Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Royal Copenhagen: Flora Danica (example 1)

One of the most expensive china sets in the world, Flora Danica, is produced by the renowned company Royal Copenhagen, and the designs are taken from the historic illustrated works of Flora Danica ('The Flora of Denmark').  For their recent designs, they incorrectly named not one, but two, of the species they have used from the flora illustrations.  Both species are commonly known plants, not rare species.
Source: Royal Copenhagen's 2012 brochure.
The two 2012 designs are also prominently featured in their marketing brochure. Both designs are made by Anja Vang Kragh, a freelance designer. This mistake really surprised me considering the long tradition of excellence in botany in Denmark, and that all illustrations from Flora Danica are available with scientific names.  
The two plates that have the wrong species listed.
Source: Royal Copenhagen's 2012 brochure.
Example 1: The lion's teeth that was a goat's beard

This pattern is listed as 'Dandelion' in the English 2012 catalog, and as 'Mælkebøtte' (the Danish name for dandelion) in the Danish version of the 2012 catalog. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is one of the most common weeds in the northern hemisphere and most everybody can recognize a dandelion. This is how the newly designed china looks like:

'Dandelion' pattern from Royal Copenhagen's Flora Danica series. Image source: Royal Copenhagen.
A quick search through The Kongelig Bibliotek's online Flora Danica illustrations, shows that 'Mælkebøtte' brings you to Taraxacum, just as it should. However, none of the plates are the design used on the plates above.  Instead, the design on the china is most likely from this Flora Danica illustration (see below), with parts removed, the illustration inverted, parts moved and copied in, and so on.

Tragopogon minor, Flora Danica, plate 2838.
Source: http://www.plantgenera.org; Public Domain.
This Flora Danica illustration features Tragopogon minor, a species that now goes under the name Tragopogon pratensis subspecies minor. It is called 'Meadow's salsify' or 'Showy Goat's Beard' in North America (the edible salsify belongs to the genus Scorzonera, also in this family).  It is considered a weed in North America, and it was introduced from Eurasia. It is a very common plant in southern Scandinavia, and it is in the same family (Asteraceae) as dandelion.
      You can easiest tell these two genera apart based on the long narrow leaves, while dandelion has toothed leaves, like lion's teeth, which is how it got its common name in English.
      Interestingly enough, Royal Copenhagen has already used this exact illustration on a previous Flora Danica piece, see here. It was then used with the correct species name in their catalog.

Example 2 will focus on the 'pansy' or 'stedmoderblomst' design, also shown above in the photo from the 2012 brochure.