German porcelain manufactory Rosenthal was originally founded as a ceramics-painting studio by Philipp Rosenthal Sr. (1855-1937) in 1879 at Schloss Erkersreuth in Bavaria, near the Czech border. Its first highly popular product was an ashtray inscribed with the words “Resting place for lit cigars.” In 1890, the company moved to the neighboring hamlet of Selb and, a year later, began to manufacture its own porcelain, since white porcelain was, at that time, in short supply. Rosenthal’s first complete table service was called Empire; it was exhibited along with other lines at Paris’s Exposition Universelle in 1900.
With the dawn of the 20th century, Rosenthal began producing porcelain tableware and services formed and decorated in the latest styles, like the Jugendstil Botticelli (1903), the Art Nouveau Darmstadt (1905), and the all-white Maria (1916) lines. Successes with this au courant approach led the company to launch an art pottery division in 1910, dedicated to luxury tableware, vases, and other decorative objects. By the 1930s, figurines were another important Rosenthal product, most notably the Disney-licensed Mickey Mouse pieces introduced in 1931.
In 1934, Philipp Rosenthal was forced to leave his company and country when his Jewish ancestry came under persecution by the Nazi regime. Despite the loss of its founder, the Rosenthal company remained the premier supplier of high-quality porcelain tableware to the Third Reich. After the war, in 1950, Philip Rosenthal Jr. (1916-2001) joined his father's company as an advertising manager. By 1958, he had become its CEO, continuing his father’s vision to produce high-quality porcelain in line with progressive tastes. Through the rest of the 20th century, Rosenthal was the most commercially successful porcelain producer in Germany.
In the postwar era, Rosenthal’s most famous tableware lines have included 2000 by Raymond Loewy and Richard Latham (1954), Magic Flute by Bjørn Wiinblad (1959), Suomi by Timo Sarpaneva (1976), and Moon by Jasper Morrison (1997). The company has enjoyed many popular and critically acclaimed collaborations with designers and brands, like Salvador Dalì, Tapio Wirkkala, Walter Gropius, Andy Warhol, Ron Arad, Enzo Mari, Konstantin Grcic, and Versace.
Rosenthal's product lines have encompassed more than ceramics over the years. In 1972, the company began producing furniture, under the subsidiary Rosenthal Einrichtung, in Espelkamp, Germany. Standouts from this arm of Rosenthal include Gunter Ferdinand Ris and Herbert Selldorf’s futuristic Sunball Lounge Chair (1969), Verner Panton’s Relaxer Rocking Chair (1974), Burchard Vogtherr's Vario Pillo Sectional Sofa (1970s), Vico Magistretti’s lightweight Faun Chair (1970s), and Erwin Nagel’s multifunctional Quadrondo Table (1980s). Later, Rosenthal focused on the production of high-quality office furniture, as well as decorative accessories for private interiors.
In 1997, Rosenthal became an independent arm of the Waterford Wedgwood holding company, but in 2009 faced bankruptcy as the Irish parent began to fall apart. At this time, Rosenthal was sold to Italian housewares group Sambonet Paderno Industrie. Unfortunately, Rosenthal Einrichtung was desolved and only a limited archive of the company's archive was kept intact.
Today, Rosenthal GmbH offers a small, exclusive range of furniture options under the label of Rosenthal Interieur, alongside its classic porcelain and tabletop collections.
* All images courtesy of Rosenthal GmbH.