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Meissen Böttger porcelain sugar box (Hausmaler)

Meissen Böttger porcelain sugar box (Hausmaler)

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TITLE: Meissen sugar box and cover (Hausmaler)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H.2½" 6.3cm; L. 4¾" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar box
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1715-20 (Meissen)
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.67 a,b
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS:”9” in purple luster on base.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
This sugar box 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 psychoanalysis 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 sugar box was 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 out-moded 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 sugar box and cover, based on a contemporary silverware shape, was painted in Augsburg, probably by the Hausmaler Bartholomäus Seuter 1678-1754), after 1725. The subjects are chinoiserie scenes painted on the sides of the container and on the cover, with scrollwork borders around the rims of both box and cover.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers. Only the wealthy could afford to drink these beverages sweetened with sugar from silver or porcelain tea and coffee services. Many of the Meissen services were little used and have survived three hundred years because they were kept as items for decorative display in whole or in part. City dwellers drank coffee in the coffee-houses that first appeared in Europe in the 1650s. Lively institutions for generating commercial activity on local and global scales, they were also meeting points for intellectual debate and intrigue, but open only to a male clientele. Coffee was served in bowls imported from the port of Canton in China, or from much cheaper, locally made imitations made from tin-glazed earthenware.
On the Augsburg Hausmaler Abraham Seuter see Ducret, S., 1971, Meissner Porzellan bemalt in Augsburg, 1718 bis um 1750, Band 1 Goldmalereien und bunte Chinoiserien.
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 Porcleain and Hausmalerei, pp. 500-501.
Currently not on view
Object Name
box, sugar
date made
ca 1715-1720
Meissen Manufactory
Physical Description
hard-paste Boettger porcelain (overall material)
painted in onglaze gold (overall color)
overall: 2 1/2 in x 4 3/4 in; 6.35 cm x 12.065 cm
overall: 2 1/2 in x 4 13/16 in x 3 7/8 in; 6.35 cm x 12.22375 cm x 9.8425 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection
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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