In May 2021 I toured the new Porcelain and Decorative Arts Museum at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens for the third time. Each time is even more fascinating as I notice new things and learn more about the collection. This time I toured with current and potential docents and may join this group who get to share the stories of items within. Here is a glimpse of what you can see there.
The museum is open for timed ticket access, requiring preregistration here.
These yellow flowers are details from one of several metal sculptures of Southeastern wildflowers by Trailer McQuilkin. This is one of my favorite displays in the museum. If you think the flowers are detailed, wait until you see the base of the sculptures, which includes insects and bits of wood and, well, things you would find beneath each plant. Look even closer – many make a game of finding the artist’s signature.
Did you know that James Audubon, John James Audubon’s second son, was also an artist? Here is an original work by him, located with other bluejays to see how different artists and media interpret the same natural subject. You can see also that contrast of artists and media in groupings of iris, orchids, the Georgia state bird and flower, and more.
Flora Danica is a collection of ten reference books of scientific illustrations of the flora of the Danish empire. It was ordered by the King of Denmark and published by botanist Christian Oeder in the mid to late 1700s. A comprehensive collection of this Flora Danica encyclopedia is on display at this museum.
In 1790, the Danish Crown Prince Frederik had exact copies of the illustrations meticulously hand painted onto a dinner set as a gift for Catherine II of Russia. She died before the set was complete, so the original set stayed in Denmark. Botanical names of each plant were painted on the underside of each piece. Imagine attending a state dinner party, lasting for hours.
The conversation was bound to include a comparison of illustrations on the plates in front of you and the people around you. I definitely would have picked up my plate and read the plant’s scientific name written below. It would have been a disaster if they had served English peas.
Flora Danica porcelain is still in production today as luxury dinnerware. If I know anyone with a set, I suspect they have a premonition that I would spill my peas on the table and not invite me to dinner.
Finally, imagine this at your bedside, your tea staying warm while a bit of glow from the hot coals inside act as a nightlight.
So many treasures, so many stories to hear and learn. So much to look forward to…
For more information:
State Botanical Garden of Georgia botgarden.uga.edu
2450 S. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30605 706-542-1244
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