Meissen tea caddy and cover

Meissen tea caddy and cover

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TITLE: Meissen tea caddy
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 4¾" 12.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.23ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “70” in gold.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1948.
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.
The tea caddy has a sea-green ground with four reserves framed in gold containing Italianate landscapes with figures in vignettes on the lid. On the shoulders of the caddy are flowers painted in the early woodcut style (Holzschnittblumen) derived from publications like the Archetypa Studiaque Patris Georgii Hoefnagelii of 1592 by Joris Hofnagel and Wenzel Hollar’s (1607-1677) book illustrations of flora and fauna. On one side of the caddy a well-dressed man, woman, and child stand beside a mansion with two figures in the background walking into a distant landscape, on the other in an Italianate landscape with high cliffs rising from the sea, a couple sit with a dog beside them at the foot of a tall carved obelisk with a statue of a female figure before it – a tomb perhaps. On the narrow sides of the caddy a hunter with his dog regards an obelisk and a man peddles wares, or gathers wood, in a rural landscape.
Meissen enamel painters based many of the Italianate landscapes on prints after the work of artists like Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640) and the Parisian printmaker and publisher Gabriel Perelle (ca. 1603-1677), who with his sons Adam and Nicholas produced numerous architectural and landscape works. Perelle produced imaginary landscapes alongside many representations of the palaces, chateaux, and gardens in and near Paris. Meissen artists were encouraged to use their own imaginations when copying from printed sources, and it is not unusual to see similar versions of a figure on various items but within different landscape settings.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures 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.
On-glaze gold decoration was the work of specialist gold painters and polishers.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers, and the equipage for these hot beverages, made in silver and new ceramic materials like Meissen’s red stoneware and porcelain, was affordable only to the elite of European society. Less expensive versions for storing and preparing these products were made from various kinds of wood, from tin, from japanned materials, and in earthenware pottery.
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 the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On the introduction of caffeine drinks see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850; Weinberg, B.A., Bealer, B.K., 2002, The World of Caffeine:The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 324-325.
Currently not on view
Object Name
caddy, tea
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
landscapes and figures, woodcut flowers (overall style)
overall: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall: 4 3/4 in x 3 3/8 in x 2 1/4 in; 12.065 cm x 8.5725 cm x 5.715 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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