22 March 2010
Found while researching fashion news for VMan:
Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica
Made since 1790
The world's most prestigious dinnerware
One of the last luxury services still in existence from the 18th century is perhaps the world's most prestigious dinnerware in production today. Flora Danica is reputed to be one of the most original and inspired products of the European art industry from the golden age of porcelain.
The creation of the Flora Danica dinnerware was an immense task. It became the life's work of one of the most gifted artists of the late 18th century, and one of the greatest porcelain painters, Johann Christoph Bayer. The long and laborious process commenced in 1790 and was not finished until 12 years and 1,802 different pieces of hand-molded and hand-painted porcelain later.
To this very day Flora Danica is still molded and painted by hand as it was more than 200 years ago. The elaborate and intricate overglaze decorations contain more than 700 wild plants in their patterns, all culled from the old encyclopedia "Flora Danica".
Flora Danica is admired today as it was when it was first produced, although culture and taste have changed a great deal since then. Flora Danica speaks to us across the ages - perhaps, as our world returns to nature, more eloquently than ever before. One never tires of studying the service, because each and every piece is decorated with an individual and highly articulated plant - complete with flower, leaves, stem, root and fruit.
A dinner service fit for kings
Flora Danica was commissioned by Crown Prince Frederik on behalf of king Christian VII of Denmark for creation at the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory. According to tradition the service was intended as a gift for the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, an enthusiastic collector of porcelain.
The king chose to have Danish plants depicted on the porcelain service, thus making it an obvious choice. The 18th century was the age of enlightenment and sensitivity, and Europe's fascination with botany was growing. Porcelain had become a matter of royal prestige since the recipe for this 'white gold' had been rediscovered in Europe in the beginning of the century, and most European princes quickly founded their own porcelain manufactories.
Flora Danica was used for the first time on 29 January 1803. The occasion was nothing less than the birthday banquet for the king himself. Ever since this royal service has been used only on ceremonial occasions, among which were royal birthdays and weddings, visits by- foreign monarchs and banquets held for the opening of the High Court and the investiture of knights.
After the creation of the original service Flora Danica was not produced for a further 60 years. Then, in 1863, a new service was made as a wedding present from the Danish people to Princess Alexandra, daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark, on her marriage to the Prince of Wales, later king Edward VII. Queen Alexandra's Flora Danica service is now kept at Windsor Castle as part of Queen Elizabeth II's collection.
Of the 1,802 pieces of the original Flora Danica service delivered in 1803, 1,530 survive to the present day. Part of this service still graces the royal table of Queen Margrethe II on state occasions at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Other pieces from this rare, old dinner service remain safely exhibited at Rosenborg Castle, now a museum, and Amalienborg Palace, the official residence of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
Sovereign in its individuality
At the time of this revival the old dinner service went into regular production. Today it is still considered the flower of Danish decorative art and a distinguished specimen of Danish design: clearly formulated, aesthetically executed and sovereign in its individuality. Connoisseurs are struck by the extraordinary decorative power of the painting, by the interplay between lustrous color and warm gilding, and by the vigorous and sure modeling of the individual pieces. The late Princess Grace of Monaco wrote in her book on flowers: "One of the most delicate and beautiful porcelain patterns is the famous Flora Danica from Denmark."
Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica
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