Vienna saucer and Meissen tea bowl

Vienna saucer and Meissen tea bowl

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TITLE: Vienna saucer (with Meissen tea bowl)
MAKER: Vienna Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Saucer: D. 4¾" 12.1cm.
PLACE MADE: Vienna, Austria
DATE MADE: 1750-1755
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.38B
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Shield in underglaze blue, and “70” incised.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans Backer, London, England, 1952.
This saucer, and a matching tea bowl, 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.
The pattern on this saucer, and the matching Meissen tea bowl, is painted in overglaze enamel, purple luster, and gold. The design comes from Johann Schmischek’s (1585-1650) Groteschgen Büchlein(Little Book of Grotesques) published in Munich in 1630, and the patterns were originally designed for the ornamentation of guns, hence the hunting dog confronting a wild boar on the saucer and another dog chasing a hare on the tea bowl; Schmischek is listed as an arquebusier in contemporary catalogs which probably indicates his work as a designer of ornament for this class of weaponry. Not many Meissen pieces with this pattern exist today, and that suggests that the design was not successful or that the service was a private commission. The provenance of the saucer is further complicated by the fact that it appears to have been made in Vienna, and a sugar bowl with a Vienna mark passed through Christie’s salerooms in 2005. The saucer may have been a replacement and the sugar bowl a replacement or an addition to a Meissen service that may well have been in Vienna in the mid-eighteenth century.
Experts suggest on the one hand that the decoration on the tea bowl was the work of a Hausmaler, an enamel painter outside the Meissen manufactory, or on the other hand, that the presence of purple luster indicates decoration at Meissen; purple luster was not usually seen outside the manufactory in the 1720s. It is also possible that an outside decorator could have mastered the technique of handling purple luster as this style is not typical of Meissen in the 1730s. Made in Vienna in the 1750s, the saucer has decoration applied to match the original Meissen piece.
To view the Meissen tea bowl with the Vienna saucer see ID number 1983.0565.38A
Two tea bowls and saucers with very similar patterns can be seen in Ulrich Pietsch, Early Meissen Porcelain: The Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum and Art Gallery (The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens and D.Giles Ltd: Jacksonville FL and London UK, 2011) p.521. Comparable items are in the collections of the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle WA; the British Museum (1955.0708.1)and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London UK (202&A-1854); the Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Sweden.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 276-277.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1750-1755
place made
Hapsburg Empire: Austria-Hungary, Vienna
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
baroque (overall style)
overall: 4 3/4 in; 12.065 cm
overall: 13/16 in x 4 3/4 in; 2.06375 cm x 12.065 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Industry & Manufacturing
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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