Meissen figure group of Dutch peasants dancing

Meissen figure group of Dutch peasants dancing

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TITLE: Meissen figure group of Dutch peasants dancing
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain, hard paste (overall material)
OBJECT NAME: Figure group
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1746-1750
SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 76.370
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PURCHASED FROM: Paul Lane, 1944.
This figure group 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 Germany, 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.
Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1696-1749) modeled the figures of Dutch Peasants (Holländische Bauern)based on a work with the title Gustus (Latin for taste or appetite) by the artist Gottfried Bernhard Göz (1708-1774) who specialized in genre subjects and large scale allegorical and religious works.
With Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) Eberlein made a series of figures of peasants engaged in various activities like taking a goat to market, cutting wood (see ID number 75.189), playing the hurdy-gurdy, harvesting produce, taking snuff, drinking, and individual figures dancing. Another model of dancing peasants, but more finely dressed, was made by Eberlein in about 1740. Used by the court confectioners for table decorations these figures augmented the structures made out of sugar and other materials for the elaborate displays designed to serve the dessert on festive occasions. The Dresden court dressed themselves as rural peasants at these events with the pretense of entering a way of life the social elites observed but did not experience.
Meissen figures and figure groups were usually modeled in clay, and then carefully cut into separate pieces from which individual molds were made. Porcelain clay was then pressed into the molds and the whole figure or group reassembled to its original state, a process requiring great care and skill. The piece was then dried thoroughly before firing in the kiln. In the production of complex figure groups the work was arduous and required the making of many molds from the original model.
The group is painted in overglaze enamel colors.
On Bernhard Goz see Möller, K.A., “ ’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’Meissen Pieces based on Graphic Originals”, and on the modeling and molding process still practiced today at Meissen see Alfred Ziffer, “‘…skillfully made ready for moulding…’ The Work of Johann Joachim Kaendler” both authors in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, p.88 and pp.61-67.
On the dessert table see Maureen Cassidy-Geiger, 'The Hof Conditorey in Dresden: Traditions and Innovations in Sugar and Porcelain', in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgeoisie 1710-1815, pp. 121-131. See also Ivan Day, 'Sculpture for the Eighteenth Century Garden Dessert', in
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection, pp. 436-437.
Currently not on view
Object Name
figure group
figurine, group
date made
ca 1740-1750
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
blue (overall color)
polychrome (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, porcelain, hard-paste (overall material)
overall: 5 1/2 in; 13.97 cm
overall: 5 7/16 in x 3 11/16 in x 2 1/2 in; 13.81125 cm x 9.36625 cm x 6.35 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession 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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