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20 January 2010

China Girl

Flora Danica from Royal Copenhagen - the Queen Bee of Services

Much more fun than planning a wedding - in my opinion - is picking out china and crystal for one's registry. There's no room for fleeting flights of fancy here - these are patterns to be collected and enjoyed over decades.

My mother Jennifer, a potter herself, enthusiastically agreed to lend her expert eye in this very serious undertaking - armed with a fresh pack of Camels and comfortable shoes, she was ready to take on the Big City.

First stop: Michael C. Fina. Their extensive selection of lines, from Bernardaud to Mottahedeh, makes this ground zero for all brides.

One thing I learned immediately - throw that list made from looking at the website away. I thought for sure Mottahedeh's Tobacco Leaf was for me until I saw it in person.

Alas, the quality of the painting didn't measure up - at least, not after having seen the antique version it's replicating.

The subterranean level of the store is like a candy story of color and pattern. For the first time, I really experienced the connection between textiles - already an obsession - and ceramics. Would it be too dramatic to call it a porcelain epiphany? No, I don't think it would.


Darley Abbey by Royal Crown Derby - loved the haunting blue-green, but how good will it look when the gilt starts rubbing off....


Constance from Bernardaud - one of Bernardaud's best-sellers and comes with lots of different serving pieces. Neoclassical with whimsical acorn garlands - definitely a contender.

Roseraie, also by Bernardaud - I don't know why, but I fell in love with this one. Hmmm...


So many delicious patterns, but only one could be crowned mine. Or could it? How about another pattern for the dessert service, suggested Mom. This changed the whole game.

While going over our research at the tasty east side Mexican joint, Zarela's, Zarela herself came over, and after a random anecdote about Robert Palmer, advised, "Make sure food will look good on it." Oh, right!

The one line chez Fina did not carry, to my chagrin, was the Hungarian factory Herend. After a quick Camel, Mom was ready to fight the crowds up Fifth to Saks where we admired the hand-painted bugs, the molded basket-weave rim and green branch handles of Rothschild Bird.


I was charmed even before I heard the back story of the pattern: it was first made for the Baroness de Rothschild in 1860 and was inspired by the Baroness having lost her pearls in the garden which were found later by the gardener in the beaks of frolicking birds perched in the trees.

A tip to other brides or anyone who has decided to make a lifelong commitment to porcelain - look at the serving pieces as well as the dinner plates. After looking at the coffee pots and tureens of Roseraie, I bade a sorrowful farewell.

Another thing to keep in mind - generally the more decorated the plate, the more expensive it is. I was smitten by the over-the-top Traditional Imari by Royal Crown Derby....

but found the price tag equally dramatic. As I don't want to live in fear of breaking plates and I hope to be able to complete the service before I'm 100, a service that is more reasonably priced than not is a consideration.

The solution? Having my cake and eating it too - on Traditional Imari, while the rest of the dinner is served on Rothschild Bird.

Now, what did or would you pick out?

27 comments:

Marija said...

Beautiful selections! I subscribe to your mother's philosophy - multiple patterns make a happy hostess. Wedgewood Signet Platinum (selected for it's shapely cup, saucer and coffee service) and Hermes Africa II. A bit more modern but I think you'd like both!

Mrs. Blandings said...

Ah, how I loved this process, though I'm not sure you would know it from my selections. I have Herend Golden Edge, chosen with the idea to mix lots of stuff for dessert or salad. I have not picked up much beyond it, but still love the basket weave of the rim. I truly wish I had picked something with more pattern. I feared I would tire of it, though now I know I wouldn't have. Smart you.

Lynne Rutter said...

what a torture to have to pick only one! can you not take three and mix them up?
i like the Darley Abbey pattern best of these. but i'd probably look into some antique stores before choosing anything new.

Blue said...

My choice would be Wedgwood White bone china for the basics with a top dressing of Flora Danica. Add some William Yeoward crystal and Jensen silver, heavy-weight linen damask with 3' square napkins, and you'd set a handsome table. The Rothschild Birds pattern is very fine - of your choices and besides the Danica the best.

Toby Worthington said...

For me, it would be a difficult contest between Constance (greeny acorn garlands) and those Rothschild Birds. Not that they're the least bit incompatible.
Having to eat off an Imari patterned plate might just be an excellent way to cut down on calories.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Love Rothschild Bird. Along your marital way, be sure to purchase complementary plates and bowls (whatever) to expand the look of the service. Some should have yellow bands, other green bands, others solid in colour, et cetera. I'm all for mixing and matching.

Anonymous said...

So much fun - more, please! I love the Imari. I agree that the historic examples do spoil one when looking at the new versions.
I am Duke of Gloucester. KDM

home before dark said...

I have already tipped my hand on this and that is Chateaubriand Blue by Bernardaud. Blue and rose with just enough gilt for sparkle. The plates have a wonderful shape to them. After 36 years (although I bought pottery with my college graduation money!) I am a summer-fall-winter-spring china collector. The Chateaubriand was my 50th birthday present and brought spring to my table. Don't be afraid of the high/low mix. I use gold-leaf chargers (no longer available; these were terra cotta ones from Italy. A steal at $10 each) from Target underneath these French beauties.You could easily gold leaf anything...say chargers made by your mom!

In a New York apartment where space is a premium would hanging plates for decoration, then taking them off the wall for dinner parties be an option? The serving pieces make wonderful objets on their own. Should you then select a pattern for your rooms as well as your table? And yes, do think how food will look on the plates. I agree with Mrs. B go with your heart and may the best pattern win.

