|Scandinavian porcelain and glass have long received international acclaim and
recognition for their exquisite design and excellent craftsmanship. Two locations in
Denmark carry some of the best designs that Scandinavia has to offer: the Royal
Scandinavia Retail stores and the Rosenthal Studio Haus.
Located in the heart of Copenhagen alongside the old cobblestone walking streets,
Royal Scandinavia is comprised of four shops: Royal Copenhagen which specializes in
Danish porcelain, Holmegaard which specializes in Scandinavian glass, Illums
Bolighus which sells furniture of modern Scandinavian design and Georg Jensen which
specializes in cutlery and silverware by Danish designers. Just a few blocks down the
old walking street is the Rosenthal Studio Haus and gallery which features individual
artists and designers of glass and ceramics.
Danish design reflects both contemporary trends and age old traditions as well as the
personal artistry and vision of individual designers. “Every dinner plate has, first of all, a
story from the designer’s universe or from where the ideas came,” said Cathy Halling
Sørensen, marketing manager for Royal Scandinavia, the official purveyor of porcelain
and glass to Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark .
According to Sørensen, porcelain designs for Royal Scandinavia are created and
produced by designers at the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory
(www.royalcopenhagen.com) established in 1775 in Frederiksberg. Glass is designed
and blown in the glass factories of Holmegaard Glassworks (www.holmegaardglas.dk)
founded in 1825 in southern Zealand.
However, many new independent designers in Scandinavia and other parts of the world
are discovered and promoted each year through a gallery and display room at the store
said Sørensen. “Designers are picked by purchasers who are skilled in what the current
trends are,” she said. Some of the traditional designers represented at Royal
Copenhagen include Johann Christoph Bayer, Arnold Krog, Fanny Garde and Diana
Holstein. More contemporary designers of colorful and functional ceramic pieces and
dinnerware include Ole Jensen and Ursula Munch-Petersen.
According to Sørensen ,there are four signature porcelain designs that reflect the ideals
and aesthetics of Danish design over the centuries: Flora Danica, Blue Fluted, Liselund
Flora Danica is the oldest and most prestigious design commissioned in the eighteenth
century by the Crown prince Frederik on behalf of King Christian VII of Denmark as a gift
for the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia who was an avid collector of porcelain.
Each plate was uniquely designed by Johann Christoph Bayer with paintings of Nordic
wildflowers on white porcelain.
Sørensen said that there are 700 different flower designs which are painted by hand on
each piece of the dinner service. According to the manufacturer, individual pieces are
hand cut with scalloped edges and perforations to create a the effect of lace. They are
gilded with gold leaf by hand on both rims and handles. It is, indeed, the most expensive
dinner service in production today said Sørensen.
A total of 1802 pieces took 12 years to design. Sadly, Catherine the Great died before the
dinner service was completed, so the service remained in the Royal Danish Household
and became the heritage of the kings of Denmark said Sørensen.
Today, the Flora Danica service is available to customers through regular production
exclusively through Royal Copenhagen, however most individuals cannot afford the cost
of the entire service but can enjoy the beauty of a single piece. Since the Danish
Government and the Royal House present Flora Danica as official gifts to dignitaries on
special occasions, it remains the most prestigious dinner service in the world said
Created in 1775, the Blue Fluted dinner service was Denmark’s first dinner service said
Sørensen. Today, it is Denmark’s most popular service. According to Royal
Copenhagen, its chrysanthemum pattern was inspired by the porcelain of ancient
Chinese dynasties and is composed of some 1197 hand painted brush strokes.
“It takes one and a half years to learn how to paint the Blue Fluted design,” said France
Christiansen, an artist who trained for the required three and a half years at the school of
the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory to paint the Blue Fluted dinner service. A
water based paint of cobalt blue is used for the decorative motifs on the surface of a
special pure white porcelain which is a mixture of feldspar, china clay (kaolin) and quartz
said Christiansen. She said that the brushes used to paint the blue designs are unique
to the artist who cuts them into shape out of cow ear hairs.
The process of making porcelain pieces is lengthy and labor intensive said Sørensen. It
takes two firings in the kiln, one before and after painting and glazing, to complete each
piece she said. The individual pieces are fired at very high temperatures (1400 degrees
Celsius) said Sørensen.
According to Royal Copenhagen, the Liselund dinner service was designed by Diana
Holstein and was inspired by a castle retreat built near Møns Klint by a lord for his wife,
Lisa, 200 years ago. A golden lattice motif over a dark or light blue field of color
decorates most of the dinner service. As the manufacturer states, the design combines
the classical romanticism of the nineteenth century with the simplicity and harmony of
Created in the art nouveau style by Fanny Garde in 1892, Sørensen said that the Seagull
design was inspired by nature and the space and simplicity of the seascape which
surrounds most of Denmark. The dinner service uses a breakthrough underglaze and
watercolor technique with a limited palette of blue, brown and white colors developed by
Arnold Krog in the late nineteenth century. It produces a dinner service of “mild, misty
tones” according to Danish ethnologist, Lone Rahbek Christensen. The Seagull service
is now considered Denmark’s national service according to Royal Copenhagen.
Royal Scandinavia helps customers put together custom packages of dinner service,
cutlery and glassware. Customers can fill out a profile, or a wish list, on the company’s
web site (www.royalshopping.com) and sales staff will send sample photographs to
customers as they assist individuals in choosing a well integrated table dressing that
reflects their tastes and lifestyle. About Danish table dressing and design, Sørensen
said, “It’s a lot about the eye and how the items are chosen.”
