Meissen tankard and cover

Meissen tankard and cover

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TITLE: Meissen tankard and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 9" 22.9cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1730-1735
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.01ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: None on porcelain; on silver cover: mastermark “HI” under an illegible letter in a trefoil.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1952.
This tankard 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 elaborate scrolled cartouche frames an onglaze enamel painting depicting a harbor scene. Figures stand under palm trees on the banks of a wide river estuary while a ship takes on cargo in the background. The scene is animated by a man standing on the extreme left holding a conversation with someone out of sight. These merchant subjects (Kauffahrtei) drew on the global trade in luxury goods and commodities from India, the Far and Near East, a trade that held high interest for the consumers of exotic goods fascinated by their origin in distant cultures. Seventeenth-century illustrated books like Jan Nieuhof’s An Embassy of the East India Company of 1669, Athansius Kircher’s China Monumentis of 1667, and Olfert Dapper’s Naukeurige beschrijvinge van Syrië, behelsende Mesopotamië, Baylonië, Assyrië, Anatolië of klein Asië, Arabië of 1680, represent examples of published works that inspired artists and designers.
Harbor scenes like this one have been attributed to Christian Friedrich Herold (1700-1779) who had a long but rather troubled career at Meissen where he was accused of Hausmalerei, largely because he continued to undertake commissions from the Berlin workshop founded by Pierre Fromery (1685-1738) where he trained to become an enameller on copper. For the Fromery workshop he painted many riverside subjects, harbor scenes and chinoiseries, and when he arrived at Meissen in 1726 he came under the direction of Johann Georg Höroldt (1696-1775) who established the chinoiserie style associated with the manufactory.
The silver cover on this tankard with its spherical thumb piece has two medallions, one on the top of the cover and another on the interior surface which is also gilded. On the exterior medallion are three female figures emblematic of justice, faith, and chastity, with the words SIE FRAGT NACH GUTEN LEUTHEN. WO SIND SIE (She asks for good people. Where are they?). On the interior medallion there is one female figure emblematic of hope and possibly of peace with the words DIE HOFFNUNG BESRER ZEITEN. WENN KOMMT SIE (The hope for better times. When will they come?). The figure sits on the shell of a snail with an open book on her lap, an anchor held in her left hand and a palm branch in her right. The medallions probably refer to the long years of war that were especially destructive to Germany and Bohemia during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Recovery was exceedingly slow in some regions of the German Holy Roman Empire, and hostilities again broke out in Europe in the late seventeenth century, with a series of conflicts that lasted until the Seven Years War of 1756-1763.
On the painter C.F.Herold see Rainer Rückert, 1990, Biographische daten der Meiβener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, S. 156.
Anna Jackson, Amin Jaffer, (eds.), 2004, exhibition catalogue Encounters: the meeting of Asia and Europe 1500-1800.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection:Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp.104-105.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1730-1735
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
hard-paste porcelain (overall material)
polychrome enamel (overall color)
chinoiserie (overall style)
overall: 9 in; 22.86 cm
overall: 8 3/4 in x 6 1/2 in x 4 5/8 in; 22.225 cm x 16.51 cm x 11.7475 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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