Meissen sugar box and cover

Meissen sugar box and cover

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TITLE: Meissen sugar box and cover
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: H. 3" 7.6cm; L. 4¼" 10.8cm
OBJECT NAME: Sugar box
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: ca. 1722-1723
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.368ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: “K.P.F.” (Königliche Porzellan Fabrik) in underglaze blue; red luster design inside box and cover
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1943.
This sugar box 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 sugar box has a landscape on the cover depicting a flock of birds rising above a gate entrance to a country property, and a tree silhouetted against the sky is seen on the left of the cover. On the box waterside scenes framed by scrolled cartouches typical of Meissen at this date are set against an expanse of sky with flocks of birds taking to the air; so-called Indian flowers (indianische Blumen) decorate the areas outside the frames.
Sources for enamel painted harbor scenes and landscapes came from the large number of prints after paintings by Dutch masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the early 1720s 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, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d.1640). The artist Jan van de Velde II was a prolific printmaker in what was a thriving publishing industry in the Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century. The folios of print series featuring landscapes, villages, country houses, and waterside scenes were intended to bring pleasure and repose to those who purchased them, especially to people living in the busy cities of the Republic, and this appeal endured well into the eighteenth century beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) 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 or salary. Decorative scrollwork and gold painting was the responsibility of other painters specializing in this form of decoration. All enameled and gold painted items passed through several pairs of hands in their making.
Tea, coffee, chocolate, and sugar were luxury products for early eighteenth-century consumers, and the equipage for these hot beverages, made in silver and new ceramic materials like Meissen’s red stoneware and porcelain, was affordable only to the elite of European society. Less expensive versions for storing and preparing these products were made from various kinds of wood, from tin, from japanned materials, and in earthenware pottery.
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.
On prints from the Netherlands see Goddard, S. H., Sets and Series: Prints from the Low Countries.
On tea, coffee, and chocolate equipage see Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 102-103.
Currently not on view
Object Name
box, sugar
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
orange (cover color)
orange (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 3 in x 4 1/4 in; 7.62 cm x 10.795 cm
overall: 3 in x 4 5/16 in x 3 5/8 in; 7.62 cm x 10.9855 cm x 9.2075 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
collector/donor number
Credit Line
Dr. Hans Syz
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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