Meissen soup plate: one of a pair

Meissen soup plate: one of a pair

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TITLE: Meissen soup plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 8⅞" 22.5cm
OBJECT NAME: Soup plate
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: 1993.447.02
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords and two dots in underglaze blue; “46” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941.
This soup plate 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.
Ripe fruits against a background of naturalistic flowers feature in this polychrome overglaze enamel painted soup plate with its petal-shaped edge, part of a dinner service to which the (ID number 1993.447.01) also belongs.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters formed the largest section of specialist workers in the painting division following the Seven Years War (1756-1763); an indication of the popularity of these subjects for table services - especially for floral decoration. Painters in this group were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. The gold rim line was painted by a specialist in gold decoration.
Meissen trained its painters through apprenticeship before the war, 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 like Sèvres.
On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meißener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.
On the Meissen Manufactory following the Seven Years War see Anette Loesch “Meissen Porcelain from 1763-1815” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.34-51.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 404-405.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, soup
date made
ca 1763-1774
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
European fruits and flowers (overall style)
blue underglaze (overall color)
overall: 8 7/8 in; 22.5425 cm
overall: 1 3/4 in x 8 7/8 in; 4.445 cm x 22.5425 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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