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: Tea bowl: H. 1⅝" 4.2cm; Saucer: D. 4⅝" 11.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1735-1740
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1984.1140.32ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; three small circles impressed on cup, possibly the former Gottfried Seydel (or Seidel); two six-pointed stars incised on saucer attributable to the former Christian Meynert (Meinert).
PURCHASED FROM: The Art Exchange, New York, 1960.
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.
Painted in the Japanese Imari style the tea bowl and saucer have panels of purple luster with a gold diaper brocade pattern and chrysanthemum emblem alternating with white panels featuring prunus trees in flower and field chrysanthemums. The chrysanthemum emblem with its sixteen petals resembles the Japanese Imperial seal still common to many decorative items produced in contemporary Japan. Encircling a larger chrysanthemum motif in the center of the saucer is an iron-red band with a floral and foliate design left in white, and the same band encircles the interior rim of the tea bowl.
Japanese Imari wares came from kilns near the town of Arita in the north-western region of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island, and were exported by the Dutch through the port of Imari from their trading base on the island of Dejima. Decorated in the Aka-e-machi, the enameling center in Arita, Imari wares are generally distinguished from those made in the Kakiemon style by the darker palette of enamel colors and densely patterned surfaces, some of which are clearly derived from Japanese and South-East Asian textiles and known in Japan as brocade ware (nishiki-de), but there are considerable variations within this broad outline. Unlike the Kakiemon style a high proportion of Japanese Imari wares combined underglaze blue painting with overglaze enamel colors.
Original Japanese Imari collected by the European aristocracy was much admired for its opulent decorative style. The Saxon Elector and King of Poland, Augustus II, held examples in his porcelain collection at the Japanese Palace in Dresden, and the Meissen Manufactory produced designs that were very close imitations of the Japanese originals, or independent designs based on Japanese and Chinese prototypes. When no longer imported to Europe imitations of the Imari style gained wider popularity later in the eighteenth century, most notably in the products of the English Worcester and Derby porcelain manufactorie. Royal Crown Derby continues to produce a derivative pattern called Traditional Imari today.
For a detailed account of the Imari style 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.See also Takeshi Nagataki, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon; Rotondo-McCord, L., 1997, Imari: Japanese Porcelain for European Palaces: The Freda and Ralph Lupin Collection; Goro Shimura, 2008, The Story of Imari: the Symbols and Mysteries of antique Japanese Porcelain.
On Gottfried Seydel see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, p. 129; on Christian Meinert see p.121.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 198-199.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
ca 1735-1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
Imari (overall style)
bowl: 1 5/8 in; 4.1275 cm
saucer: 4 5/8 in; 11.7475 cm
overall tea bowl: 1 3/4 in x 2 7/8 in; 4.445 cm x 7.3025 cm
overalls saucer: 1 1/8 in x 4 5/8 in; 2.8575 cm x 11.7475 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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