Meissen tea bowl and saucer (Hausmaler)

Meissen tea bowl and saucer (Hausmaler)

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TITLE: Meissen tea bowl and saucer (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Bowl: H.1¾" 4.5 cm
Saucer: D. 4⅝" 11.8 cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.14 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1942.
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 Germany, 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 were made in the Meissen Manufactory but painted outside by an independent artist. Hausmalerei is a German word that means in literal translation ‘home painting’, and it refers to the practice of painting enamels and gold onto the surface of blank ceramics and glass in workshops outside the manufactory of origin. Beginning in the seventeenth century the work of the Hausmaler varied in quality from the outstanding workshops of Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland), to the less skilled efforts of amateur artists. Early Meissen porcelain was sought after for this purpose, and wealthy patrons of local enameling and gilding workshops purchased undecorated porcelain, often of outmoded or inferior quality, which was then enameled with subjects of their choice. Hausmalerei was at first acceptable to the early porcelain manufactories like Meissen and Vienna, and Meissen sent blank porcelain to Augsburg workshops for decoration, but as the market became more competitive they tried to eradicate the practice. It was a temptation for Meissen porcelain painters to take on extra work as Hausmaler to augment their low pay, and the manufactory cautioned or imprisoned them if Hausmalerei activity was suspected or discovered.
The tea bowl and saucer were painted in underglaze blue with the Chinese “rock and bird” pattern and with gold over the glaze at the Meissen manufactory. The Hausmaler F.J. Ferner, who it is thought worked in Thuringia, but about whom little is known, used the white spaces between the patterns to paint European subjects in enamel colors. Here he painted the interior of the bowl and the flange of the saucer with stags and foxes interspersed with floral decoration.
Underglaze blue is a pigment made from cobalt oxide that is applied to the surface of the vessel on porous “biscuit-fired” porcelain before the glaze firing. At first, the Meissen manufactory struggled to find success in underglaze blue painting in imitation of Chinese and Japanese prototypes because cobalt oxide is a powerful flux and runs easily losing the pattern under the glaze. After exhaustive trials the Meissen team developed a stable pigment and a highly successful form of decoration entered production at Meissen in the mid 1720s. Cobalt was mined locally in the mineral rich Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) on the Saxon border with Bohemia, now the Czech Republic.
On Hausmaler see Ulrich Pietsch, 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 43-46.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 554-555.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, tea
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
flowers (joint piece description of decoration)
rock & bird (overall description of decoration)
underglaze blue flowers (overall description of decoration)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
underglaze blue and polychrome painting (overall color)
Hausmalerei (overall style)
overall tea bowl: 1 13/16 in x 2 7/8 in; 4.60375 cm x 7.3025 cm
overall saucer: 1 in x 4 11/16 in; 2.54 cm x 11.90625 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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