Flora Danica is a magnificent handpainted porcelaine-set decorated with pictures of Danish plants, copied from the coloured planches in the botanic-work Flora Danica. The porcelaine-set consists of a dinner- and dessert-service and was from 1790-1802 made by den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik, now Royal Copenhagen,
Very little is known about the background of the origin of the set. It is known that the order came from the Danish royal house, but it is not known why or how big the original order was. The purpose has been disputed. According to a very discussed tradition the set was meant to be a diplomatic gift from the Danish royal house to the Russian empress, Catharina the Great, at a time where Denmark needed a close connection to Russia in an alliance against the common enemy Sweden. According to the tradition Catharina's death in 1796 meant that the not finished set was never sent to Russia, but stayed in the Danish royal house.
Making the set
For the performance of the set an already existing set-form was chosen, the so-called Perlemodel (Pearl model) in classicistic style, equipped with gold edges. The set was decorated with pictures of 700 whole wild plants, which were copied from the unique botanical work Flora Danica. The scientific reproductions of Denmark's plants in this planche-work which had begun in 1761, was copied till the last detail upon the porcelaine. The making of the set became a life's work for one of the period's greatest porcelaine-painters, Johann Christoph Bayer, who decorated 1.644 pieces from the 1802 pieces of the whole set.
The work with the set started in 1790 and went fast in the beginning. 988 pieces were finished in 1792- and 363 more pieces came to in 1794. The same year crownprince Frederik ordered the set expanded from 80 till 100 place settings. Up till 1802 were made 370 pieces more. 93 pieces lacked in 1802 when the work was stopped on royal orders. In January 1803 the fabric delivered a set with 1802 various handshaped and handpainted porcelaine-pieces.
The Flora Danica-set was used for the first time at Christian 7.'s birthday 29. January 1803 at Amalienborg castle. The set has since been used at ceremonial events in the royal house, like weddings, birthdays, New Year's Banquets etc. Today it is used very rarely, the last time was at queen Ingrid's birthday in 1990.
From the original 1802 pieces exist still 1530 pieces. Some are exhibited at Christiansborg castle, Rosenborg castle and in Christian 7.'s Palæ at Amalienborg.
In 1862 Den kongelige Porcelænsfabrik took up the production of Flora Danica in connection to princess Alexandra's wedding in 1863 to the British heir to the throne, the later king Edward 7. The couple was given a set of 60 place settings (765 pieces) as a wedding gift.
The production of the set has continued since, and the Flora Danica-set is thereby the only set from the big porcelaine-sets from the grand time of the porcelaine in the 1700s which is still being produced.
The Flora Danica set is in the kulturkanonen (cultural canon) of Danish design and arts and crafts.
photo september 2008: grethe bachmann, Rosenborg Slot, København