After being out of bounds to the general public for many years, the Flora Danica Cabinet at Christiansborg Palace has now opened. Everyone who visits the Royal Reception Rooms has the chance to see c. 200 items of the table service with the Danish flora painted on them. With its 1530 remaining parts this is today Europe’s largest 18th-century service and one of the finest. The service was intended as a gift to Catherine the Great of Russia – who died, however, before the service was sent off.
Table service for Catherine the Great
The Flora Danica service was intended as a gift from Christian VII of Denmark to Catherine the Great of Russia; the Danish King wanted to stay on a good footing with the Russian ruler. The first parts went into production in 1790 at the Royal Porcelain Factory (now known as Royal Copenhagen). However, the service was long in the making – the original production run did not end until 1802 – and the Tsarina was dead before it could be sent to Russia. So the 1802-part service ended up staying in Denmark.
A child of the Enlightenment
The Flora Danica service is a true child of the Enlightenment, a period that showed great interest in nature and the natural sciences. The motifs of the service were not chosen for their beauty but because all the plates from the major botanical work Flora Danica had to be reproduced – and in natural size. Of course it led to some practical challenges to convert the drawings into a table service. Sometimes the plant had to be stretched so it could reach right out to the edge and fill out the surface better, and some¬¬times the plant was squeezed together. In places the result is an incredible symbiosis of porcelain form, handle and the reproduction of the plant in the book.
How was the service used?
On Saturday 29th January 1803 the part of the service that belonged to the dessert was ‘christened’ by being used on King Christian VII’s birthday. Later Flora Danica was mainly used as a dessert service at weddings, royal visits and banquets.
Today the Flora Danica service is used very rarely by the Royal Family. It has to be preserved as well as possible for posterity, and over time many of the pieces have acquired various small signs of the rava¬ges of time. The last time Queen Margrethe II had the table laid with the service was in 1990 when the Queen Mother Ingrid turned 80.
For the British Royal Family
The service that can be bought today is copied from a more recent version that the Danish Princess Alexandra took to England in 1863 when she married the Prince of Wales, the later Edward VII. It ended up as a much more picturesque version consisting almost entirely of flowers in romantic pastels.
Flora Danica several places in Copenhagen
The Flora Danica Cabinet at Christiansborg is not the only place in Copenhagen where you can see the Flora Danica service. You can see it at Amalienborg’s Christian VII’s Palace, which is open in the summer, and at Rosenborg there are fine Flora Danica exhibits. And if you would like to own some of the world-famous service you can look in at Royal Copenhagen’s shop on Amager Torv close to Christiansborg Palace.
Information coordinator Mikael Rasmus Nielsen, firstname.lastname@example.org, +45 3392 7084
Marketing coordinator Jesper T. Møller, email@example.com, +45 3392 6395
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The Flora Danica Cabinet at Christiansborg Palace is open to the public in connection with visits to the Royal Reception Rooms.
Open daily 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Oct – Apr closed Monday). Closed in conjunction with official functions of HM the Queen.
Christiansborg Palace, Royal Reception Rooms
The botanical work Flora Danica about the Danish flora appeared in Copenhagen in the years 1776-1883.
The original Flora Danica service was produced at the Royal Porcelain Factory in the years 1790-1802.