Rosenthal China’s Modernist
Rosenthal’s moderne designs fared
well through the Art Deco 1930s, when their dancer and animal figures
ranked among the era’s best, and 5000
workers produced high quality china.
Right) 180 piece vintage dinnerware set by
Rosenthal available for $999.00 from space #36 in Star Center Antique
12 additional pictures of the
set are below article.
Someday, the term ‘20th
Century Modernism’ will connote an original period of design, just as
early 19th century objects are currently defined as part of the Regency
or Empire periods.
Phillip Rosenthal explained
this when he recounted why his namesake porcelain firm chose to work
exclusively with artists and designers devoted to creating the original
designs of their time. “Throughout history, works of art and purely
functional objects retain their cultural and material value only when
they reflect the spirit of their age…imitations never achieve this,”
Though Rosenthal China seems
on the surface to represent many styles—formal and classic to pop-art
and clean minimalism—the firm has insisted from the start on setting
trends and breaking with tradition. Maria Rosenthal’s success in hand
painting Hutschenreuther china in the 1880s led her and her husband to
set up their own factory around 1890, eclipsing the competition’s tired
Victorian revival styles by introducing elegant, fresh Art Nouveau
porcelaintableware blanks. Moss Rose, Diplomat and other early
Rosenthal floral lines seem fancy and traditional now, but only because
they were trend-setters whose success compelled much mimicry.
Rosenthal’s moderne designs
fared well through the Art Deco 1930s, when their dancer and animal
figures ranked among the era’s best, and 5000 workers produced high
quality china. But WWII nearly destroyed Germany’s centuries-old
porcelain industry, first cutting it off from its worldwide customer
base, then leaving its factories in ruins.
Phillip Rosenthal, Jr.
returned to Germany after the war and restored Rosenthal’s pre-eminence
by introducing modern shapes and designs by modern artists and
designers. Walter Gropius designed two new Rosenthal factory buildings
in accordance with the precise, worker-focused, minimalist principles
he developed as a godfather of the Bauhaus style, along with a line of
ultra-streamlined dinnerware and beverage servers called TAC in honor
of The Architect’s Collaborative group he co-founded.
The late 1940’s saw Rosenthal
hire Raymond Loewy, the industrial designer famed for the hourglass
Coke bottle, Studebaker’s bullet-nosed cars and the interior of NASA’s
Skylab. Loewy introduced Classic Modern White (aka Shape 2000 Line),
whose stylish coupe (rimless) plates, tight-waisted carafes, inverted
cone cups and candlesticks with integrated, flared bobeches were so
predictive of 21st century living that many remain in production today.
Offered in pure white, they also could be ordered decorated with a
series of Loewy-designed transfer patterns, including avant-garde
Script and Sunburst abstractions, the festive green/lavender Plaza line
reflective of Loewy’s French roots, and sophisticated pastel Classic
Rose, Quince and Gayety floral patterns.
Loewy added Form E and other
more bulbous designs during his long run at Rosenthal, all in adherence
to the ethos of clean, sparse modernism and top quality. But the
angular Classic design was the achievement most reinterpreted by a
“who’s who” of mid-century modern designers who adorned it with their
own designs. Emilio Pucci, Gianni Versace, artists Otmar Alt and Roy
Lichtenstein all offered patterns to Rosenthal. Porcelain master Bjorn
Winblad’s Idyll brocade line and Piero Fornasetti’s iconic,
architectural Palladrana exemplified the all-over transfer patterns of
1960s and 70s Rosenthal China. Winblad added a series of commemorative
gift plates based on Die Zauberfloete (Magic Flute) and other stylized
folk characters similar to his work in Denmark. Fornasetti lent his
stark facial and body images comprised of black dots to an extensive
collection of wall plates crafted on the Classic coupe blank.
Suomi White blanks by Finnish
designer Timo Sarpeneva added a squarish, geometric line to Rosenthal,
the new blanks winning a gold metal from Italy’s famous Faience
porcelain jurors and becoming the basis of a scarce artist series in
1978. Salvador Dali’s silver-on-charcoal line of surrealistic birds,
Eduardo Paolozzi’s neo-deco pastel geometric bands, Victor Vasarely’s
interlocking cubes and Ernst Fuch’s brush-stroked multicolor birds
adorned Rosenthal ice buckets, snack bowls and teapots, in limited
editions numbering around 500 pieces world-wide.
This Studio-Linie series
created a platform for other designers to add giftware, vases, barware
and other china blanks to the Rosenthal spectrum over the past three
decades. Corporate giftware and institutional lines also add to the
Rosenthal story, with special collector focus on the Royal Ambassador
services that graced the first-class cabins of now-defunct TWA
Today, the firm still designs
high-end china in concert with today’s design and fashion leaders,
including neo-classic styles by Versace, the eccentric shapes and
pop-art colors of the Love Story and Andy Warhol’s Daisies lines, and
the oblong e.Motion pattern based on computer-era design.
Though Rosenthal’s limited
edition designer pieces are difficult to find, house-proud collectors
may be surprised how easily and inexpensively a nice set of their
dinnerware can be assembled. A favorite gift from G.I.’s stationed in
Germany, Rosenthal sets quickly became popular for stylish dining in
20th century America, and were advertised here in better living
magazines as stylish, durable and (in white or transferware) dishwasher
safe. Their 1956 tag line reflects their ongoing commitment to timeless
design and impeccable quality: “Rosenthal…for the rest of your life."
180 Piece Rosenthal Dinnerware Set
Reminiscent of earlier makes
such as Limoges or Old Ivory, this 180 piece set of Rosenthal porcelain
gold trimmed dinnerware is in fantastic overall condition with a
beautiful floral transfer design. Fully marked, it is priced at
$999.00 (make an offer!) from space #36 in Star Center Antique Mall in