Meissen plate

Meissen plate

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TITLE: Meissen plate
MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: D. 9¾"; 24.8cm
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: Mid-eighteenth century
Domestic Furnishing
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 245497.3
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “22” impressed.
PURCHASED FROM: Adolf Beckhardt, The Art Exchange, New York, 1941. Ex. Coll. Sir Phillip Sassoon.
This circular plate 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 plate is from a large dinner service of which most pieces are Meissen but with some items made at the Höchst manufactory, presumably as replacements for the Meissen service. With a petal-shaped edge the plate has a molded foliate design on the flange and center known as the Gotzkowsky pattern, after the Berlin porcelain entrepreneur Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky (1710-1775), a pattern also known as “raised flowers” (erhabene Blumen) first modeled in 1741.
Following the appointment to the manufactory in 1733 of court sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775), modeling techniques became more sophisticated. The process of creating shallow relief patterns was laborious and required considerable skill. The sources for designs in relief came from pattern books and engravings, especially those by the French designer Jean Bérain the Elder (1638-1711), and the Nuremberg designer Paul Decker (1677-1713) among many others. Later rococo designs in the French style were disseminated through the German states principally by François Cuvilliés the Elder (1695-1768). These designs were applied in architecture, interior stucco work and wood carving, furniture, wall coverings, and ceramics.
Painted in onglaze enamel are sprays of natural flowers and on the rim there is a gold diaper pattern.
European flowers began to appear on Meissen porcelain in about 1740 as the demand for Far Eastern patterns became less dominant and more high quality printed sources became available in conjunction with growing interest in the scientific study of flora and fauna.
The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Flower and fruit painters were paid less than workers who specialized in figures and landscapes, and most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage. Decoration in gold was applied by specialists in gold painting and polishing at Meissen.
On relief patterns and three dimensional modeling at Meissen see Reinheckel, G., 1968, ‘Plastiche Dekorationsformen im Meissner Porzellan des 18 Jahrhunderts’ in Keramos, 41/42, Juli/Oktober.
On graphic sources for Meissen porcelain see Möller, K. A., “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.85-93.
Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 392-393.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
date made
ca 1725-1765
ca 1745
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: 9 3/4 in; 24.765 cm
overall: 1 1/2 in x 9 3/4 in; 3.81 cm x 24.765 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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