Danish Table China - The Royal Copenhagen Factory, famed worldwide for its fine ornamental wares, has also produced a great deal of tableware in its long history, most of which attracts considerable interest from collectors.


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Danish Table China


  The Royal Copenhagen Factory, famed worldwide for its fine ornamental wares, has also produced a great deal of tableware in its long history, most of which attracts considerable interest from collectors.

Blue-Fluted pattern The elegant shapes, hand-painted blue and white decorations and, from the 1880s, the distinctive lacework borders of Royal Danish tablewares have insured their popularity over more than two centuries.

 Denmark holds a special place in the world of ceramics. It is the home of the Royal Copenhagen factory, which has been producing very fine ceramics for over 200 years. The first factory in the city was founded in 1722 to make blue and white pottery inspired by Delft ware. It closed in 1770, but another pottery had been set up there in 1755, producing soft-paste porcelain. In 1760, Louis Fournier introduced techniques he had learned at the famous Sevres factory in France, and the reputation of Copenhagen began to spread through Europe.

 After a gap in production caused by the Seven Years' War, a new factory was founded in 1775 to make hard-paste porcelain. It was set up by an apothecary, Franz Heinrich Mueller, and the Dowager Queen of Denmark. At the queen's suggestion, three wavy blue lines, representing the three waterways which surround and divide the country, were adopted as the factory mark.

 Mueller employed highly respected artists, but could not make the factory pay, and it was offered to the king in 1779. From then on it was known as the Royal Danish Porcelain Factory and began selling its wares direct to the public from a shop in the factory itself.

 Despite its name, the factory produced not only fine ornamental pieces and tableware in porcelain for the nobility, but also an equally wide range of earthenware pieces, most of them intended primarily for the use of servants, that carried similar decorations.


Blue-Fluted pattern The factory's reputation largely rests on two smoky underglaze blue patterns, introduced in the 1770s for use on earthenware as well as porcelain. The first, known as Mussel or the Blue-Fluted pattern, was inspired by an ancient Chinese motif, and was very labour intensive. Over 1,000 brush-strokes were needed to decorate each Blue-Fluted plate.

Blue Flower The second, Blue Flower, was introduced in 1779, and features a variety of naturalistic flowers arranged in bouquets. Between them, the two underglaze blue patterns have been responsible for more than 90 per cent of tile factory's total output over the years, and the blue and white decoration has come to be known worldwide as Copenhagen.

 The factory went into something of a decline after the Napoleonic Wars, but a change of ownership in the 1880s brought about a revival in the quality of the traditional blue and white tableware, as well as another famous pattern, the Flora Danica.

 This pattern, first used on an 1,800-piece service commissioned by a Danish Crown Prince for Catherine II of Russia, featured drawings of native Danish plants on a white or cream porcelain ground. Each and every part of the service had its own plant, copied from colour plates with a then unprecedented degree of botanical accuracy.


 Copenhagen tableware can be bought at auction and from specialist dealers. Services hand-decorated with the Blue-Fluted, Blue Flower and Flora Danica patterns are still being made, so be careful not to be palmed off with modern pieces at antique prices. Copies of the blue and white wares are plentiful. Several British factories have made and marked them as Danish or Blue Denmark.

Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica Round Platter Valued: USD $2800 Modern Flora Danica pieces have bright colours, while ones from the 1860s, when it was first made commercially, have a subdued, rustic look to them. Look underneath. Early pieces are marked with the number of the original engraving and the part number of the botanical work from which the illustration was copied. Some pieces made early in the 20th century have a crown mark above the blue waves, and modern ones have only the Latin name of the part shown.

 Royal Copenhagen tableware isn't cheap; l8th century porcelain pieces can be enormously expensive, and condition is of the utmost importance. However, if you're serious about building up a collection, damaged pieces may be worth buying for reference, though the price you're charged must reflect their condition. As a rough guide, a chip should halve the price of a piece, while a hairline crack reduce it even further.

 Although the great majority of tableware produced by Royal Copenhagen was decorated with one or other of the traditional blue and white patterns, other designs were also used, particularly after the factory came under the direction of Arnold Krog in the 1880s. This was particularly true of presentation plates, some of them designed by Krog himself.

 Read articles and references: Good standards are Warman's English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (Susan and Al Bagdade), and Marks & Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William Chaffers).


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