Exhibition | 18th-Century Baltic Faience

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on July 2, 2018

Dish, eighteenth century, faience, Rörstrand
(Stockholm: Nationalmuseum)

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On view this summer in Sweden:

Colour and Form: 18th-Century Baltic Faience
Färg och form: Östersjöfajanser från 1700-talet
Läckö Castle, Lidköping, 10 June — 26 August 2018

Curated by Micael Ernstell

Eighteenth-century pieces of faience from the Baltic region seduced the market with their rich decoration and fine design. This exhibition presents faience artefacts from Nationalmuseum’s amazing collection of ceramics from the 18th century that were manufactured in the countries around the Baltic Sea.

The items in the exhibition, which Nationalmuseum is presenting in partnership with the Läckö Castle Foundation, have a vibrancy and joy that combine with the manufacturers’ ambitions for good design, both aesthetically and technically. The colour palette used by the pattern painters was a rich one, and it seduced the market for much of the 18th century. There has been strong interest among collectors since then.

Bowl, so called ‘Bispebolle’, unknown Danish artist active during the 18th century, faience (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum).

The exhibition is dominated by Swedish faience, with the Rörstrand and Marieberg factories as the most important actors. The factories had their own designers, who created many inspirational models and patterns. Production resulted in many examples of international influences. There was also movement of labour between the factories. This saw patterns and designs moving between the competitors.

The manufacturing of faience in Sweden during the 18th century was one element of the national leadership’s desire to develop the nation’s economy and avoid expensive imports. Tax rules and other privileges created the economic preconditions for Swedish faience. Another major factor in helping the Swedish factories was the Manufactory Office (Manufakturkontoret), which aimed to provide manufacturers with both economic and artistic guidance.

“We’re delighted about the long-term and rewarding partnership with the Nationalmuseum. The fact that artefacts from Rörstrand are included feels especially pleasing for Lidköping. One of the financiers of the Rörstrand faience factory was Carl-Gustaf Tessin, the owner of Läckö from 1752 until 1770,” says Magnus Lönnroth, CEO of the Läckö Castle Foundation.

There were almost 40 faience factories around the Baltic Sea in the 18th century. Although production reached a high level, the factories were mostly unprofitable. This meant that many factories only existed for a few years. The ones that started up first were the factories of Store Kongensgade in Copenhagen and Rörstrand in Stockholm. They started in the 1720s, both with a dream of being able to produce the same kind of porcelain as in China or at the Meissen factory in Dresden.

Apart from examples of Swedish manufacturing, the exhibition features artefacts from ten or so factories around the Baltic. There are examples from the Store Kongensgade factory in Copenhagen, which was founded in 1722 and is the oldest faience factory in the Nordic region. Johan Wolff came from that factory to Stockholm and founded the Rörstrand factory in 1726. Norway is also represented, as that was part of Denmark at the time.

“It’s wonderful that we can also use the exhibition to highlight the 100th anniversary of the Baltic States as independent nations with colourful pieces of faience from the factory in Reval, the modern-day Tallinn in Estonia,” says Micael Ernstell, curator of the exhibition and director of the National Museum.

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