Individual designers are invited each season to create displays and give lectures about
table dressings in various styles and expressions in the Royal Scandinavia gallery at
Illums Bolighus. There, customers can find inspiration for design, color and style
combinations of dinner service, glassware, cutlery, furniture and table dressing. Tours of
the stores, galleries, porcelain manufactory and glassworks factory are also provided
Next door at the Holmegaard store, glassware by Danish designers from the glass
factory at Holmegaard Glassworks and other Scandinavian artists are on display. Some
of the designers represented at the store include Michael Bang, Per and Marlene Lütken,
Allan Scharff, Sidse Werner, Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, Peter Svarrer, Ann-Sofi
Romme and Anja Kjær.
Glass pieces which are in production at the factory of Holmegaard Glassworks range
from graceful functional forms of solid weighty glass to sculptural vessels of delicate
spiraling shapes. Bang is the son of architect Jacob Bang who is credited with creating
much of the early Danish glassware according to the manufacturer. Simplicity and
functionality are signatures of the Bangs’ glass designs. Lütken, on the other hand, is
credited with creating much of the designs of later generations of Danish glass.
According to Holmegaard, Malene Lütken follows in his footsteps as she continues the
tradition of contemporary design and the renewal of the classical wine glass initiated by
Scharff designs bowls and vases of organic forms reminiscent of seashells and flowers
in clear glass of thick proportions. Werner brings creativity to her designs of hefty clear
glass candle motives carved with spiraling surfaces. Bülow-Hübe instills symbolism into
her elegant forms of clear glass candle motives that feature unfolding shapes
resembling lilies, hearts and wings.
Svarrer melds simplicity with functionality in his designs of glassware for the table. He
finds clever ways to bring simple angular geometry and rhythmic repetition into rounded
forms of bowls and vases of light blue, lime green,white opaque and smoky gray frosted
glass. Romme designs romance and elegance into her glassware for the table. Delicate
shapes and slim weights of clear glass define her wine glasses and goblets. And Kjær
plays with color and texture in her vases of blues, blood reds and earth tones, and wine
glasses which echo the shape and texture of pineapples.
The glassware of other designers represented at Holmegaard continue to reflect both
the tradition of elegance and simplicity that is the hallmark of Danish design as well as
the individuality of the artists’ personalities and visions.
In addition to high quality porcelain produced by Rosenthal, the Rosenthal Studio Haus,
established in 1969,focuses on individual fine art glass pieces which are presented in a
gallery setting. “We are very fond of glass artists. We try to pick out glass that is not so
much part of a volume business, but is innovative and unique,” said Sven-Erik
Netterstrøm, the manager of Rosenthal Studio Haus in Copenhagen. Netterstrøm and
his buyers scour the Scandinavian countryside and coasts for small glass factories and
artists studios in search of unusual and finely made glass pieces.
Some of the artists represented at Rosenthal include Bertil Vallien, Ulrica
Hydman-Vallien, Göran Wärff , Kjell Engman and Bjørn Wiinblad. “We have good
relationships with our artists, so we often get unique or limited edition pieces that are
sold no where else,” said Netterstrøm.
Bertil Vallien is the veteran of the group, “a renewer of Swedish glass” according to the
gallery. His work is collected by glass connoisseurs the world over said Netterstrøm. A
designer at the renown Kosta Boda glassworks in Sweden, Vallien creates one of a kind
art works of glass using contemporary layering techniques to create a variety of surreal
effects and sculptures often incorporating faces, metallic accents and sand molds said
Ulrica Hydman-Vallien came to Kosta Boda with her husband, Bertil. She is known for
exquisite and personal style of painting on glass. Images of motherhood and children
are often themes of her designs. Shapes of vessels are organic with swirling forms of
various reds, blues and earth tones outlined in black.
Another Kosta Boda artist, Göran Wärff, is known for the masterful embodiment of light in
his glass pieces. Swirling thin lines of blue strands and crosshatching wrap like fine
folds of billowing silk around substantially weighty yet elegant vases of clear glass. His
work is all about color and light and form.
Kjell Engman is also a designer at Kosta Boda glassworks. According to Rosenthal
gallery, he is an “innovator in a world of mythical imagery.” His figures of fantasy animals
and people blown in deep cobalt blue glass are often playful and humorous.
The ceramist of the group, Bjørn Wiinblad, still working at 84 years old, is a Danish icon.
“Danes love him,” said Netterstrøm. He added, “Seventy percent of Rosenthal’s
production is of Wiinblad’s designs. He is so universal that everyone from Scandinavia,
Asia and America loves his work even after 50 years of it. Some of the pieces we sell
have been in production for over 40 years.”
Wiinblad’s designs exemplify Danish charm and wit. His ceramic figurines, plates,
bowls, vases and candle sticks show stylistic characters in idyllic settings and
decorative costumes painted in blue or green with pink accents on white porcelain.
According to Netterstrøm, Wiinblad was a fanatic about opera, particularly the Magic Flute
by Mozart, so much of his design was influenced by theater and whimsy. Wiinblad also
created many posters and lithography designs for the Royal Danish Theater and the
Royal Danish Ballet said Netterstrøm.
In addition to figurines and decorative plates and bowls, Wiinblad designed a very
popular dinner set said Netterstrøm. Its components are shaped asymmetrically and
sport white and gold decoration. According to Netterstrøm, a new technique had to be
developed to create the absolutely flat planes of the saucers and plates to adhere to
Wiinblad’s unique aesthetic sense.
Customers can easily order online from the Rosenthal Studio Haus website
(www.rosenthal.dk). Exchange rates and shipping information are provided. Customers
must allow several weeks for delivery outside of Denmark. For travel information to
Denmark, visit the Danish Tourism Board online (www.visitdenmark.com) or the web
site of the European Travel and Tourism Bureau, All Travel Denmark