MEASUREMENTS: Bowl: H. 2½" 6.3cm; Saucer: D. 5¼" 13.3cm
OBJECT NAME: Tea bowl and saucer
PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany
DATE MADE: 1730-1735
Industry and Manufacturing
CREDIT LINE: Hans C. Syz Collection
ID NUMBER: 1983.0565.08ab
COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 737ab
(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)
MARKS: Crossed swords in underglaze blue on bowl and overglaze blue on saucer; “//” incised on saucer.
PURCHASED FROM: Hans E. Backer, London, England, 1947.
This drinking bowl 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.
Thirty-eight of these fluted drinking bowls and saucers are recorded in the 1779 inventory of the royal collection in the Japanese Palace in Dresden, although these particular items do not have an inventory number to link them to the collection. The fluted form comes from a Japanese prototype that represents the stylized shape of the chrysanthemum flower.
Copied at Meissen from an original Japanese bowl and saucer in the royal collection this item was made initially for the Parisian merchant Rudolphe Lemaire. At his own request and later through the Saxon ambassador to France and director of the Meissen Manufactory, Carl Heinrich Count Hoym (1694-1731), Lemaire obtained Meissen porcelain decorated in the Kakiemon style for sale in Paris where Japanese porcelain was highly prized and more expensive than Meissen. Lemaire arranged matters so that the underglaze blue crossed swords mark was either omitted altogether, obscured by a gold pattern, or painted over the glaze in enamel and therefore removable; on the saucer the crossed swords mark is applied in overglaze blue. This fraudulent activity began in 1729 and when it was discovered in 1731 Lemaire was arrested and expelled from Saxony, but his deception undoubtedly demonstrated the success of Meissen’s imitations of Japanese Kakiemon porcelain and may have alerted Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland to the merits of continuing production of a Japanese porcelain style that he himself admired. Augustus recovered most of the remaining items made at Meissen for Lemaire, many of which were in the possession of the disgraced Count Hoym, and placed them in the Japanese Palace in Dresden.
Painted in the Japanese Kakiemon style the bowl and saucer have the same motif of two boys, one seated on the ground wearing the garments of a priest and with a fan in his hand, while the other boy carries a basket of foliage on his back, on the saucer two birds fly above the pair. Figurative subjects, influenced by the Chinese Wan-li porcelains and the Japanese Tosa school of painting, are not common in Arita porcelains produced in the Kakiemon style,
For a full account of the Hoym-Lemaire affair see Weber, J., 2013, Meissener Porzellane mit Dekoren nach ostasiatischen Vorbildern: Stiftung Ernst Schneider in Schloss Lustheim, Band I, and on this pattern see Band II, S. 141-143.
On the Hoym-Lemaire affair see also Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp.24-25, p.260. For further examples of this pattern see Pietsch, U., 2011, Early Meissen Porcelain: the Wark Collectionfrom the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, p.291, p.295. On the Kakiemon style see Shono, M., 1973, Japanisches Aritaporzellan im sogenannten „Kakiemonstil” als Vorbild für die Meissener Porzellanmanufaktur.
Jefferson Miller II, J., Rückert, R., Syz, H., 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 140-141.