Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Mysterious and Most Luxurious Ice Bell

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 The china was originally made as a gift for the Russian Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great), commissioned by the Danish Crown Prince Frederick in 1790.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.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Mad Men Themed Party

Yesterday evening we had some friends over for the new season of Mad Men. A few hours before, we decided we were going to dress up for it. Pretty last minute, but luckily I have a good collection of vintage dresses.

I chose a 1950's one-shoulder, cotton dress with a charming shoulder bow. Underneath, I layered some What Katie Did faux-vintage undies and a petticoat. I would have liked a fluffier petti or a couple layered, but as I said, this was last minute. The merry widow from What Katie Did was perfect. I highly recommend it. It has an excellent silhouette and the straps come off. The shoes are cut out "leather" from Forever 21. They reminded me of jelly shoes.

Glamour Merry Widow by What Katie Did

The biggest challenge was my hair. I have a lot of it and it's quite long - past my waist. Not super in style for the era. I did a little experimenting and started wrapping my hair around my fingers, rolling it under and pinning it to the base of my head. After a good handful of pins I had a pretty convincing pageboy.

And of course, I painted my nails red :)

Good view of the hair.

And from a slightly different angle...


For the menu we did very American picnic food - fried chicken and potato salad, deviled eggs, chips and sour cream dip and apple pie. And lots of yummy drinks: bottled coke, martinis, gimlets, gibsons and old fashioneds. We found the cutest plates from Sur la Table. Blue plaid and very picnic. 

And no self-respecting housewife would be without a perfect apron! I found one at the same store that matched my dress perfectly. Yay!

Sur la Table Blue-Plaid collection

Sur la Table Polka-Dot Rooster napkin holder

Sur la Table Roosevelt vintage-inspired half apron.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Red and Black Leather Kensingtons by American Duchess

I'm sure all of you know about them already, but for those it might have slipped by, American Duchess now has new red and black leather 18th century shoesies available for pre order. I just ordered mine this morning. I got red. I also ordered some of the fabulous shoe buckles. Yay!

To go to the American Duchess shop, click here.

To see some examples of beautiful and original red 18th century shoes on the American Duchess blog, click here.

And my personal favorites from red shoe land...

18th c. red leather shoes from the Kyoto Costume Institute.
I loooooooove the heel! Fab!