|Photo: Rosenberg Castle, Royal Danish Collection.|
I've been on a bit of a china kick lately, well more than usual, and I have been browsing tons and tons of patterns. I was told about Flora Danica by my Grandmother, who has quite a love of beautiful china herself.
Flora Danica is made by Royal Copenhagen and is considered one of, if not thee, most luxurious, expensive and historic china patterns in production today. The design on each piece is taken from the botanical prints of the Flora Danica atlas. The china was originally made as a gift for the Russian Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great), commissioned by the Danish Crown Prince Frederick in 1790. It was the life's work of painter, Johann Christoff Bayer. Unfortunately Catherine never received the set, as she died in 1796, before the china was completed. One a brighter note, the original dinner set is still in use for state occasions in the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.
|Catherine the Great|
|Frederick VI of Denmark|
So, as we're browsing these amazing pieces, we came across the ice dome (aka ice bell). The what? I'm usually very proud of my knowledge of obscure dining pieces, but this completely eluded me. It's never been mentioned in any of my books, or in any other china pattern I have ever seen. I was especially curious as it is the most expensive piece offered in the Flora Danica collection. Must be important right? So I started The Great Google Search. It has never taken me this long to locate information online before, but finally, tucked away in a news article from the Rome News-Tribune (April 22, 1990), I found a headline: Danish china survives 200 years, by Barbara Mayer. Score!
|Flora Danica's Ice Bell, by Royal Copenhagen|
According to Ms Mayer, "Because Flora Danica was created as banquet china, there are some unusual pieces. One of the most spectacular is an ice dome, a 15-inch platter topped with a 14-inch-high dome made of open-work porcelain. The dome was to cover a large chunk of ice, which by evaporation would cool the dinner guests. Now it is used for dessert and sometimes mistakenly referred to as an ice cream dome."
So basically, 18th century air conditioning. Very fancy air conditioning... I kind of want one, just to say I have one, but I suppose I'll have to settle with a fan for now, seeing as buying the ice bell will set you back almost $40,000.00. Oh my.
And some more from the Flora Danica collection...
PS if you're on the west coast, and you ever want to see this china in person, snag a ticket to Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate in Rancho Mirage, CA. They have an extensive collection of Flora Danica, as well as lots of English silver-gilt, Meissen and Chinese porcelain. Not to mention the art... Just get tickets for the house tour ahead of time. They go on sale the 1st and 15th of the month and get snapped up very, very fast. If you miss the house, you can always tour the grounds, no appointment necessary.