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Philipp Rosenthal was seventeen years old when he left for America and went from being a dishwasher to a porcelain salesman. In 1879, he moved back ready for action to his hometown of Selb, where he laid the foundations for his company with a porcelain painting in Schloss Erkersreuth. The company captured people‘s attention with its technical developments and modern designs. After all, the well-travelled company founder was constantly on the lookout for new ideas – in keeping with his motto of „I have no use for people who cannot look beyond the garden fence“.
Philipp Rosenthal quickly became successful, loved the good life and treated himself to all kinds of luxuries. He owned a mansion in Selb, a farm in Bozen and a house on Lake Starnberg. He studied philosophy, went hunting and travelled frequently. He had a passion for advanced technology, owned a telephone very soon after its conception and was one of the first people to be chauffeured in a Mercedes-Benz. He had a penchant for dogs and horses – and women. He is alleged to have once said: “The most beautiful creatures on earth are women and horses.” And when you take a look at the Maria in question, it’s no wonder that Philipp was so mad about her. The young woman is beautiful, stretching out almost lasciviously on a chaise longue – wearing a long dress embroidered with luxurious fabric roses, a delicate pearl necklace around her neck, her brunette hair styled in an elaborate hairstyle, shimmering ballerina shoes on her dainty feet.
The couple married in 1916. Maria was the daughter of a lawyer – royal legal advisor Josef Franck. Philipp left his first wife Mathilde, with whom he had two daughters, for her. Maria was also divorced (from one Mr Frank) and 35 years younger than the 61-year-old Philipp. They travelled the world, hosted illustrious guests and had a child together – the long-awaited son and heir Philipp junior (who would later be referred to as Philip). It was also after this Maria that Philipp named the polygonal tableware range with its characteristic relief around the rim in the shape of a garland of fruits, which he designed himself. Philipp based it on the design of a silver tea service from 1815 that he brought back from a trip to England. He also incorporated in the relief the image of the pomegranate, a fruit that his wife adored. At the time, it wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion that Maria would go on to become the best-selling tableware format of all time. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sales got off to a poor start, which is why Philipp cracked down on the situation firmly and threatened his sales staff with punitive measures: “Those of you who do not sell Maria will be sent packing,” he fulminated. And the company patriarch, who had since been promoted to privy councillor of commerce, invited his dealers to a champagne breakfast: “You will most certainly be asking yourselves why I have invited you. I have heard that you don’t wish to buy the Maria range, and I want to say something to you on that subject: If you don’t buy Maria, then don’t bother buying anything else.”
Philipp’s persistence and his unshakeable belief in the success of Maria paid off. When the name Maria is mentioned at Rosenthal today, it is associated less with Philipp’s wife and much more so with a success story rarely seen before in the world of porcelain. Some five million cups and fifteen million plates alone have been sold in the last 25 years, making Maria the best-selling tableware format of all time. It is available in white or featuring one of more than 200 designs – including almond blossom, gold line, blossom romance and so on. Comprising approximately 100 individual pieces, Maria is Rosenthal’s most extensive tableware collection to this day – and the most beautiful. New pieces are always being added to the collection. In the anniversary year, for example, these new additions included the mug collection Maria Originals, for which Regula Stüdli brought historic designs from the Rosenthal archives back into the modern day. And also the sumptuous Christmas design Maria Winter Rose, for which the Swiss designer brought a whole new abstract interpretation to an arrangement of nuts, Christmas stars and Christmas roses. And what can we learn from this? That there are indeed some love stories so beautiful that you believe them nonetheless.
Eight mugs, eight designs, eight imaginative creations. But why is the dachshund holding a bouquet of flowers in its paws? Who is that picking wild strawberries? Where is the brightly coloured butterfly flying to? And what is the spotty ladybird up to?
For me, Maria is part of Rosenthal’s DNA. The form has been reinterpreted time and time again with contemporary designs. I hope to build this bridge with the Maria Originals mug collection.
– After studying at the Zurich University of Art and Design, Regula Stüdli (*1974) worked as a designer at the renowned Swiss textiles manufacturer Jakob Schlaepfer for over a decade. Her artistic and imaginative textile prints can be found on clothing, furniture and wallpaper. For Rosenthal, she has created the designs Brillance Les Fruits du Jardin and Fleurs Sauvages, Belles Fleurs, Maria Pink Rose, Originals, Winter Rose and Sanssouci Chambre Bleue. Regula Stüdli lives and works as a freelance designer in the Lake Constance region.