The Ultimate Dinner Service of all Time

When I have read this week about the results that the dazzling collection of Nelson and Happy Rockefeller fetched at Sotheby’s, and about their eternal love for the finest ceramics, largely represented by the Swan Service, the ultimate and most famous dinner service of all time, I was thinking about a radio talk that I did years ago. I was asked by the producer to select a topic which represents a fascinating story with a surprising, unexpected end, and I immediately chose the story of European porcelain. For centuries, royal houses across Europe invested enormous funds for the desired goal to discover the secret formula of porcelain, a formula, which Chines and Japanese succeeded to keep in secret for centuries. When it was finally discovered in Saxsony, followed by the foundation of the first European porcelain factory at Meissen, the enormously expensive products were collected by the European aristocracy. The elaborated Swan Service was a produce of that period, also known as the Golden Age of European Porcelain, was made for the First Minister of the Electorate of Saxony, Heinrich von Brühl between 1737 and 1742. This service, the ultimate dinnerware of all time, was composed of approximately 2,200 pieces, all molded in pure, white porcelain elaborated with gold leaf, each different than the others, and each carries the swan motif. The decoration is themed around water and the life within, though often mixing fresh water and marine forms, with inclusion of figures from Greco-Roman mythology, like Glaucus and the dolphin-riding Galateia. Almost all pieces of the original service bear the painted impaled coat of arms of Heinrich von Brühl, and thinking that Nelson Rockefeller, the ultimate connoisseur dined using the most desired dinnerware of all time, is inspiring. Images courtesy Sotheby’s.  

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