Royal Copenhagen – the oldest porcelain manufactory in Scandinavia
In 1709, Johann Friedrich Böttger invented European porcelain in Meissen. Only one year later, in 1710, August the Strong opened the Meissen manufactory. The princely and royal houses then established various manufactories throughout the 18th century, especially in Germany and neighbouring countries.
More than 200 years of tradition
The oldest porcelain manufactory in Scandinavia is Royal Copenhagen. The manufactory was founded in 1775 by pharmacist and alchemist Frantz Heinrich Müller. However, the Swedish tableware brand Rörstrand was founded in as early as 1726 and also had a licence to produce porcelain, though it only manufactured earthenware.
Royal Copenhagen was under the patronage of the queen dowager Juliane Marie, and for 50 years had the exclusive charter to produce porcelain in Denmark. The royal family was also financially involved with the manufactory as early as 1779. Roughly 100 years after its foundation, the manufactory was privatised and relocated from Copenhagen to nearby Frederiksberg.
Royal Scandinavia for premium tableware
Around 1970, Denmark's Carlsberg brewery acquired the Royal Copenhagen factory and pursued the goal of making a name for itself as a luxury goods company for premium tableware and home accessories with Royal Copenhagen as its main brand. Various acquisitions were made for this purpose, such as the silversmith Georg Jensen in 1972, the Danish glassmaker Holmegaard in 1985, Bing & Grøndahl in 1987, and the Swedish glassmakers Orrefors and Kosta Boda in the late 1990s. The businesses were merged with the help of a holding company, and from then on bore the name of Royal Scandinavia.
However, as globalisation took its course, the Carlsberg brewery sold off the individual companies again. Royal Copenhagen thus came into the hands of a Danish pension fund and was sold to the Fiskars group in 2013, which also owns Iittala.
Exclusive crockery with a history
From the point of view of art history and the history of design, it is important to first mention the development of crockery being painted with a shell pattern and using cobalt blue – Blue Fluted Plain. This has been produced since the company's foundation.
The design of the Flora Danica crockery was also important. This very elaborate crockery was based on the idea of depicting all the plants and flowers from the reference book Flora Danica on one set of tableware. Friedrich VI commissioned this elaborate tableware in 1790 and wanted to present it as a gift to Catherine the Great once it was complete. Although the Russian czarina never received it due to her early death, Flora Danica is today the most expensive crockery in the world, and is still manufactured lovingly by hand in Denmark.
During the era of the artistic director Arnold Krog (1856–1931), the traditional Blue Fluted service was redesigned at Royal Copenhagen, and the versions Plain, Half Lace and Full Lace series were born. These decorative designs are still produced by Royal Copenhagen today, without modification. The shapes of the various pieces in the set have been adapted and added to create a contemporary feel. Krog also designed today's basic White Fluted, White Half Lace and Blue Flower tableware.
Highlights of Danish design
During the heyday of Scandinavian design, the architect Grethe Meyer was commissioned to design a popular tableware set for the manufactory – the Teema (Kilta) tableware from Finland served as a model. Grethe Meyer designed a charmingly elegant and simple set of crockery – Blue Line (Blåkant). It was made in faience and was available in different colour combinations. However, it was too expensive to produce as popular tableware. Nevertheless, it went down in history as one of the great highlights of Danish design from this era. It was not until 2010 that production of the crockery, which had been particularly popular in Denmark and Germany, was discontinued.
Royal Copenhagen – The post-Carlsberg era
From around 1960 to the year 2000, many young Danish designers continued to be supported, and Royal Copenhagen was considered one of the most adventurous design companies in Scandinavia. The Blue & Black Fluted Mega décor (Blue Fluted Plain as if viewed through a magnifying glass) marked the end of this era. From an economic perspective, it was only possible with the continued support of the Carlsberg brewery. Design series with short runs were discontinued relatively quickly once the Royal Copenhagen brewery had been sold.
The manufactory gradually harmonised the collection, so that every tableware series is made in the typical shapes, and they can now all be wonderfully combined with one another. The White Plain series always provides the basis for these.