In the late 18th century, one woman held a powerful position in Denmark. Juliane Maria Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern had been queen of her country from 1752 until 1766 and still held an official position after the death of her husband. She was highly respected and showed herself to be forward thinking as she looked to improve and modernise Denmark. At the time, wealthy people were seeking out porcelain and Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel-Bevern knew that a porcelain company which supplied a royal household would be particularly respected.
In 1775 she founded the Royal Danish Porcelain Factory and through the use of progressive scientific production methods and expert local craftspeople its reputation began to spread to other countries. By the early 19th century, the Royal Danish Porcelain Factory was supplying highly influential individuals, aristocrats and other royal families with its sought-after pieces.
The company later changed its name to Royal Copenhagen and today, more than 240 years after its founding, it remains one of Denmark’s most important exporters. Its porcelain can be recognised by its hand-painted stamp showing three waves, as well as the royal crown which denotes its enduring links with the Danish monarchy.
The lasting appeal of Royal Copenhagen can be attributed to ‘our royal heritage and Danish design heritage, and the handcrafting, passion and perfection that go into every product we make,’ according to Sjoerd Leeflang, the company’s global business director.
Royal Copenhagen’s founding values and principles have remained constant over the centuries and while some aspects of the manufacturing process follow traditional disciplines developments have naturally be made in order to encompass modern methods. Each piece of porcelain receives the attention of 30 employees – from being moulded, painted, fired and glazed – before reaching the customer. Notably, each blue design is perfected by a ‘blue painter’ who spends four years learning this precise art before being qualified to produce pieces for the company. It is said that each blue painter can instantly recognise his or her own work, as each craftsperson has their own unique technique. Each piece is also signed by the painter, adding a personal touch to any item purchased.
Leeflang is keen to praise such expertise. ‘The people within Royal Copenhagen have a longstanding passion for the brand and for the products, in a way that I have not experienced in any other company,’ he says. ‘Every hand-painted product is unique because there is a person behind it and the signing of each product is a seal of passion from the artist to the coming owner.’
The place of porcelain in the home has of course changed significantly since 1775. ‘In the past it was normal to have several dinner sets – one or more for formal or special occasions and one for everyday use,’ explains Leeflang. ‘Today, people enjoy our dinner sets every day, at breakfast and also when having dinner with friends and family on a Saturday evening. As a society we have brought aesthetics much more into our daily life and have elevated everyday moments – for example, by drinking coffee or tea from a beautiful, hand-painted porcelain cup.’
Royal Copenhagen’s indisputably classic aesthetic means that the company’s products can fit into clients’ lives in many different ways. Created in the 1700s, the company’s signature design featuring a fluted pattern and blue decoration has become an icon of Danish design. ‘Royal Copenhagen’s distinctive design is a big part of Danish cultural history,’ says Leeflang. ‘Throughout generations it has been a focal point at many Danish dinner tables.’ While the company continues to present new collections and projects, it is the enduring appeal of its classic styles that has driven the company’s success. ‘These are the heart of Royal Copenhagen and our true essence,’ says Leeflang.
The brand’s historic flagship store is located in a 400-year-old building at Amagertorv 6. As one of Copenhagen’s oldest and best-loved boutiques, it is a must-visit when in the city. With so much to choose from, which piece would Leeflang select for a first-time buyer? ‘I would definitely recommend a plain Blue Fluted product,’ he says. ‘My personal favourite is the Blue Fluted high-handle cup. Ask in the store for the 090 cup – you will not regret this as a souvenir for yourself or as a gift for a loved one.’