Enjoy every minute of this.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

We missed out on the wedding registry, so my husband and I simply buy china we like. I very much like our 19th-century Limoges (white with gold bands and central gold starburst). But we've recently begun collecting a particular pattern of 1830s Old Paris porcelain. It will take a while to build it up.

Laura [What I Like] said...

Oh that Imari! I would wait a hundred years to compile a set...

Anonymous said...

I have Rothschild Bird (no border) with various serving pieces. I absolutely love it! My serving pieces are used as accents throughout my dining room. The pieces with a border are very beautiful, but the price is extremely steep. In fact, I almost registered for the green border dinner plates until I saw the price tag. You will enjoy your china, and I do use quite often for special occasion dinners (Valentine's Day, birthday dinners, anniversary dinner, Easter, etc.)

lindaraxa said...

Good choice with the Rothchild birds...I have Chinese Bouquet in Green also by Herend and it is one of the sets I use the most. I wouldn't worry about the serving pieces, I use sterling serving platters, terrines etc that also go with my other sets(you see i have a weakness for china and own more than i care to divulge). I think what's important is getting a set that is versatile enough to use on different ocassions and the Birds is a winner. Enjoy in good health!

Pigtown-Design said...

Royal Copenhagen Half Lace with blue and white pieces. Stunning stuff!

little augury said...

gosh Emily-don't force a pick to one. I was given Raynaud's Marie Antoinette as a gift from an old friend and have added to it. I've also mixed in Herend's raspberry Chinese Bouquet and would love to add the fishscale too. My mother has Antique Iris and it looks great with all. Have fun with the mixing process, I would love old pieces to toss in-My silver pattern is the gorgeous Chrysanthemum.

helen tilston said...

I still love and treasure my Imari - it has been mine for 30 yrs. It brings such joy to the table and with Waterford crystal wine glasses any meal tastes delicious.
Helen

Jennie said...

I too applaud your mom. My mom got married in 1949 with a best dinner set, second best set, a separate breakfast set, and a dessert/coffee set. Since she is a chinaholic, she added much, MUCH more to this over the past 6 decades.

Sadly, sigh, I too have inherited this terrible disease along with many family pieces. And since 30 yrs ago a set for 16-20 people was the norm, even with things divided, I ended up with sets for 8-10--at least 50 dinner plates alone!

I like mixing old stuff: antique bone china dinner plates--Enoch Woods & Son Verona pattern from 1920(which I mix with blue banded salad and butter plates from Franciscan), an obscure cream and gold neoclassical pattern from 1949 made for Tatman's dept. store in Chicago, RCD Derby Border plates, Royal Cauldon Jesdon pattern tea and dessert set, and another 1950s pattern made for Marshall Field's.

Since I have inherited, I have not bought new but Constance (I prefer the green over the rust colorway)and Grace (both by Bernadaud) are great. Your Rothschild bird is stunning. And I adore RCD Gadroon Rose--oh the shape of the coffee cups is divine!

The question now is what did you pick for silver??

pve design said...

ditto pig-town.
I have Royal Copenhagen, blue fluted half lace and the white for every day. Each and every holiday we add something, a serving bowl, a sugar bowl, a cup - and I love it today just as much as yesterday.
Have you ever seen the china pantry at Kykuit? You would be in heaven.
Lovely picks. I would be hard pressed to select just one. I would need several to appease my inner split personality.
Please do not get me started on silver.
pve

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you looked into Herend! I chose Anna Weatherley (also a Hungarian company) chargers in powder blue, Simply Anna dinner plate, bread & butter & cups & saucers and Herend Queen Victoria (green border) for my salad plate. I'm going to add Herend Princess Victoria (green) for my dessert plate. I have several Queen Victoria serving pieces and the detail on them is amazing!

Agoura Antique Mart said...

Gorgeous! Stunning! I just found your blog. I am off to browse! Maria, The Agoura Antique Mart

Anonymous said...

Wait...what did you decide about the crystal and silver?

-EM

Style Court said...

I love, LOVE, the Imari. And it looks breathtaking with peonies on the table, I think. I'm also partial to Herend's Chinese Bouquet in the Rust.

The Peacock Salon said...

These are all such beautiful selections. Although I have never been a bride, your post lets me live vicariously through your adventure in the china department. I think that you made the best choice. I absolutely love the idea of mixing in a different pattern for dessert. It is so original and modern. I personally think that avian and asian designs mix wonderfully together.

Cheers,
Caitlin
The Peacock Salon

(IN)DECOROUS TASTE said...

Oh my god, the Traditional Imari is terrific!! And the color on the Darley Abbey...

Sacheverelle said...

Nice choices!
If I could choose any pattern I wanted, like in my fantasy world, I'd choose Cirque Chinois.
In real life, my friends and family would laugh out loud at the prices..
http://www.tiffany.com/Shopping/Item.aspx?sku=10005205

Penelope Bianchi said...

Hi! I chose "Rothschild Bird" 40 years ago! My daughter (smart girl) did the same....and I gave her the whole shebang (my mother had some also!)! I did formal dinner parties and Thanksgiving and Christmas for years. When we moved to Santa Barbara I gave my daughter my mother's dining room table; the porcelain, the crystal....and now SHE does it!

So fun to see all of it in the "butler's pantry" shelves; and on the table! (she lives less than a mile away)

Mélanie said...

Wonderful selection !! I like to ahev several pattern but in you selection , I would pick the 1st pic from the Royal Copenhagen

Momma J said...

Dear Miss Fancy,
Looking at china with you made me remember my own choice of Quimper in yellow which sadly, 30 years later, I sold for a carton of Camels (non-filter, of course)! I will enjoy sending you Rothschild Bird pieces throughout your marriage to my favorite son-in-law.
Love,
Momma J.