Meissen soup plate: one of a pair

Meissen soup plate: one of a pair

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TITLE: Meissen: Pair of soup plates
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¾" 24.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Soup plates
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1993.447.05 A,B
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “H” in overglaze iron-red (painter’s mark); “22” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: S. Berges, New York, 1948.
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.
The two soup plates come from a dinner service designed with a raised diaper pattern. In the reserves the paintings in overglaze enamel of birds perched on branches were likely based on hand-colored plates from Eleazar Albin’s (1713-1759)two volume work A Natural History of Birds, first published in London in 1731, and a second edition in 1738. The Meissen manufactory had a copy of the work that Albin completed with his daughter Elizabeth.
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. The gold rim lines were painted by a specialist in gold decoration.
Production of a dinner service was a large undertaking as the conventions of eighteenth-century dining followed the French style in which guests were offered a wide choice of dishes served at the table in three or more courses. Depending on social status the table might have included silver or gold plate on which to present the dishes, supplemented by a porcelain service for individual place settings. The visual climax of the dinner was the dessert, the course in which specially designed vessels in porcelain and glass supported artfully placed fruits, sweetmeats, jellies and creams, and for which the confectioners created elaborate table decorations in sugar that were later augmented by porcelain figures and centerpieces. These soup plates belong to a service intended for less grand occasions produced for the table in aristocratic households or for wealthy middle-class buyers.
On the Meissen dinner services and table decorations see Ulrich Pietsch “Famous Eighteenth-Century Meissen Dinner Services” and Maureen Cassidy-Geiger “”The Hof-Conditorey in Dresden” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 94-105; 120-131.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 412-413.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, soup
date made
ca 1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
songbirds and insects (overall style)
overall: 9 3/4 in; 24.765 cm
overall: 1 3/4 in x 9 5/8 in; 4.445 cm x 24.4475 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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