The Blue Fish

The story of the species embodied in Royal Copenhagen’s “Blue Fish” is one of true mythical nature.
On December 23rd 1938 a group of local fishermen caught a sinister looking, steel blue fish in a deep sea shark net near the mouth of the Chalumna River on the eastern coast of South Africa. Puzzled by the bizzare and unfamiliar appearance of the fish, they alerted the local museum and soon the significance of their catch was revealed. The fish was given a new name, Latimeria chalumnae, but was believed to belong to the species Coelacanth.
The earliest fossils of the Coelacanth dates back 360 million years, but the fish disappeared from the fossil records roughly 80 million years ago and had long been considered extinct. Needless to say, the 1938 find caused immense excitement as the Coelacanth re-entered the records as one of the oldest animal species to still exist on earth.

The Artwork

The sculpture of the “Blue Fish” was first envisioned by artist Jeannne Vivian Grut (1927-2009) who created numerous figurines and sculptures for Royal Copenhagen in the years between 1959 and 1987. Her work was primarily focused on animals, which she managed to bring to life as porcelain and faience figurines without losing their expressions and mannerisms.

The blue fish was realized in 1963 as a faience sculpture consisting of four separate pieces beautifully decorated with blue and grey pigment using the under glaze technique. However, the piece was eventually taken out of production to make room for new, stunning creations from Royal Copenhagen.

In 2018, Royal Copenhagen was approached with an order request for one hundred and one Blue Fish from a Japanese customer. The request sparked excitement among the Royal Copenhagen craftsmen who eyed an opportunity to reinvent the iconic piece as a beautiful porcelain sculpture and so a project of true blue passion commenced. 

From Patience to Porcelain

For the new version of Jeanne Grut’s Blue Fish the material used was modified from faience to porcelain. A decision with consequences that rippled through all production touchpoints, as it required a rework of how the fish would be brought to life. First and foremost the move from faience to porcelain resulted in the fish changing slightly in size as porcelain shrinks upwards of 14% in size during the first firing. 

The Decoration

The modification in material also effected the decoration of the sculpture. The porcelain sculpture is decorated using the under glaze technique exactly as the faience sculpture was.
The piece is sculpted before it undergoes the first firing and is since painted and glazed before it undergoes the second firing. However, the temperatures required for the second firing of porcelain are much higher and the extreme heat greatly effects the final colour payoff. The talented blue painters therefor worked to find the exact mix of pigments and perfect method of application that resulted in the final sculpture.
The mythical fish appears in deep blues and greys that emphasises the beauty of the intricacy of the shiny scales and fins and leaves the spectator wondering what other creatures might be hiding on the pitch black bottom of the deep blue seas.