Meissen stoneware rinsing bowl

Meissen stoneware rinsing bowl

Usage conditions apply
MARKS: None.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1949.
This rinsing 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 collector and 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.
This rinsing bowl was made in red stoneware, a very hard and dense type of ceramic similar in appearance to the Chinese Yixing ceramics which inspired their imitation at Meissen. Red stoneware, enriched with iron oxides, preceded porcelain in the Dresden laboratory where physicist, mathematician, and philosopher, Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus (1651-1708) and alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) experimented with raw materials fused by solar energy amplified through a burning glass. Success in red stoneware was an important step towards the development of white porcelain but remained in production for only twenty years following the introduction of white porcelain in 1710.
The glazed bowl is of dark brown stoneware, and the color of the stoneware body in this class of objects varied considerably from a bright iron red to dark brown or grey. It is likely that this black-glazed bowl was made to resemble the highly prized black lacquer wares imported to Europe from Japan by the Dutch East India Company. The bowl may have been one of many produced at Meissen with the intention of painting the surface with gold and a limited palette of cold colors in imitation of the Japanese originals (see Kopplin, M., van Aken-Fehmers, M.S., Cassidy-Geiger, M., 2004, Schwartz Porcelain: the lacquer craze and its impact on European porcelain, exhibition catalog of the Staatlicher Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg).
Rinsing bowls received the water that was used to wash out the dregs of tea in tea bowls and cups before refilling the vessels with fresh liquid.
On the introduction of tea see Ukers, W. H., 1936, All About Tea; Bowman, P.B., 1995, In Praise of Hot Liquors: The Study of Chocolate, Coffee and Tea-drinking 1600-1850.
On Yixing stonewares see Lo, K.S., 1986, The Stonewares of Yixing from the Ming Period to the Present Day; Fang Lili, 2011, Chinese Ceramics, Cambridge University Press, p. 115 Zisha-the Taste of Tea.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 28-29.
Currently not on view
Object Name
bowl, rinsing
date made
Meissen Manufactory
place made
Germany: Saxony, Meissen
Physical Description
monochrome, black (overall surface decoration color name)
ceramic, stoneware, refined (overall material)
overall: 3 1/8 in x 6 in; 7.9375 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
collector/donor number
accession number
Credit Line
Hans C. Syz Collection
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ceramics and Glass
Domestic Furnishings
The Hans C. Syz Collection
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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