Meissen plate

Meissen plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9½" 24.2cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 63.243
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “K.H.K/4” in overglaze purple; “22” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1954.
This 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 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 plate has a diaper basket weave pattern that covers the surface except for the four reserves in which sprays of flowers are painted in onglaze enamels. Modeled in light relief the process of carving a relief pattern into plaster of Paris was laborious and required considerable skill. The sources for designs in relief came from pattern books and engravings, especially those by the French designer Jean Bérain the Elder (1638-1711), the Nuremberg designer Paul Decker (1677-1713), and the later rococo designer, François Cuvilliés the Elder (1695-1768). Their designs were applied in architectural details, interior stucco work and wood carving, on furniture, wall coverings, and ceramics.
European flower decoration was informed by printed books acquired by the Meissen manufactory in response to the growing fascination for the natural sciences among the educated elite. For the earlier German flowers (deutsche Blumen) the painters referred to Johann Wilhelm Weinmann’s Phytantoza Iconographia (Nuremberg 1737-1745). The botanical style of flower painting at Meissen developed into the looser and somewhat overblown mannered flowers (manier Blumen) based on the work of still-life flower painters and interior designers like Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699) and Louis Tessier (1719?-1781), later referred to as naturalistic flowers
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. Details in gold were applied by specialists in gold painting and polishing at Meissen. In the late eighteenth century flower painters were even busier and consumer taste for floral decoration on domestic “china” has endured into our own time, but with the exception of a manufactory like Meissen most floral patterns are now applied by transfers and are not hand-painted directly onto the porcelain.
The mark “K.H.K.” painted in overglaze purple refers to the Royal Court Kitchen (Königliche Hofküche) to which this plate one belonged.
On Meissen’s relief decoration see Reinheckel, G., 1968, ‘Plastiche Dekorationsformen im Meissner Porzellan des 18 Jahrhunderts’ in Keramos, 41/42, Juli/Oktober.
On graphic sources for Meissen porcelain see Möller, K. A., “Meissen Pieces Based on Graphic Originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.85-93; Cassidy-Geiger, M., 1996, ‘Graphic Sources for Meissen Porcelain’ in Metropolitan Museum Journal, 31, pp.99-126.
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. 382-383.
Currently not on view
Object Name
plate, soup
date made
ca 1760
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
European flowers (overall style)
overall: 9 1/2 in; 24.13 cm
overall: 1 3/4 in x 9 9/16 in; 4.445 cm x 24.28875 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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