Meissen figure of a butcher boy with goose

Meissen figure of a butcher boy with goose

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TITLE: Meissen figure of a butcher boy with a dressed goose
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1992.0427.19
(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, 1943.
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 butcher boy belongs to a series of figures based on watercolor drawings of the Cries of Paris by the French artist Christophe Huet (1700-1759), and sent to Meissen in 1753. It is thought that Meissen’s modeler Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775) commissioned Huet to produce the drawings for the Meissen Manufactory. There are thirty-four drawings in total, and the series proved to be extremely popular for porcelain figures. The original drawing is of a “turkey cook”, and Peter Reinicke(1711-1768) modeled a figure of a butcher boy holding a trussed turkey on the pole, but in this version it is clearly a goose.
The subject of street traders and performers in the visual arts has a long history reaching back into the cities of the ancient world. Urban inhabitants, especially the working poor who lived in cramped accommodations with limited or no facilities for cooking, depended heavily on fast food and drink provided by street vendors and bake houses. Street sellers were themselves poor, and the range of goods sold or bartered varied widely, limited only by what could be carried by the individual, wheeled in a barrow, or loaded onto a donkey, mule or ass sometimes pulling a cart. People of a higher social class regarded street traders with contempt on the one hand, but also as colorful curiosities on the other, often in conflict with one another and with city authorities. In 1500, a series of anonymous woodcuts titled the Cries of Paris was an early example of what became a highly popular genre in print form well into the nineteenth century, and especially so in commercially active cities like Paris and London where street sellers formed not only part of the spectacle of display and consumption, but also the raucous sound of the street as they vocalized their merchandise. (On street traders see Shesgreen, S., 1990, The Criers and Hawkers of London: Engravings and Drawings by Marcellus Laroon).
Huet worked in Paris as an interior painter, engraver, and painter of animal subjects. He trained in the workshop of Claude Audran (1658-1734) specializing in interior ornamentation. He is well known for his singeries in the Château de Chantilly near Paris (1735), exotic ornamental designs painted on ceilings and walls featuring monkeys dressed in fashionable clothing and mimicking human activities.
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 ‘Cris de Paris’ series see Martin Eberle, ‘Cris de paris: Street Vendors and Nobility at one Table’ in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 69-75.
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, pp.452-453.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1755
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamel (overall color)
figure (overall style)
overall: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
overall: 5 9/16 in x 2 3/16 in x 2 in; 14.12875 cm x 5.55625 cm x 5.08 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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