Meissen plates: one of a pair

Meissen plates: one of a pair

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TITLE: Meissen: Two plates
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D.9⅜" 23.8cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1763-1774
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.10 AB
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “10” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
These plates are 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.
Swags of flowers and a blue scale pattern frame the rims of the plates and a single exotic bird stands in the center framed by a trellis suggestive of a garden setting and painted in overglaze enamels. In the parks and gardens of the nobility colorful birds imported from overseas were a popular ornamental feature, and an aviary containing such birds was maintained at the castle of Moritzburg for the pleasure of the Dresden court. A possible graphic source for these birds is Gabriel Huquier’s Livre des Différentes Espèces d’Oiseaux de la Chine (Book of Different Species of Chinese Birds) published in Paris at an unknown date during the 1730s, or Jean Baptiste Oudry’s Oiseaux de la Chine (Birds of China) with engravings by Gabriel Huquier probably published in the 1730s.
The specialist bird painters (Vogelmaler) at Meissen were low in number compared to the flower painters, but the term “color painter” (Buntmaler) was a fluid term indicating that painters moved from one category to another as demand required, especially for flower, fruit and bird subjects.
Meissen trained its painters through apprenticeship before the Seven Years War (1756-1763), but in 1764 a drawing school was founded with a director, Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich (1712-1774), who was painter to the court and a member of the Dresden Academy of Art. It was state policy to steer Saxon manufactures towards the new style emerging in France, and in Meissen’s case an attempt to maintain a competitive edge against new porcelain manufactories, especially that of Sèvres near Paris.
These two plates, however, come from a dinner service in Meissen’s pre-war rococo style (ca. 1746-1756) and it was not uncommon for older stock to be painted at a later date.
The blue scale pattern and the gold rim lines were applied by other workers specializing in these decorative embellishments.
On the Meissen Manufactory following the Seven Years War see Anette Loesch “Meissen Porcelain from 1763-1815” in Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, pp. 34-51.
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. 416-417.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
ca 1763-1774
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue underglaze (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
exotic birds (overall style)
overall: 9 3/8 in; 23.8125 cm
overall: 1 1/4 in x 9 5/16 in; 3.175 cm x 23.65375 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog 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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