Flora Danica was first commissioned by Crown Prince Frederik at the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Manufactory which was founded in Denmark, in 1775. According to tradition the service was intended as a gift for the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, an enthusiastic collector of porcelain. Porcelain had become a matter of royal prestige since the recipe for this 'white gold' had been rediscovered in Europe in the beginning of the century. The 18th century was also the age of enlightenment and sensitivity, and Europe was fascinated with botany. It was for this reason that the king chose to have Danish flora and fauna depicted on this gift service.
The creation of the Flora Danica service was an immense task. It became the life's work of one of the most gifted artists of the late 18th century, and one of the greatest porcelain painters, Johann Christoph Bayer. The long and laborious process commenced in 1790 and took 12 years to complete.
The service was made up of 1,802 different pieces of hand-moulded and hand-painted porcelain.
The Mewar Collection, (housed in Fateh Prakash Palace along with the Crystal Gallery) itself acquired from a royal household, is a revival of the old dinner service which follows the classical pearl form - a design rich in shapes of flowers and leaves, indented rims, numerous lace-like carvings and meticulous, intricate details.
Each piece is decorated with an individual and highly articulated plant - complete with flower, leaves, stem, root and fruit. With distinctive and sensitive brush strokes Bayer had carefully reproduced motifs culled from the Danish botanical encyclopedia Flora Danica. Of the original Flora Danica service delivered in 1803, 1,530 survive to the present day. Part of this service still graces the royal table of Queen Margrethe II on state occasions at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen. Other pieces from this rare collection are exhibited at museums in Denmark.
Distinctive and unique, Flora Danica is still considered the flower of Danish decorative art and a distinguished specimen of Danish design: clearly formulated, aesthetically executed and sovereign in its individuality. Connoisseurs are struck by the extraordinary decorative power of the painting, by the interplay between lustrous colour and warm gilding, and by the vigorous and sure modelling of the individual pieces. The late Princess Grace of Monaco wrote in her book on flowers: "One of the most delicate and beautiful porcelain patterns is the famous Flora Danica from Denmark."