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Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory

A dinner and dessert service, known as the Flora Danica service 1863-65

Porcelain | RCIN 5000085

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  • A porcelain dessert service including 293 plates, other associated serving plates and comports, the plates decorated with a gilt dentil and foliate rim, gilt beading and panels of imbricated discs on pink grounds separated with foliate sprigs, all decorated in the Flora Danic pattern with a botanical specimen at the centre of each plate, often with rootstock and in flower, the specimen named in black underglaze inscriptions to the reverse with the notation of the Flora Danica encyclopedia entry.  

    The painting of botanically accurate specimens on porcelain had a wider tradition in Europe. In 1790, Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark (1768–1839), who was acting as regent for his father, Christian VII (1749– 1808), ordered a porcelain dessert service from the Royal Copenhagen porcelain manufactory (established in 1775). The intended recipient was not known, but it was suggested that the service would be a diplomatic gift for Catherine the Great of Russia (1729–96), to rival the great Wedgwood ‘Frog service’. The cost of producing the Flora Danica service, between 1790 and 1802, when production was halted, was £13,000. The cessation of production was so sudden that four of the cruets remained lidless, and the service became part of the Danish royal collection soon afterwards. Each piece featured a plant, which was copied directly from Flora Danica, a multi-volume encyclopaedia on botany begun in 1761. The plants in the encyclopaedia were those growing within the jurisdiction of the Danish monarchy, and therefore included specimens from Norway and into Greenland and Iceland. Separate specimens were selected for lids and bases of serving ware, and the images were so faithfully copied from the encyclopaedia that they also included their roots. On the reverses of all the plates and the tureen bases are the Latin names for the plants, in black underglaze, and a notation which directly relates to the volume and plate for the plant in the Flora Danica encyclopaedia. Some pieces were lost during the fire at the Christiansborg Palace in 1884, but 1,530 pieces (of an original total of 1,802) remain in the Danish royal collection today.
     
    Text adapted from Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, London, 2015.
     
    Provenance

    In late 1862, at the announcement of the engagement of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841–1910), a committee of Danish ladies decided that a recreation of the Flora Danica service would be a suitable wedding gift from Denmark. Accordingly, the Royal Copenhagen porcelain manufactory put back into production the white glazed, gold dentilbordered tableware which had last been made 60 years earlier. They selected the most appealing Danish and Norwegian specimens and focused on attractive flowers and foliage. The service was received in February 1864; 725 pieces, for 60 place settings, were included in the gift. Most of these remain in the Royal Collection today, as well as some additional pieces that were a wedding gift to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947, from the King and Queen of Denmark. Another Flora Danica service of 60 place settings was made in 1964, for the wedding of Princess Anne Marie of Denmark to King Constantine II of Greece, and the pattern remains in production today.

  • Medium and techniques

    Porcelain

  • Place of Production

    Copenhagen [Zealand]