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Museum Feature

Museum Feature – Herend Rothschild Bird Shell Plate

From our museum this month we feature a gorgeous shell dish in the renowned Rothschild Bird pattern by Herend. Rothschild Bird features beautifully rendered birds and vibrantly colored insects, complemented on this dish by magnificent gold trim. But perhaps the most interesting element of the Rothschild Bird design is the tree containing a gracefully draped pearl necklace – an element included specifically for the famous Rothschild family.

The Rothschilds rose to power via their European banking and finance houses in the late eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century, the Rothschild family amassed the largest private fortune in the world. The Rothschild Bird pattern was created for the family by Herend in 1850, and illustrates an interesting bit of Rothschild family lore. As one version of the story goes, Baroness Rothschild couldn't find her pearl necklace after losing it in the garden one day. Several days later, her gardener noticed a pair of birds playing with something shiny in a tree, and, upon further investigation, discovered it was the Baroness's pearl necklace! Rothschild Bird remains in production today, and stands as a testimony to Herend's tremendous artistic standards.

The original Herend factory was established in Hungary by Vince Stingl in 1826. The firm focused primarily on the production of stoneware, but Stingl also (unsuccessfully) experimented with methods to produce fine porcelain. By 1839, Stingl was bankrupt, and ownership of Herend transferred to Mor Fischer. Fischer planned to revitalize the factory by producing replacement and completion pieces for other fine china patterns that had ceased production. But first, Fischer had to find a successful formula for producing high-quality porcelain that would rival fine porcelain from regions like Sevres, Meissen, Vienna, and the Far East. After much experimentation, Fischer was successful, and by the first Hungarian industrial exhibition in 1842, Herend products were described as capable of "satisfying the demands of any princely table." Herend porcelain continued to garner praise, and the company's products were recognized for their excellence at the Vienna Exhibition of 1845, the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the New York World Exhibition in 1853, and the Paris Exhibition of 1855. With such high acclaim, Herend porcelain was soon gracing the tables of Europe's royal families and aristocracy. (After seeing a Herend display at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, Queen Victoria ordered a Herend table service for Windsor Castle – this pattern continues to bear her name.)

In addition to its popular dinnerware patterns, Herend also became known for their exquisite figurines adorned with a now-iconic "fishnet" design. Herend figurines were first produced in 1858, but became most popular following the Great Depression, when Herend increased production as a way to offer affordable ornamental items for the average consumer. During this period, Herend created a porcelain figural collection that included designs of more than 150 birds and 200 animals, in a variety of sizes, to accommodate most budgets.

The company faced more challenges during WWII, when the conflict made it impossible to import the raw materials needed to produce high-quality porcelain. When the Iron Curtain descended over Eastern Europe at the end of the war, Herend was nationalized by the Communist government. In 1993, Herend was once again privatized, with 75% of the company's ownership transferred to its management and workers. Today, Herend is the biggest porcelain manufacturer in Europe.

While the Herend Rothschild Bird shell dish in our museum is not for sale, we do have a wide variety of Rothschild Bird items available for purchase in our inventory; be sure to browse our web site. And remember that we always invite you to visit our facilities – here you'll see a stunning variety of silver, china, crystal, and collectibles! Our 500,000-square-foot facilities hold more than 12 million individual pieces in more than 425,000 patterns! Our showroom and museum are open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm ET, 7 days (except holidays); free tours are available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET, 7 days. The showroom and museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. We look forward to seeing you!

Click here to view our Featured Museum Pieces Archive!

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