Friday, November 28, 2008

Musings of a China Addict

Is there a contradiction in "modern and beautiful"? Not logically, but it becomes apparent in too many cases to be entirely dismissable. Some people say that falling back on the style of times gone by is a sign of lacking self-confidence to create an own one or, as Jilly Cooper put it, that the things that make us cringe now will be considered exquisitely beautiful in a remote future. We won't be alive to see proof of that, but, to speak from a purely personal point of view, I have yet to find a post-Victorian period I find beautiful and -- and that's the point -- living-in-able, a word I just made up. Nobody will deny Art Deco or Bauhaus style beauty, but the thought of living IN such an environment make me freeze.

How did those profound thoughts occur to me? I am somewhat of a china (with a small "c", as in porcelain) -addict and currently I am looking at Ebay for additions to my discontinued Villeroy & Boch dinner- and coffee services. Browsing there makes me once again realize how very few things are modern YET beautiful, and I was delighted to discover a V&B design previously unknown to me called, somewhat uninspiredly, Flora.

Whether "Flora" will pass the test of time is a different matter, but it certainly passes my very own test for things modern yet beautiful.

To quote an opposite example: I always found the prohibitively expensive service "Zauberflöte" by Rosenthal, which shows scenes from Mozart's "Magic Flute", pretentious crap, even when it came out and I was very young and my friends were raving about it. More than thirty years later, I still think it's pretentious crap.

To me, the plates look like pancakes, the dishes like a self-conscious suck-up to the Religion of Peace and the ornaments like equally self-conscious references to various idolatary religions. If the effort was about creating something as un-German as possible, it can be considered a success. But that is just I.

However, I realize now, I took things much too far with my own choice of a "good" dinner service, Rocaille by KPM -- the "Königliche Porzellanmanufaktur Berlin", decor 36. It is hand painted with flower bouquets, blossoms, insects and a gilt edge.

The name of the service is derived from the French word rocailles, shell-shaped ornaments, typical for the Rococo period. Friedrich Elias Meyer developed the dinner service Antique Zierat in 1767. In 1857, it was renamed Rocaille by King Frederick William IV. In the picture below are a few pieces of the service shown without the painting.

When I got it I was too young, immature and presumptious to see that I would never be able to "stage" such a service appropriately. It is suited only to the grandest of environments.

The blue-and-white services I inherited from my mother, Musselmalet by Royal Copenhagen (there we have more of those shells!) and the timeless blue onion pattern from Hutschenreuther and Meissen, are beautiful, but for very formal purposes not grand enough.



By the way, traditional blue-and-white patterns mix very well with each other.

What would I get now, if I had a second chance to acquire a very expensive, very formal dinner service? Kurland from KPM would certainly be on the list. From the company website:
Around 1790, Peter Biron, Duke of Kurland, commissioned a table service from KPM. Following on from courtly rococo with its shells and tendrils, around 1770 the predominant style drew its inspiration from classical antiquity. A service in a strict classic form was the result: "Dinner service with classical edge" It pays homage to the ideals of the classical world – austerity and symmetry merge in a timeless form.
And no, I have not gone mad yet. Of course it would have to be a much less elaborate design not to make the same mistake:

Perfect!

To come to an end, what ARE my two discontinued V&B services that started this entry?

The first is Gallo Design, Switch 4. It is a contemporary design, which I find not entirely satisfactory for my taste and purposes, but it would be a bore to explain how I ended up with it. It is bone china and of the usual V&B quality and now I have a garden, it will make a lovely garden service. It would be perfect for a conservatory with an orangery theme.


The other one is Botanica. It's affordable, sturdy and makes an excellent everyday service for all purposes. By now it has, I think, become obvious, that I am heavily into floral decors. The overall design with its gently curved lines and its overall "oldfashioned" flair is appealing as well. As an aside: the shape of the coffeepot is the best for hand-brewed coffee as well.

I imagine that a kitchen with the Botanica theme can look very pretty as long as one doesn't overdo it. The result might easily be too fussy or too herbarium-like.

The Wordsworth design from Ramm may be a nice match.

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