Blue Fluted porcelain – the beginnings
In 1775, the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory was founded. The intention was that the factory would concentrate on production of Blue Fluted porcelain, which the Chinese produced with great success. The German porcelain factory in Meissen was also a source of inspiration for Danish producers and in the early years the porcelain produced at the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory, now Royal Copenhagen A/S, followed the German design closely. It was the plan from the beginning that Blue Fluted porcelain should be accessible to the masses and be a service that appealed to all levels of society. Blue Fluted porcelain was much less expensive and simpler to produce than the more prestigious multicoloured porcelain and it was expected from the start to sell well. The expectation was, moreover, that the Blue Fluted porcelain would provide the financial underpinning for the factory.See Blue Fluted plattern at auction
Royalty and Blue Fluted porcelain
The factory received financial backing from the Danish monarchy, which is likely to have been influenced by the fact that a couple of years earlier large deposits of cobalt, an important factor of production in Blue Fluted porcelain, had been found in Norway. Moreover, many of the raw materials for the production process could be sourced from within the boundaries of the monarchy. At the time in question Norway was under Denmark and so the king was one and the same, Christian VII.
Production of Blue Fluted porcelain did not come off to an especially good start – quality was simply not good enough. This is best illustrated in that in the early years of production the royal family bought quality porcelain from Germany instead of Blue Fluted porcelain from the factory, in spite of the royal family’s financial interest in the factory. However, from c. 1780, the quality of Blue Fluted porcelain had become acceptable. Despite this, Danes continued to buy porcelain from Germany, which irritated the king so much that in 1780 he introduced a royal ban on import of foreign porcelain. This did not extend to Chinese porcelain, but it almost secured a monopoly for the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory and Blue Fluted porcelain.
Blue Fluted pattern
The Danish term for Blue Fluted is ’musselmalet’, and there are many suggestions for how the name came into being. The story the majority of experts hold with is that ‘musselmalet’ comes from the German work for scallop (‘Muschel’), as the outer side of the Blue Fluted porcelain service is fluted just like on a scallop. This would mean that ’musselmalet’ actually refers to the Blue Fluted service itself, whereas throughout the years the Danish term for Blue Fluted has been used to describe the pattern. The characteristic Blue Fluted pattern is inspired by popular ancient Chinese porcelain motifs and consists of stylized flowers (Chrysanthemum and Potentilla) with 'palmettes' composed of small leaves. Even though Blue Fluted porcelain was produced in Meissen in Germany long before we began producing it in Denmark, the Blue Fluted pattern is recognized the world over as typically Danish. Today the whole world associates the blue colour with Denmark, and many collectors today only accept porcelain with the three characteristic wave marks in the underglaze underneath the various pieces. These three waves symbolize Denmark – i.e. three straits surrounding Denmark – Øresund, the Great Belt and the Little Belt.
Moreover, the cool, stringent and clean expression of much of the Blue Fluted porcelain plays a large role in the Blue Fluted pattern being associated with Denmark. The style is well suited to Danish interiors and picks up on many areas that characterize Danish design.
In 1784 Crown Prince Frederik came to power under a coup, which also came to mean a change in management at the porcelain factory. During the 19th century the popularity of Blue Fluted porcelain diminished and first when Arnold Krog was appointed artistic director of the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory in 1884 did production again begin to reach its former heights. He describes in his memoirs his first meeting with the strength and distinctive character of the underglaze.
’The porcelain was white and shiny like a cut gemstone without colour. Lovely in itself, hard in its substance, but soft to behold and touch, and it was as if one could see deep into it, like through still waters. And why then ruin this with frills, ornaments and various colour, appearing as adhered to the surface and depriving it of its white natural lustre and softness. If frills and colour must be applied, then this should be inside, be a part of the priceless material itself, for the whole to be as if the decoration was not applied by human hand, but finished by Nature itself.’ (Translated from the Danish)
The Danish Blue Fluted pattern
In the early years the Blue Fluted pattern of Blue Fluted porcelain in Denmark was almost an exact copy of that the Germany factory in Meissen was producing. However, the pattern was quickly to become more Danish. The pattern became simpler in all aspects of its composition. This naturally relates to the requirement for efficient production and an inexpensive product, but can definitely also be seen in terms of a move towards a more Scandinavian style.
Up until as late as 1868 the Blue Fluted pattern was exclusively a male occupation. The first female ’blue’ painter was employed in January 1868. From this year onwards more and more women were employed and the craft became more a female occupation, which it remains today. Painting a plate or a cup is a craft that requires great accuracy and concentration, and one which involves a long and complicated work process. It takes approx. 1,200 brushstrokes to paint an average plate and for an experienced painter this takes half an hour.
In 2001 Royal Copenhagen introduced Blue Fluted Mega and from the start this was an enormous success. It was the young Danish designer Karen Kjældgård-Larsen who came up with the new pattern, which consists of the original pattern but in an enlarged version.
It will be exciting to see what the future has to offer and follow developments in the characteristic pattern. One thing is sure – Blue Fluted has come to stay.
See current auctions with Blue Fluted Pattern