects are painted in overglaze enamels on the white areas outside the cartouches.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures 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.
Ornamental gold painting was the work of another specialist.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93. 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. 320-321.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1745
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
genre scenes and German flowers (overall style)
cup: 1 7/8 in; 4.7625 cm
saucer: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
overall cup: 1 7/8 in x 4 in x 3 1/8 in; 4.7625 cm x 10.16 cm x 7.9375 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 1/4 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.335 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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