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The Founding Years: Privy Councillor Philipp Rosenthal

Rosenthal AG was founded in 1879 as porcelain factory Philipp Rosenthal & Co. in the Upper Franconian town of Erkersreuth near Selb by privy councillor Dr. h. c. Philipp Rosenthal. The company’s origins lay in the decoration of bought-in white porcelain and following the first initial commercial successes, Philipp Rosenthal decided to manufacture porcelain himself in 1891. Rosenthal became a limited company in 1897.
From the very outset Rosenthal was a company that pointed the way ahead with its forms and décors. On his travels and at trade shows, in exhibitions and museums, Philipp Rosenthal searched constantly for the latest developments and ideas for contemporary porcelain design. The tremendous prestige and recognition of the “Rosenthal” brand was underlined in 1910 when approval was granted for the company to establish its own art department and begin the production of porcelain figurines.

By 1929 – 50 years after its formation – the company had numerous manufacturing facilities in Germany and both national as well as international sales subsidiaries. The “Rosenthal” brand was world-famous. However, the Third Reich represented an important break for Rosenthal. Privy councillor Philipp Rosenthal was forced to leave the company because of his Jewish decent in 1934. He passed away in 1937 at the age of 82.

The Post-war Period under Philip Rosenthal

In 1950 the son of the company founder, Philip Rosenthal (born in 1916), joined Rosenthal. He shaped the company’s further development – initially as advertising manager and later between 1958 and 1981 as chief executive officer. Under his management Rosenthal became a pioneering company in the areas of design and art. A porcelain factory was turned into a company for sophisticated tabletop and living culture. As an entrepreneur and social democratic politician he vehemently supported the view that employees should share in the company’s productive capital. Philip Rosenthal passed away in September 2001 shortly before his 85th birthday.

Collaboration with Designers

The close work with famous designers and artists since the early 1950’s had a major influence upon Rosenthal’s further development and the company was the first porcelain manufacturer to become a pioneer for contemporary, modern product design. Internationally renowned designers, initially from the USA such as Richard Latham and Raymond Loewy, and then from the 1960’s onwards predominantly from Scandinavia, including Tapio Wirkkala, Björn Wiinblad and Timo Sarpaneva, created modern service sets and gift accessories from porcelain and glass, as well as drinks glass series and cutlery collections for the respected Upper Franconian company. The Rosenthal studio-line was founded as an autonomous design brand in 1961 as a consequence of this new direction in product design.

To date over 150 artists, designers und architects, including such famous names as the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, Luigi Colani, the architects Mario Bellini and Aldo Rossi, the British minimalist star Jasper Morrison, Dorothy Hafner, Paul Wunderlich, Ron Arad, Enzo Mari or Konstantin Grcic, have created unique, innovative as well as avant-garde collections for Rosenthal and promoted the company’s leadership claim in product design as a result. Over 400 design awards and innumerable references in world famous museums are proof of Rosenthal’s pioneering role today.

Product development at Rosenthal takes place in the so-called Creative Center that was built in a park near the company headquarters based on plans by Renate von Brause in 1958. The Creative Center provides an ideal environment for external designers to work closely with the experienced Rosenthal Creative Team employees to develop their concepts and create new Rosenthal collections. Rosenthal uses modern CAD-programs for form and décor development today in addition to traditional model building techniques. The Creative Center’s close proximity to the Rosenthal am Rothbühl production facility is a tremendous advantage when it comes to the smooth transition of the designs into industrially manufactured products.

Living with Art

Rosenthal differs from its competitors not only because of the modern product design, but because of the link to the fine arts. Captivated by the idea of “living with art”, Rosenthal had already invited internationally acclaimed contemporary artists to create limited edition porcelain reliefs and exclusive porcelain and glass objects back in the late 1960’s. The major contributors to the Rosenthal Limited Edition Art Series include, among others, Henry Moore, Lucio Fontana, Eduardo Paolozzi, Victor Vasarely, Salvador Dali, Hap Grieshaber, Frank Stella, Günter Uecker, Otmar Alt, Andy Warhol and James Rizzi With the limited edition artist collections Rosenthal not only demonstrates extraordinary craftsmanship skills and highest quality standards, but also its high standards in terms of contemporary aesthetics, authenticity and avant-garde design.

