Updated: Mar 31
A SHORT STORY ABOUT ROYAL COPENHAGEN PORCELAIN
Pillaging Vikings come to mind when thinking of the Nordic countries.
But Scandinavia has been showing a refined side. Most of us have heard of the Danish tale of THE LITTLE MERMAID by Hans Christian Andersen written in 1837.
She is depicted on many a souvenir.
Like all other Royals in the West, the Danish Queen Juliane Marie, could not lag behind. On the 1st of May 1775, the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufacture came into being.
It was the Queen who proposed the 3 blue wavy lines to be used as a recognisable mark on each piece . This mark was based on the 3 waterways around Denmark. This mark is still being used to this day.
After 1781, when complete dinner services were first made, a few important purchases by the Crown were sent abroad as gifts for other Royals.
Some services had thus found their way into private collections and museums. Windsor Castle houses a table service of the most masterly Danish applied arts, the FLORA DANICA, of which the creation began in 1790.
Finely detailed and accurate rendering of the country`s plant life. This was an ambitious project and the FLORA DANICA is seen as the high point of decorative achievements. In 1790 the FLORA DANICA service was ordered by the Danish Crown Prince Frederick, but it was not at first known for whom it was intended.
It transpired that it was to be presented to the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. But Catherine died in1796 before the service was completed. The Crown Prince himself was happy to take possession of it and most of this tableware has been on display in Rosenborg Castle ever since. In November 1794 it listed 1351 pieces. The subsequent history of this FLORA DANICA service is one of wanton destruction and actual criminality.
The story goes :The KIng and his gallant Nimrods
returned from the hunt, enjoying a meal and drinking too much. They pelted each other by grabbing anything from the dinner table. The porcelain plates made perfect frisbies, nearly always hitting the target.
During the 18th century it was the fashion to own blue decorated tableware. In 1776 the board of directors instructed that the mineral blue cobalt from Norway should be employed for the decoration of the porcelain, and so the famous BLUE FLUTED ware was born.
The production in Copenhagen had slowed down because of the invasion by Napoleon`s army. England began to intervene under Nelson`s command. His ship was attacked by a French man- of- war on the 2nd of April 1801, Nelson had written to Lady Hamilton:` My dear friend, I was in hopes that I should get off some Copenhagen china to have sent you by Captain Bligh, who is one of my seconds in command `, The English fleet destroyed almost a quarter of the city and the British forces re-appeared in 1807 to complete the demolition just to drive out the French. The porcelain factory was bombarded and hundreds of moulds were lost beneath the rubble. Decades of decline followed with hardly any output.
It was not until the 1880s when things were looking up again. A new director by the name of Arnold Krog, came with fresh ideas. Getting inspiration from the British ARTS AND CRAFTS movement. He transformed the BLUE FLUTED pattern creating 3 different versions of tableware.
In the autumn of 1884, the modernisation of the factory was completed and Krog`s sensitive skills restored former glory to Copenhagen. Krog visited other countries for new ideas, coming to an exhibition of SEVRES porcelain in Antwerp and also visiting London in 1885 where he saw PRE-RAPHAELISM and ART NOUVEAU pieces, which formed the `germ` of the new trend he began to follow as soon as he got home. The art of Japan also influenced him greatly.
Other artists joined him and from 1906 porcelain figures were introduced. Highly professional modelling based on the imaginative observation of nature. This laid the foundation of one of the most delightful figure ranges of the modern world. The finest clays were imported from Cornwall and Germany. These clays were most suitable for the modelling of animals, birds, fish and human figurines. Many of these figures are no longer made and are highly sought after.
European factories adopted the modern Copenhagen style and even Japan is now imitating these skilful productions, which were originally inspired by their own early work.
Royal Copenhagen is celebrating nearly 250 years of artistic output. Modern designers are now creating innovative and beautiful ranges for everyday use. Royal Copenhagen still maintains an important place in the 21st century.