Jensen's flatware patterns. An overview


Few if any firms have produced as many design classics in silver as Georg Jensen,

flatware patterns in particular. Most of the major Jensen designers created at least one flatware pattern, many of which are instantly recognisable.
The range of Jensen flatware patterns can, in a way, be seen as an illustration of the development of early to mid 20th century design, with all major styles represented by at least one Jensen pattern, from the art nouveau of Lilly of the Valley (Jensen 1906) to the space age modernism of Caravel (Koppel 1957).

There are in excess of 60 different flatware designs produced in silver at one time or another by Georg Jensen. Many of these however are not full patterns in the sense that they were available to build as a service. I have chosen to exclude these so called "ornamental" patterns, which are generally not named, and known only by design number. Also we will not consider those designs produced exclusively in stainless steel, which has been the material of choice for new designs since the 60's.
This leaves us with 32 full patterns in silver, all but one of which* were first in production from 1906-1966. The more popular patterns were reproduced, and some are still in production today.
Each pattern is known by design number, and name, usually the Danish name being different from the design name in English. A few patterns where named differently when marketed in Britain than in the USA, but generally speaking the English language name applies in both countries. Confusingly the design numbers are not in sequence, the first pattern is #2, the second #4 and the sixth #145.

What follows is a brief account of some of the more important patterns.

The earliest designs date from 1906, and are all by Jensen himself. They are in the main in the art nouveau style, albeit the particular flavour of art nouveau prevalent in Scandinavia (Sk°nwirke: literally, beautiful work). They were popular, and perhaps, a little unadventurous. However, they were in great contrast to the flatware designs of the period which where either highly functional or highly traditional. Even the classic Continental pattern (#2- Antik in Danish) which was based on, but not a reproduction of, traditional 17th and 18th century Scandinavian spoons has the lustrous planishing one associates with the Arts and Crafts. Continental has proved one of the most enduring designs, and is still produced by the Georg Jensen firm today.
In 1912 Jensen produced the first pattern by a designer other than himself, Dahlia (#3- known by the same name in Denmark) by Sigfried Wagner, a colleague of Jensen in the workshop of Mogens Ballin under whom he had worked previous to 1904.
Then in 1913 Jensen's own design Lily of the Valley (#1 Liljekonval- see illustration), a ever popular and rather conservative expression of the art nouveau style. The beaded pattern (#7 Kugle- see illustration) was another of Jensen's own designs 1915, this time neither naturalistic or nouveau, almost seeming to anticipate the Art Deco. Both beaded and Lily of the Valley are still in production.
Perhaps the quintessential Jensen pattern is Acorn (#62 Konge- see illustration). By far the most prolifically produced, but not in fact designed by Jensen. Johan Rohde was the creator of this design, and the very similar Acanthus pattern also (#180- Dronning- see illustration). Both are Nouveau in style, with a clear classical influence. The fluted stems remind us of columns, while the terminals have something of the Corinthian order about them. These patterns are highly modern, and yet have a gravitas of the old order, carefully negotiating between clean modern lines and the fussy decoration of earlier taste. Acorn is still in production, while Acanthus is not.

Blossom (#84- Magnolie) was another of Jensen's own designs, and considered one of the finest. It was first produced in 1919, and is by far the most labour intensive of the flatware patterns. The handles are open work, a cluster of leaves and berries, each element hand made and assembled. Highly naturalistic, of Jensen's own designs it is the most in keeping with his holloware, indeed, with Blossom we begin to see a tendency towards creating a whole range of silverware, flatware and hollow, all in keeping and under a single pattern name, as we see later with Pyramid, Cactus, Bernadotte and others..

In 1926 Jensen produced the first of Harald Nielsen's flatware designs, Pyramid (#15- Pyramide). perhaps the quintessential Art Deco flatware design, and showing the impact of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 19XX. Pyramid is popular to this day, and is still in production. It is the first truly modern flatware design produced by Jensen, owing nothing to nature or the art of the recent past, despite it's Egyptian pretensions.

This trend continues with Cactus (#30- Kaktus) by Gundolph Albertus, another fiercely modern design in the Art Deco mode, albeit too curvaceous to qualify as high Deco. Indeed from the mid twenties it is fair to say that only Viking (#6- Nordisk), Old Danish (#100- Dobbeltrflet) and perhaps Nordic (#76- Ladby) are not thoroughly modern in inspiration. Before the war Deco was the order of the day. After the war, with the aforementioned exception of Old Danish** the future looking modernism of the late 1950s and 60's dominated, and probably best represented by Henning K÷ppel's 1957 effort Caravel (#111- Caravel).

Article by James Baldwin



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