El Portal Porcelana

"For People Passionate About Spanish Porcelain"

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For those interested in glass figurines, Fenton Art Glass Beasts, Birds & Butterflies is another of Peggy's books!

Also for those interested in glass, Fenton Art Glass Fairy Lamps & Lights is Peggy's latest book! It focuses on small, candle-lit "lamps" that were first used in the Victorian era to light dark hallways before the invention of gaslight or electricity.

The publisher for these Fenton books has gone out of business, but I am pursuing other publishing options for revised and expanded editions. Stay tuned! In the meantime, you may still find advance-ordered and used copies of these books at online booksellers.

So What's the Difference?

Collectors have long been challenged to come up with a rationale for these two collections ("regular Lladró" and NAO) as distinct brands, and the discovery of early clones and of unusually fine early models that appear to have been made only in the NAO collection have only exaggerated that challenge. An increasing number of collectors have concluded that, at least when it comes to the earliest models, there is little qualitative difference between the two collections, both claimed by the same manufacturer and both made of fine porcelain - and many, it now appears, designed by the same sculptors. Thus, many veteran collectors have been for years diversifying their collections with the best of the many distinct models made in the NAO brand as well as purchasing, usually at much more affordable prices, identical NAO clones of regular collection models.

This early NAO figurine, titled "In the Forest" (#92) was retired in 1983. Done in the classic, elongated, El-Greco-inspired style associated with the Lladró core collection, it begs the question of an early relationship between these two brands. (Photo by the author from her own collection.)

NAO "Poodle" #490 is pictured in the NAO Catalog on this site. For now, I wanted to show you this great shot of the face to demonstrate why it's often hard to draw quality distinctions between the best of the NAO collection and what's in the main Lladró brand. (This and the catalog picture for this item courtesy of Elaine Saunders. Elaine's eBay ID is UKELAINE if you want to check out her auctions.)

Origins of the NAO Name and Mark

This pair of very stylized NAO cats was made early in the line (left to right, NAO #s L08 & L010!) and is usually found with impressed marks. Number L09, a pouncing kitten playing with a ball, is done in the same style but not to the scale of the other two, being quite a bit larger. One or the other of these can occasionally be found, but it's difficult to find the pair. I actually bought these at two separate times in two different antique shops. (Photo by the author from her own collection.)

Like much else in the origins of this brand, the genesis of the name is obscure. In company marketing literature over the years, at least two different explanations have been advanced. One claims that NAO is an anagram assembled from iconographic and ornamental elements taken from glazed tiles and pottery such as that which would have been found on Paterna wares produced in the Valencian region in the 14th and 15th centuries.

This Paterna explanation makes some sense. Spain was invaded by the Muslims in the 8th century. The 13th through 15th centuries were the period of the last Islamic dynasty in Spain, and it was in this era that the tin-glazed earthenware pottery of Paterna flourished. The decorative motifs of this ware featured geometric and abstract elements as well as representational ones; the ware from Paterna also showed a strong Oriental as well as Islamic influence, particularly in its animal figures. It would be fairly easy to imagine, then, assembling a visual anagram from the geometric borders of ancient Paterna ware that survives to the current day and coming up with the stylized, almost Grecian letters that were found in the NAO mark until very recently.

It is one thing to argue stylistic affinities, however, and another to argue origins. A simpler and more probable explanation is that "nao" is the generic name of an old commercial Spanish sailing vessel. (Columbus' famous sailing vessel the Santa Maria, for example, was a nao.) Naos were big, ungainly cargo ships. A brand name based on this word would have seemed apt for several reasons, not the least of which is that Valencia (where the NAO by Lladró factory is located) is a seacoast region. Moreover, the name would have appealed to the Lladró company, which has justifiable world-class ambitions for its porcelains. One can just imagine the Lladró company making its voyage of Columbian discovery, conquering the hearts of the world.

(NAO "Clones" of Regular Collection Models)

At Last - A New Lladró Book!

The Lladró Guide; A Collector's Reference to Retired Porcelain Figurines in Lladró Brands

My most recent Lladró book has revised and expanded content and remains the only book in print on this topic that isn't just a catalog. Covers all Lladró and Lladró-affiliated brands (regular collection, NAO, Zaphir, Golden Memories, Hispania, Rosal, and Tang) and tells how to distinguish them from imitations and counterfeits. Revised and expanded content includes many new photos and a new chapter on future directions for collectors and the company now that it has passed from family hands. The book is in hard cover, which eliminates that annoying curl-up that happens with paperback books. You can order the book directly from the publisher, Schiffer Books, on Amazon, or from your favorite bookstore using the ISBN 13 number 978-0764358395.

Warning: If you're looking for a catalog of every retired figurine Lladró ever made, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for beautiful, full-color photos of representative models and more in-depth and well-researched information about Lladró and its history and production than you can get in thumbnail photos with captions, this book is what you're looking for.

Retail Price in Hardcover: $45

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