Meissen figure of a man playing the bagpipes

Meissen figure of a man playing the bagpipes

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a man playing the bagpipes
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 5¼" 13.3cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1736-1741
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.15
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This figure 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 figure, modeled by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775), wears a pointed hat and clothing typical of many representations of the Tyrolean Hanswurst (Hans Sausage), the Austrian version of Harlequin, and it is common to see Italian Comedy characters depicted with musical instruments played during their performances. The bagpipes or Dudelsack represent a rustic instrument popular in German-speaking Europe.
This figure is recorded in Kaendler’s work book for July, 1736, as “a Harlequin with bagpipes “(“Einen Arlequin mit dem Tutel Sack.” He is also seen as one of a pair with the other figure described as “young Tyrolean woman, altered with the hurdy-gurdy and made good to mold” (Ein Tyroler Weibgen Verändert mit der Leyer und zum abformen tüchtig gemacht) in Die Arbeitsberichte des Meissener Porzellanmodelleurs Johann Joachim Kaendler 1706-1775, 2002, p.40. (See also Yvonne Adams, 2001, Meissen Figures 1730-1775: The Kaendler Years, p.89, where the two well-known figures represented in many collections feature as Harlequin and Columbine).
Meissen figures and figure groups are usually sculpted in special modeling clay and then cut carefully into separate pieces from which individual molds are made. Porcelain clay is then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original form, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece is then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work is arduous and requires the making of many molds from the original model.
The figure is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
On the bagpipe see the New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, Vol. 1, 1984, pp. 99-110; A History of European Folk Music, 1997, pp. 140-148.
On the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp.61-67.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 442-443.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1740
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue underglaze (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels (overall color)
figure (overall style)
overall: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall: 5 3/16 in x 2 7/16 in x 2 9/16 in; 13.17625 cm x 6.19125 cm x 6.50875 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Meissen Porcelain: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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