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Meissen cup and saucer (part of a service)

Meissen cup and saucer (part of a service)

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TITLE: Meissen: Parts of a tea and coffee service (incomplete)
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: 2 Cups: H. 2¾" 7cm; 2 Saucers: D. 5¼ 13.3cm; Teapot and cover: H. 4" 10.2cm;
Coffeepot and cover: H. 8¼" 21cm; Sugar bowl and cover: H. 4¼" 10.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea and coffee service (incomplete)
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1745-1750
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1979.120.13Aa,b; 1979.120.14Ba,b; 1979.120.15a,b;1970.120.16a,b;1979.120.17a,b.
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 707 Aa,b; 707 Ba,b; 708a,b;709a,b;710a,b.
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “4” in gold on sugar bowl; various impressed numbers; “c” impressed on coffeepot and teapot.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1947.
This cup and saucer comes from a tea and coffee service in 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.
Heavy gold and black shell and scroll cartouches frame overglaze enamel paintings of Europeans, North Africans and Near Eastern peoples engaged in activities set in landscapes and in cities. For example, on the cover of the coffee pot a peddler rests against his basket and a man ties his boot lace; on a cup, North Africans mounted on horseback are seen near a fort; on a saucer, women launder clothes in a river. Sources for these enamel painted subjects came from book illustrations recording the occupations and peoples of foreign and European countries, and from the vast number of prints after paintings by Dutch, and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1730s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists illustrating the apparel and customs of the peoples of Europe and the wider world, for example: numerous volumes of Naukeurige beschrijvinge (Curious Descriptions) by Olfert Dapper published by Jacob van Meurs in Amsterdam of the peoples of Africa, the Near East, and Asia; Christoph Weigel’s, Neu-eröffnete Welt-Galleria, worinnen sehr curios und begnügt unter die Augen kommen allerley Aufzüg und Kleidungen unterschiedlicher Stäund Nationen (The New Gallery of the World, in which all sorts of the very curious Costumes and Garments of various Classes and Nations are set before our Eyes) Nuremberg, 1703.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes and subjects with figures were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. Ornamental gold painting was the work of another specialist.
On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ 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. 84-93. 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, pp. 322-323.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1745-1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamels and gold (overall color)
scenes of work and trade (overall style)
cup: 2 3/4 in; 6.985 cm
saucer: 5 1/4 in; 13.335 cm
overall cup: 2 5/8 in x 3 5/8 in x 2 7/8 in; 6.6675 cm x 9.2075 cm x 7.3025 cm
overall saucer: 1 1/8 in x 5 1/4 in; 2.8575 cm x 13.335 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
See more items in
Home 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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