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Meissen tea caddy

Meissen tea caddy

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TITLE: Meissen tea caddy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 4¼" 10.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740-1750
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.17
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
PURCHASED FROM: The Art Exchange, New York, 1961.
This tea caddy 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.
This rectangular tea caddy appears very similar to a milk pot (ID number 71.204) but the cartouches, with their elaborate foliage scrolls and drapery are not identical and the caddy belongs to another service. The cartouches frame waterside scenes on the front and back with similar subjects on the sides all painted in overglaze purple enamel with some gold highlights. Insects are depicted on the shoulders of the caddy, but the cover is missing.
Sources for enamel painted harbor scenes and landscapes came from the vast number of prints after paintings by Italian, Dutch, and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the mid - 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d. 1640).
The enduring popularity of landscape and waterside subjects, especially the tranquil rural scenes depicted in prints by artists like Jan van de Velde, held particular appeal for city dwellers and for the nobility fulfilling court duties. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure. The production of luxury goods in the eighteenth century opened up further opportunities for adapting these subjects onto the surfaces two and three-dimensional objects.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) 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 or salary. Ornamental gold painting was the work of another specialist in the painting division.
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. 314-315.
Currently not on view
Object Name
caddy, tea
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
painted in purple enamel and gold (overall color)
waterside scenes (overall style)
overall: 4 1/4 in; 10.795 cm
overall tea caddy: 3 15/16 in x 2 7/8 in x 2 in; 10.00125 cm x 7.3025 cm x 5.08 cm
overall cover: 1 1/4 in x 1 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 3.33375 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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