I too would share Wallis' glee at visiting the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory in Munich. Wallis had a thing for porcelain (amongst, um, other things), and so do I. Why is porcelain perceived to be something old, fussy, and outdated?
I find it depressing that many of today's brides forgo the fine china and sterling flatware for something low maintenance. Well, whoever said life is easy? Isn't it nice to have special, exquisite things for which to care? And don't you behave a little differently, perhaps in a more civilized manner, when you're dining from formal china? It's the same thing in terms of your wardrobe. I find myself slouching when I'm dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, but when I make an effort and wear a dress or suit, I tend to stand more erect and mind my manners too!
One porcelain manufacturer that is attempting to keep porcelain relevant for today's society is Nymphenburg. With a history that dates back to the mid-18th century, Nymphenburg honors its past by manufacturing historical pieces that have been part of its collection for over two hundred years- perfect for those traditionalists. But they also are embracing modern design by engaging artists like Ted Muehling and Hella Jongerius to design more contemporary pieces. It's really the best of both worlds.
Lest you think that some of Nymphenburg's porcelain figures and accessories are too traditional, perhaps it's time to rethink them. I believe it's all about the environment in which you display the porcelain. I like the incongruous look of a very traditional piece of porcelain in a starkly modern room. And if you need further evidence, look to design guru Murray Moss. He displays all kinds of Nymphenburg porcelain amongst the more cutting edge wares at his eponymous Manhattan shop. Moss, and Nymphenburg, are making porcelain cool again.
Bavarian Lion paper weight, based on a design by Johann Peter Melchior, c. 1800.
Chinese group with vase, ivory glazed, design by Konrad Linck around 1770.
Egg vase in glazed coral red by Ted Muehling, 2000
The "Atlas" pattern is inspired by ikat weaving. Would it surprise you to learn that the pattern on this china was designed in the late 18th century?
Butterfly collection, plate sky; by Ted Muehling, 2000
Nymphenburg Sketches, Game series; Hella Jongerius, 2006
I'm now coveting Mare Nostrum fish service. The rococo shape was taken from Nymphenburg's Cumberland service of 1760, but the variation with the fish motif was added in 1928.
Bonbonniere Eye container, 2009
Hare in Cabbage, Luise Terletzki-Scherf, 1960. Not for everbody, but this figure made me smile.
Image at top: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, accompanied by Princess Hella of Bavaria, visited Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg in 1954. All images from the Nymphenburg website.