Fostoria’s Opera Star

By Karen Parr-Moody

 

The decorative arts has featured elegant ladies in various incarnations. Portrait plates – also called cabinet plates – have featured an array of queens and aristocrats, including England’s Duchess of Devonshire, France’s Empress Josephine and Prussia’s Queen Louise. Wedgwood featured an array of its blue jasperware items featuring Queen Elizabeth II’s profile commemorating her 1953 coronation.  

 

Then there is the Fostoria Glass line inspired by opera singer Jenny Lind. Produced from 1955 to 1965, this milk glass pattern includes Lind’s cameo surrounded by raised geometric and floral designs (photo, right; cologne bottle, $480).

 

A wonderful collection is currently on view at GasLamp Too in showcase T-302. What makes it particularly special is that it is all in the aqua shade of milk glass; aqua and pink shades were only produced from 1957 to 1959, so they are rare (photo, left; handkerchief box, $180).

 

Jenny Lind was a glamorous figure of her day. A charmingly down-to-earth opera singer, she was born in Sweden in 1820 and had a prestigious career that included membership in the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, as well as being the court singer of Sweden.

Lind toured Europe to great acclaim and became wealthy by her late 20s. It is around this time that her fate took an interesting turn; American showman P.T. Barnum learned of her European popularity and contracted her to tour America. As was typical, Barnum created one of his bombastic marketing campaigns to introduce her to Americans, with whom she was virtually unknown, as “The Swedish Nightingale.”

 

Lind became a stateside sensation. Her name was ultimately used in the U.S. to advertise a variety of items, including snuff, candy, locomotives, vegetable varieties and paper dolls (photo, right; from Cooper-Hewitt's collection). The popular “Jenny Lind” crib is still manufactured today. 

 

When Fostoria began producing the Jenny Lind pattern in 1955, it was solely a vanity set. It included such items as glove boxes, decanters, jewel boxes, pin trays, pomade boxes, puff boxes and – as featured in the photo at left – pitchers and tumblers for the bedside (pitcher, $400; tumbler, $80).

 

Other manufacturers created china, crystal and silver patterns inspired by Jenny Lind.  

 

It is interesting to note that Lind was born in a world entirely different from the privileged circumstances in which she died at age 67. Her father was a tavern musician and her mother raised her virtually singlehandedly in poverty.

 

Lind often sang to herself as a child and was overhead through a window at age nine. This poetic event led to her enrollment in the training program of Sweden's Royal Opera.

 

It so happened that Lind also had a beautiful countenance, which remains impressed in our memories through Fostoria’s milk glass line (dresser tray, photo right; $180). Collectors will find that her portrait imbues any space with grace. 

 

 

 

 

 

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