Contemporary Brand Image and Revolutionary PoS Presentation

Rosenthal has also held a pioneering role for many decades in the areas of brand presentation and shop design. Perfect, modern settings are created for the Rosenthal brands with high quality furniture, display stands, presentation concepts and shop window displays changed on a monthly basis, accompanied by the respective consumer communication activities. The Rosenthal studio-line umbrella brand is only displayed in specialist Studio departments in selected retail outlets. In the meanwhile there are now 13 Rosenthal Studio-House stores in Germany, which are becoming an increasingly important part of Rosenthal’s sales network. As “Flagship Stores”, the Studio-House shops contribute to the Rosenthal brand appearance amongst the public. A further sales channel is represented by “Rosenthal Concession Shops” in top department stores throughout the world, as for example in Berlin, Rome, Moscow, Delhi and Peking.

Rosenthal and Architecture

The special Rosenthal corporate culture is also reflected in the company buildings’ architecture. Designers and architects, who, like Marcello Morandini or Walter Gropius also completed commissions for Rosenthal in the product design area, created revolutionary buildings for the company in Upper Franconia. The Rosenthal trademark is the head office in Selb, a former porcelain factory, with its impressive “rainbow façade” by the Zero artist Otto Piene. This long, stretched building is framed by the so-called “mirror house” by Marcello Morandini and the “Hundertwasserhaus” with a façade and roof design by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Rosenthal has also written architectural history for porcelain factories: The Rosenthal am Rothbühl plant was built based on plans by Walter Gropius and the Thomas am Kulm factory is decorated with a geometric-constructivist façade by Marcello Morandini.

Modernization in production

A far-reaching restructuring process was initiated across the entire European porcelain industry subsequent to the end of the cold war and the open markets in the late 1980’s. The industry, which had until then not been particularly innovative technologically, discovered enormous potentials in the areas of automation and rationalisation. Rosenthal was quick to launch a restructuring program that would set the points for the company’s future direction. The company focussed production upon its core competence – manufacturing high quality porcelain: the production of glass and cutlery was outsourced and porcelain production concentrated on two locations. In the years to follow Rosenthal invested in excess of € 30 million in new, automated production facilities. As a result, Rosenthal now has two of the most up-to-date manufacturing sites worldwide for high quality porcelain and is well-equipped for international competition.


Parallel to updating the production structures, Rosenthal has also succeeded in expanding its international business from the original 30% in the early 1990’s to a current export share of over 53%. Today, Rosenthal is represented by its own foreign subsidiaries as well as distributors on all five continents. The main markets are Central Europe, North America and South-East Asia. The most important growth markets include not only the USA, but also Poland, Russia, China and India.

Further Development to a Lifestyle Supplier

Governed by the insight that contemporary product design alone no longer suffices for market differentiation today, Rosenthal has developed to become a lifestyle supplier in recent years. The high quality Rosenthal design collections are positioned emotionally today as comprehensive all-inclusive worlds and the product spectrum has been complemented by decorative accessories such as candles, plaids, table textiles and more besides.

Rosenthal has established itself with new lifestyle worlds and among new target groups by adopting exclusive licence partnerships – such as the extremely successful “Rosenthal meets Versace” collection and the new “Andy Warhol Collection”. In August 2000, Rosenthal added the famous Hutschenreuther brand – founded in 1814 – to its portfolio. The fine porcelain table and giftware ranges of Hutschenreuther perfectly complement the Rosenthal ranges.

In 2008 Rosenthal renewed its worldwide leading position as lifestyle company with an international marketing- and PR-campaign including Karl Lagerfeld: The star designer and photographer displays Rosenthal porcelain from a new, unusual perspective featuring Brad Kroenig, who is probably the most famous male super model of the day.

Rosenthal becomes part of the Sambonet Paderno Group

Since August 2009 Rosenthal is part of the Sambonet Paderno Group, an Italian leader in the manufacture of tabletop and kitchen accessories. This significant transaction solidifies Sambonet's growing role as an international player in the tabletop and kitchen accessories field, characterized by unique design, innovation and quality; the acquisition allows Sambonet to expand and enrich its current product portfolio which includes brands such as Sambonet, Paderno and Arthur Krupp, with prestigious sector brands like Rosenthal, Thomas and Hutschenreuther. Furthermore, the consolidation represents a complete and profitable integration between the matured expertise of Sambonet in the hotel industry and the traditional excellence of Rosenthal in the retail market. Sambonet's Chairman, Pierluigi Coppo, notes that “Sambonet can use Rosenthal's existing retail stores and can also take advantage of the well developed distribution network of Rosenthal in the international retail trade.” He continues “the acquisition is of great strategic and synergistic value for the two companies. Both Sambonet and Rosenthal are focused on design and innovation, on quality products and customer care. The objective is to become the point of reference worldwide for tabletop and kitchen accessories for both the home and hotels.”

Brand Marks

2000 - heute

1957 - 1999

1934 - 1956

1907 - 1933

1891 - 1906

1887 - 1891

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