MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Two cups: H. 1¾" Two saucers: D. 5¼"; Coffeepot and cover: H. 9" 22.9cm; Teapot and cover: H. 4¼" 10.8cm; Milk jug and cover: H. 5½"14cm; Sugar bowl and cover: H. 4¼" 10.8cm; Bowl: H. 3½" 8.9cm
OBJECT NAME: Coffee and tea service
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1740
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: Two cups and saucers 1981.0702.05; Coffee pot and cover 1981.0702.06ab; Teapot and cover 1981.0702.07ab; Milk jug and cover 1981.0702.08ab; Sugar bowl and cover 1981.0702.09ab. Rinsing bowl 1981.0702.10
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 354;355;356;357;358;894
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue; “O” impressed on sugar bowl; “21” impressed on rinsing bowl.
PURCHASED FROM: Ginsburg & Levy, New York, 1943.
This cup and saucer is from a coffee and tea service in 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 cup and saucer has large tree peony flowers distributed along rooted brown twigs with two or three upright thorny stems in blue rising behind. The brown rim lines derive from original Kakiemon pieces in which a brown pigment applied to the rims before glazing was said to give some protection against chipping. The pattern has a symmetry that is not characteristic of Japanese Kakiemon-style porcelains, but for the European market Arita painters adapted some of their patterns to suit the preference for greater symmetry and less empty space. No Japanese prototype for this onglaze enamel painted pattern has come to light and it is possible that it is an adaptation by Meissen designers based on Japanese Kakiemon-style vessels in the royal porcelain collection in Dresden.
Kakiemon is the name given to very white (nigoshida meaning milky-white) finely potted Japanese porcelain made in the Nangawara Valley near the town of Arita in the North-West of the island of Kyushu. The porcelain bears a characteristic style of enamel painting using a palette of translucent colors painted with refined assymetric designs attributed to a family of painters with the name Kakiemon. In the 1650s, when Chinese porcelain was in short supply due to civil unrest following the fall of the Ming Dynasty to the Manchu in 1644, Arita porcelain was at first exported to Europe through the Dutch East India Company’s base on Dejima in the Bay of Nagasaki.
The Japanese traded Arita porcelain only with Chinese, Korean, and Dutch merchants and the Chinese resold Japanese porcelain to the Dutch in Batavia (present day Jakarta), to the English and French at the port of Canton (present day Guangzhou) and Amoy (present day Xiamen. Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, obtained Japanese porcelain through his agents operating in Amsterdam who purchased items from Dutch merchants there and at the annual Leipzig Fair, and from a Dutch dealer in Dresden, Elizabeth Bassetouche.
For two more examples of this pattern see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collection from the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.265; see also Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band II, S. 195-198. Julia Weber identifies this pattern as one produced for the Parisian dealer Rodolphe Lemaire.
On the origins of Arita porcelains see Takashi Nagatake, 2003, Classic Japanese Porcelain: Imari and Kakiemon.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 172-173.