MAKER: Meissen Manufactory
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)
MEASUREMENTS: Cup: H. 2⅝" 6.7cm; Saucer: D.5⅛" 13.1cm
OBJECT NAME: Cup and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1735-1750
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.39 a,b
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 1608
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue.
PROVENANCE: Dr. William P. Harbeson collection.
PURCHASED FROM: Sotheby-Parke Bernet, New York, 1972.
This cup and saucer 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.
It was fashionable in elite and affluent eighteenth-century households to keep captive exotic birds like this large scarlet macaw, and there was an extensive market in bird species during the eighteenth century as a part of global trade. The dog, a Bolognese type spaniel, was a popular breed of the period and the Meissen sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) produced a lively model of one in 1769. The subject for the overglaze enamel painting on this cup and saucer probably came from a private commission for a dinner service and a tea and coffee service; pieces from the latter are in the porcelain collection in Dresden, and a substantial number of parts of the dinner service were in the Ole Olsen collection in Copenhagen until 1927.
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. The cup has a restored silver handle.
For more examples from this service see Pietsch, U., 2010, Passion for Meissen: The Said and Roswitha Marouf Collection, p. 282: It is often assumed that items from this service were painted by a Hausmaler, but so many pieces still are extant that it was probably not the case as it was very difficult to acquire enough unpainted Meissen to paint a complete table service.
A Chinese version of the design imitating a European source is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and can be seen at: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O185799/cup-and-saucer-unknown/
An interesting account of the animal trade is in Robbins, L. E., 2002, Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris.On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 278-279.