Dinner with The Swedish Nightingale ~ Jenny Lind Tablescape

I promise, there is a tablescape in this post.

Johanna Marie Lind, more widely known as Jenny Lind, and dubbed 'The Swedish Nightingale' was an opera singer born in 1821 in Stockholm, Sweden.

 It is said that she could repeat a song which she’d heard just one time…by the age of three!  By the age of 10, she was performing on the stage at Stockholm.  Her early life was spent being impoverished.  Jenny Lind grew up living at various times with her mother in a shelter for indigent women or being shuffled from home to home. Her father, from whom she inherited her musical gifts, was a tavern musician and rarely came home to visit. It was not until Jenny was 15 years old that her parents married.

 When Jenny was twenty-three years old, she went to Dresden and sang for festivals held to honor the visiting Queen Victoria. She was received with much enthusiasm throughout Germany which, in turn, opened the door to much more success when she traveled to London in 1847.  Jenny's reputation as one of the most talented sopranos grew throughout Europe and news of her fame found its ways to the ears, and mind, of P. T. Barnum, the first millionaire of showbiz and of course founder of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

When Barnum heard of Jenny Lind,  in 1850 he offered to promote the singer with an American tour.  Without ever having heard her sing, he paid her an unprecedented, upfront, all expense included, $1,000 a night for 150 nights.  Jenny Lind accepted the offer in part because she disliked the opera performances she was doing largely because, in those days,  the opera singers were known to have bad reputations and hers was that of an unpretentious, shy and devout person, and to endow a music school for poor children.  So successful were Barnum's preparations for the Swedish Nightingale's arrival that, nearly 40,000 people greeted her at the docks of New York and another 20,000 at her hotel.   Jenny Lind 'mania' was born.  As a direct result of Jenny Lind mania, many different souvenirs and items were made in her honor and named after her, the most noteable being the Jenny Lind baby crib, which is still today called by the same name. 

Jenny Lind's nickname, 'The Swedish Nightingale' comes from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Nightingale' which was inspired by his unrequited love for the famous singer and fellow Scandinavian. Andersen wrote in The True Story of My Life, published in 1847, "Through Jenny Lind I first became sensible of the holiness of Art. Through her I learned that one must forget one's self in the service of the Supreme. No books, no men, have had a more ennobling influence upon me as a poet than Jenny Lind".

Strangely enough, the nightingale story became a reality for Jenny Lind in 1848-1849, when she fell in love with Fryderyk Chopin.  His letters reveal that he felt "better" when she sang for him.  She attempted unsuccessfully to marry Chopin in Paris 1849.   Soon after, she had to flee the cholera epidemic but returned just before he died.   Lind never recovered from her loss of Chopin. She wrote to Andersen on 23 November 1871 from Florence: "I would have been happy to die for this my first and last, deepest, purest love."

Jenny Lind died in 1887, so did not live into the age of recording.

Has anyone began to wonder why I am  writing about Jenny Lind? Well, yes Virginia, I am writing about Jenny Lind, the opera singer,  because there is a transferware pattern named after her.

The Jenny Lind pattern can be found in a variety of colors, including polychrome pieces with hand tinting applied under glaze, such as those above and below.  The scene depicts couples in period clothing peering through a telescope at a castle in the distance.

(figural handled tea caddy in red/pink above and brown below...these are great for storing teas, etc.)

Purple Plate

( This cup and saucer is so unique with its handle...sort of art-deco style.  I've only come across the few that I have in stock and never seen this handle before)

( brown polychrome teapot)

(Lidded cigarette box)

(polychrome blue pitcher and bowl)

(hand painted charger)

(mug / coffee cup)

Panorama of Humbug, engraving published by William Schaus 289 Broadway, New York, c1850. The artist parodies the extravagant publicity campaign conducted by showman Phineas T. Barnum for the series of American concerts by Swedish songstress Jenny Lind, which he produced in the autumn of 1850. Barnum started his promotion of Lind 6 months prior to her arriving in New York on September 1, 1850. On a small platform, beneath a massive banner with the image of Jenny Lind holding a fan and nightingale (a reference to her nickname "the Swedish nightingale"), stand a youth who is half white and half black, a showman, and a man throwing out handbills. The platform is erected outside a ticket office, and sits over a small orchestra pit with musicians blowing wind instruments with the names of several New York newspapers, including the "Tribune, Herald, Express," and "Courier and Enquirer." While a satanic figure to the left beats a drum, the showman shouts to the crowd around him: "Walk up Ladies & Gentlemen and see the greatest wonder of the age--the Real Swedish Nightingale, the only specimen in the Country." Inside the ticket office stands Barnum himself, quietly watching from the shadows. His Museum on Broadway can be seen in the background.

