Meissen tea bowl and saucer

Meissen tea bowl and saucer

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TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 2⅛" 5.4cm; D: 5⅝" 14.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730-1735
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.34ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords and “K” in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: William H. Lautz, New York, 1962.
This tea bowl 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 tea bowl and saucer are fluted, but otherwise simple in their form. Decorated in underglaze blue, onglaze iron-red, and gold, the pattern is in the Japanese Imari style, but bears similarity to the Chinese Imari imitations after the Japanese originals that entered production in China in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A flower vase in the center of the saucer, a common motif in Imari designs, is encircled by a wide band with boughs of chrysanthemums, camelias and peonies. Flowers extend their stems outside the circle and around the exterior of the tea bowl.
Japan traded Arita porcelains to the Dutch during the second half of the seventeenth century when Chinese porcelain production at the manufacturing center of Jingdezhen ceased following the turmoil that occurred on the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Once production in Jingdezhen resumed no time was lost in challenging the Japanese market with less expensive Chinese imitations in the Imari style, so much so that the Japanese trade more or less collapsed in the middle of the eighteenth century. The Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus II, held examples of Japanese and Chinese Imari in his porcelain collection at the Japanese Palace in Dresden, and the Meissen Manufactory produced designs that were very close imitations of East Asian originals, or independent designs based on Chinese and Japanese prototypes. Augustus obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
On Japanese Imari porcelain and its European imitators see Ayers, J., Impey, O., Mallet, J.V.G., 1990, Porcelain for Palaces: the fashion for Japan in Europe 1650-1750, pp.233-238. See also Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 244-260.
For a similar saucer to the one seen here and for more details on this type of pattern see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 93-94.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 192-193.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
ca 1730-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Imari (overall style)
bowl: 2 1/8 in; 5.3975 cm
saucer: 5 5/8 in; 14.2875 cm
overall tea bowl: 2 1/8 in x 3 3/4 in; 5.3975 cm x 9.525 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/4 in x 5 7/8 in; 3.175 cm x 14.9225 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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