Symbolising fidelity and secrecy, blue is a colour for which artists in the past would pay considerable sums. It is often the subject of writing. And it is also the colour in which the Royal Copenhagen expert painters excel.
Blue has innumerable shades and nuances. The truest and purest blue, cobalt, is used for decorating the classic Royal Copenhagen blue fluted service. Thousands of years before this, from as far back as 2600 BC, Egyptian and various other civilisations used cobalt to create intensely blue colour for glassware, glazing and ceramics.
Almost 7000 years ago, the Egyptians would crush the blue stone Lapiz Lazuli into a fine powder to use as pigment for eye makeup and murals on walls. Much later, medieval painters learned to use the stone’s colour to manufacture paint, attaining the colour ultramarine.
“…”I have found it at last. This is the true blue. Oh, how light it makes one. Oh, it is as fresh as a breeze, as deep as a deep secret, as full as I say not what.” With trembling hands she held the jar to her bosom…”
Quoting old Lady Helena’s exclamation upon being presented with a blue-painted Chinese jar. Quote is from “The Young Man with the Carnation” from Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen (the pen name of the Danish novelist Karen Blixen)
Royal Copenhagen’s blue pigment is called cobalt zinc silicate and it is the cobalt that provides the distinctive blueness. In its infancy, Royal Copenhagen obtained their cobalt from Norwegian ‘Blaafarveværket’, the ‘blue colour factory’ a company that was responsible for between 70 and 80 percent of all global cobalt production throughout the 19th century.
The “blues” of an artist Throughout history, the colour blue has been an important means of expression. Some artists used blue to signify a surplus of resources and wealth, whereas others used the colour to express their feelings. Pablo Picasso, for example, went through a decidedly “blue” period.
The signature of a blue-painter Blue is used in many of Royal Copenhagen’s decorations. Porcelain painting requires tremendous accuracy and concentration in a process that is both long and complicated. A blue-painter spends four years learning his craft. The delicate decoration is comparable to the painter’s own signature; at a glance the decorations may appear identical but each painter is able to immediately recognise their own and their colleagues work. In addition, all blue-painters put their own signature on the back of each and every porcelain item painted. Here these individual signatures join the three Royal Copenhagen waves, which represent the three Danish straits: the Oresund, the Great Belt and the Little Belt.
Blue on white The 18th century was the pinnacle of blue painting in ceramics. At that time, European porcelain factories looked east to China for inspiration, as this is where porcelain-painting tradition had deep roots. Frantz Heinrich Müller, founder of Royal Copenhagen (then the Royal Porcelain Factory), was no exception. He imported a stylised chrysanthemum motif from China to Denmark where it was developed and refined into the ultramarine pattern we know today on the fluted porcelain from Royal Copenhagen.
Blue - little and large In Denmark, we consider Blue Fluted Plain part of our cultural heritage and something we all have a connection to in one way or another. Passed down from generation to generation, pieces of Blue Fluted Plain can be found in many Danish homes. Over the centuries, Royal Copenhagen has produced between 1,500 and 2,000 different kinds of cups, jugs, bowls and plates; all hand-painted to the last detail. There have also been more unusual pieces in the series. In the early 1800s, Blue Fluted Plain was highly desirable and the pattern could be found on everything from washbasins to chamber pots.