In the event of a government shutdown, American History will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates.

Meissen dish

Meissen dish

Usage conditions apply
TITLE: Meissen: One of three plates
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: (85)D. 11¾" 29.9cm; (86A) D. 9½" 24.2cm; (86B) D. 9¼" 23.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Three plates
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.11
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords with star and “//” in underglaze blue; “13” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This plate is one of three in the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of Meissen Porcelain (see ID # 73.174A and 73.174B). 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 blue ribbons frame the overglaze polychrome enamel painted subject in the center of the plate. The pastoral scene depicts a shepherdess attending to her sheep and a cow in a setting alluding to antiquity in the block of masonry she sits on and a ruin in the background. This theme marked a transition from the rococo style to the neo-classical and is known in German as the Zopfstil, or late rococo classicizing style corresponding to the Louis XVI style in France. Zopf means pigtail or braid in German, and it was fashionable at the time for men and women to wear their hair with a braid falling down their backs. Braids and ribbons like those seen on the three plates ornamented furniture and interior décor carved in wood or stucco and often gilded.
The Seven Years War of 1756-1763 brought Meissen’s production almost to a halt when Saxony was under Prussian occupation. In order to preserve the ‘secrets’ of porcelain manufacture much of the Meissen manufactory’s infrastructure was destroyed. The Saxony economy was severely weakened by the war which brought sales and commissions close to a standstill, and in addition Meissen faced growing competition from enterprises like Sèvres, Wedgwood, and the Thuringian manufactories. In 1764 the Dresden Academy of Art was reinstated, and part of its role in Saxon recovery was to educate the young and improve the standards of art and design in the studio and in the manufactories. Academicians from Dresden took responsibility for the art education of Meissen workers and introduced new designs to the manufactory in the Meissen Drawing School. Sometimes artists from Dresden painted Meissen wares and in this case the pastoral scenes were painted by Johann Carl Mauksch (1754-1721) who was listed as a student at the Dresden school for fine arts.
On Meissen following the Seven Years War see Loesch, A., “Sentimental, Enlightened and Classical: Meissen Porcelain from 1763-1815” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 352-353.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1780
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 11 3/4 in; 29.845 cm
overall: 1 3/4 in x 11 7/8 in; 4.445 cm x 30.1625 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Home 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
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.

Note: Comment submission is temporarily unavailable while we make improvements to the site. We apologize for the interruption. If you have a question relating to the museum's collections, please first check our Collections FAQ. If you require a personal response, please use our Contact page.