Notebook, 1993-


POTTERY AND PORCELAIN - Glossary - A List of Museums and Galleries - Ceramics - [A materials resource site with links]

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Pottery & Porcelain - Danish

Copenhagen Porcelain
Attempts to make porcelain in Denmark did not meet with any real success until F.H. Müller, an extremely able chemist employed at the Danish Mint, began production in 1771.

The hard-paste porcelain made by Müller resulted from lengthy experiments with kaolin deposits discovered on the island of Bornholm in 1755 by Niels Birch.

An earlier undertaking by Louis Fournier, who had been at Sèvres in Chantilly, made only soft paste, and lasted no more than six or seven years [1759-66] Fournier's rare productions are usually marked with an 'F' accompanied by the number '5' [for Frederick V of Denmark].

Various German workmen and arcanists, including the unreliable C.C. Hunger, had also offered their services, but these had been declined.

Müller was, however, assisted by J. G. von Langen, a mining engineer from Fürstenberg, who became advisor to the factory.

In 1744 a company was formed with Queen Juliane Marie as chief shareholder, and a year later it obtained a privilege.

On Langen's advice A.C. Laplau, a Fürstenberg modeller and arcanist, was employed in 1776, and with his help both the paste and techniques of production were much improved. In spite of this, financial difficulties caused the company to be taken over by the king in 1779. It then became the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory [Den Kongelige Porcelainfabrik Copenhagen], a title retained until the present day; though Royal ownership ended in 1867.

The mark adopted from 1775 was three wavy lines, symbolizing Denmark's main waterways to the Baltic [the Sound, the Great and Little Belts]. This, surmounted by a crown, and with varying inscriptions, has also been retained.

Twenty years of prosperity under the Crown was followed by a marked decline in the first half of the nineteenth century. Damage was caused by the factory during the bombardment by the British fleet under Admiral Gambier in 1807, and by 1822 the number of painters employed had dwindled to two. Modern revival dates from the appointment of Arnold Krog [1856-1931], an architect and designer of great ability, who became Art Director in 1885, following the removal of the factory from Kobmagerade to Smallegrade, Frederiksberg.

Porcelain made during the first period [1779-9] was of a bluish-grey tone, but by 1780 it had become whiter and more translucent. The shapes and decoration, in underglaze blue were at first much under the influence of Meissen and Fürstenberg. From the beginning of the Royal period a classical style [p. 430] prevailed and the palette was greatly increased. Rams' heads, architectural motifs, and pierced basketwork borders were favoured; also silhouettes in black or grey monochrome, historical portraits and landscapes with ruins. Some nineteenth-century biscuit figures and reliefs are after Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Copenhagen's greatest achievement was the famous 'Flora Danica Service', probably intended for the Russian Empress Catherine II. It was started in 1789-90, but Catherine died in 1796, and the service, which was still incomplete in 1802, is now in the Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen.

The decoration of the 1,602 pieces was determined by the administrative director Theodor Holm, statesman and botanist, and the painting executed by J.C. Bayer, who had already illustrated Holm's book on Danish fungi. The shapes are neoclassical, painted with naturalistic botanical subjects taken from the earlier parts of a great work on Danish flora, started by Oeder and published between 1761 and 1883. Fruit and flower baskets are ornamented with flowers modelled in the round by Soren Preuss. [pp. 430-431]

[L. G. G. Ramsey, F.S.A., ed. The Complete Color Encyclopedia of Antiques. Preface by Bevis Hillier, Editor of The Connoisseur. Compiled by The Connoisseur, London. New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc. 1962. Revised and Expanded Edition.]



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