With snow falling outside to set the scene, and Scandinavian ambassadors and their wives inside, the Renwick Gallery last night opened an exhibit of Georg Jensen silver. "Jensen" is almost the password for modern silver design in jewelry and tableware.
Most people headed first for the salmon with a drippy but delicious mustard dill sauce (to the horror of the Renwick's People Who Worry About the Rug in the Grand Salon. The salmon and rare roast beef were cooked at the Danish Embassy under the direction of the wife of the ambassador, Mrs. Otto Borch. At the embassy, Mrs. Borch customarily serves dinners on sterling-silver place plates made, of course, by Georg Jensen.
The Icelandic ambassador's wife, Mrs. Hans Anderson, said, "Oh yes, we have Georg Jensen flatware as well -- service for 30." The Swedish ambassador Count Wilhelm Wachtmeister, and his wife also came, to show Scandinavian solidarity.
From Copenhagen came Povl Nissen, director-president of Georg Jensen. "The price of silver is dreadful," he said, "but we had better Christmas sales than usual. People are buying despite the high prices." Nissen said Count Sigvard Berndotte, a swedish prince and one of the great designers of that country, is still making designs although he's in his 70s. "More in stainless than in silver" now, Nissen said.
The happiest people at the exhibit were those who owned Jensen silver. One women told Joshua Taylor, director of the National Collection of Fine Arts, which oversees the Renwick, "I bought that flatware pattern in 1927 and I still love it."
Taylor, who has a home in the Mexican silver town of Taxco, said, "William Spratling, who revived crafts -- especially silversmithing in Taxco -- was influenced by Jensen, there's no doubt."
Ole Kortzau designed one of the most beautiful pieces in the show, a vase that looked almost as if it had been crumpled accidentally (although of course, it took exquisite workmanship to produce that artless look). "I like designs that are suggested by nature rather than geometry," he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen, who likes to remember he started as a fisherman (and still sports a fine fisherman's beard), is now director-president of marketing. Mikkelsen's own designs were represented by two pieces in the show. "We have 6,000 designs but only 147 in the show," he said.
He pointed to a charming small teapot topped with a blossom, designed by Georg Jensen in 1905. "It's the oldest design in the catalogue," he said. Mikkelsen said the company now has 300 silversmiths, but none of them is a designer.
"To execute these delicate designs -- that blossom, for instance -- that takes many years of aprenticeship," he said.
Lloyd Herman, director of the Renwick Gallery, and Erik Lassen, director of the Danish Decorative Art Museum, received congratulations on their book about Georg Jensen, just isued by the Smithsonian Press.