This cartoon shown below from the British humor magazine Punch satirizes the American clamor over Jenny Lind, visually suggesting an amusing unruliness and lack of sophistication among Americans. (Source: Punch, October 5, 1850. American Social History Project)

A Jenny Lind candleabra.  Decorative pieces like this, placed in one's home would communicate the owner's desire to emulate Jenny Lind's moral values.
photo credit Strong Museum

Isn't this beautiful? It is a Jenny Lind print from a wood engraving published in a magazine 1866
photo credit:  http://dla.library.upenn.edu

I set a table for four using the brown polychrome pieces in the Jenny Lind pattern.

Of all the different colorways in Jenny Lind, this is by far my favorite.

I used plaid napkins that bring out the little bit of color in these dishes...blue, green, red and gold.

Shawn and I used to be members of a club here that always served a demitasse cup of rich broth before each meal.  It was so delicious!  I like to do that sometimes too, so the demitasse cups were placed on top of each plate for that purpose.

But then, Shawn decided to make us homemade pizza for dinner, so there went the broth idea.
I'm not complaining though.


Making the World Cuter
A Stroll Thru Life 
Brambleberry Cottage
Common Ground
Between Naps on the Porch
Show and Tell Friday
No Minimalist Here
Savvy Southern Style
Ladybird Lane


  1. Not only do I love those beautiful dishes, but I love your flatware as well! Martina

  2. Fabulous piece of history for a beautiful woman! The china pattern is exquisite & you set a table for a queen, Nancy. Thank you, I have really enjoyed my visit with you.

    Have a lovely weekend ~
    TTFN ~

  3. Thank you so much for wonderful job on teaching us about Jenny Lind and her history. I had no clue she and Chopin had a relationship neither was I aware that there was a china pattern with her name! Your table setting is so pretty! I love how you pulled out the colors in your napkins and glasses. I thoroughly enjoyed your post today!

  4. Fascinating post...so much interesting information on the famous singer and on the pattern named after her. I've really enjoyed learning about this line of dishware. Thanks for the lessons!

  5. You certainly have a lot of fabulous dinnerware and you set a beautiful table. Loved seeing all your treasures. I have joined your followers list, picked up your blog button, and invite you to join my followers list; as well,I hope you will also grab a blog button. Hugs, Gayle

  6. Thank you for the history behind the china. The story makes it even more beautiful. It looks beautiful on your table. Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. NIce history lesson and tie into dishes! I never knew that Jenny Lind was Swedish. Love the dishes, Laura Cottage and Broome

  8. As a fellow Swede I love this. Come see Sigrid's Jack the Ripper tablescape.

  9. Nancy, I really enjoy the history of the different patterns you have shown...keeps my attention much better than high school history classes!
    Your table is beautiful...so much attention to detail. The Jenny Lind pattern is very lovely. I am coveting the placemats...love the color of them.
    Have a great weekend!

  10. I am so glad you always share the story behind the dishes.. This is a quite lovely one. And your table.. well, those placemats take my breath away! The centerpiece is perfect and the dishes, well I've not seen anything lovelier in a long time.. Thanks so much for sharing! xo marlis

  11. This is a really pretty table, Nancy. I really like it. It has muted fall tones that could go into the winter months....just really, really pretty. I'm glad you gave the whole backstory on Jenny Lind. I was totally unfamiliar. I always hear about Jenny Lind beds, etc., but just had no idea. And she married Fryderyk Chopin even though Hans Christian Andersen had a thing for her??? I'm trying to figure out who in modern times would be a part of this love triangle!!!

  12. Thank you for teaching me about Jenny Lind. I knew her name in relation to furniture and even had a Jenny Lind bed but never knew so much about her. Let alone what a moral influence she was on society! Another reason to I can be proud to be Swedish!

  13. Enlightening story of Jenny Lind.
    Love the crocheted placemats! They seem very suitable for the Jenny Lind china.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  14. Well, I learned something new today. I never knew there was a real Jenny Lind. I only knew about the Jenny Lind crib. Interesting.
    The dishes are beautiful and I agree with you on the choice of colors.

    Thank you for sharing.

  15. As Asian living in Stockhol, Sweden almost all my life, I never heard this lady.

    Now, I know, I will visit the Bukowski Antique Store and ask about JL.

    Tack (Thank you) for the very educational explanation.

    Happy TS,

  16. I had heard of Jenny Lind,and knew she was a singer, but never knew her "story". So interesting. Thanks for sharing it and the great tablescape. Love your table linens, and of course, the transferware.

  17. The dishes are so beautiful in your tablescape. Thanks for the interesting story of Jenny Lind! I always enjoy your history lessons behind the dishes.

    I always appreciate your participation in Potpourri Friday, Nancy! Thanks so much!

  18. Wow what gorgeous pieces, your tablescape is beautiful.

  19. Such an interesting post. I always learn so much. Love your beautiful china pieces and your tablescape is fantastic. Thanks for joining the party. Hugs, Marty

  20. Neat post! All the china is so beautiful! Love your table.Joann

  21. I really enjoyed this post... every word and every photograph. Great job, and great tablescape! Thank you for sharing Jenny Lind with us!

  22. You have a way with words....I loved this post and the beautiful transferware!



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