About Rosal- One More Mystery
in Lladró Production
by Peggy Whiteneck
I first heard about this brand from a collector, then later found a reference
to it on the official NAO web site, where it is identified as a sort of
precursor brand for the NAO collection.
This picture of two essentially identical (save for
the books at the base of the figure on the right) models of a girl in smock
have that unmistakable elongated style of old Lladró. The item with
the books at right is marked Rosal (impressed mark); the one at left has an
impressed NAO mark. (Photo courtesy of Gene Woods.)
Then, in 2002, José Lladró, the middle of the three founding
and by many accounts the business brains behind the company, came out with
a memoir whose English-language edition is titled Passenger of Life; Memories
and Opinions of an Entrepreneur (Spain: Editorial Planeta, 2002). In
a chapter called "A Providential Conflict,"
Lladró describes how, "in the mid-sixties,"
two (!) of Lladró's sculptors and one of its chemists turned renegade and
struck out to establish their own competing factory in Chirivella.
(Ironically, one of the oft-told tales of Lladró's company history
is of the three young Lladró brothers striking out to form their own
porcelain works after
a labor dispute with their employer, another ceramic factory. So it would
have been surprising if at least a couple of Lladró's own
employees hadn't taken a leaf from this famous legend.)
Despite his claim that this upstart company produced debased versions of
Lladró products, José Lladró's account makes it clear
the brothers saw these products
as a genuine threat. By his account, the brothers decided to
fight fire with fire, setting up their own rival brand to go head to head
with the renegade company (a rival that José Lladró, unfortunately
but probably deliberately, does not name). This new brand was named Rosal
because, according to José Lladró, the brothers wanted to avoid
dragging the Lladró name into an ugly competitive fracus.
And an ugly competitive fracus it apparently became, including a messy law-suit in
which Lladró prevailed and ended up buying out the renegade company.
To quote José Lladró, "That company turned out to be unimportant to us and closed
down shortly afterwards" (José Lladró, p. 98). Rosal, meanwhile, "became the seed of what today
is Nao, our second brand" (José Lladró, p.99).
Because Rosal wasn't intended (at least
at its inception) as a permanent brand, it was initially identified
only with a sticker (above left), bearing a simple stylized
leaf logo and the name "Rosal." Use of the Spanish word
for the country of origin (ESPAÑA) would indicate that, consistent
with the limited purpose of the brand, these items were not
meant for export to the U.S., where import laws have long required
that the country of origin be identified in English.
From a collecting standpoint, the Rosal brand may provide an
explanation for why there seem to be so many unmarked but known NAO
models circulating on the secondary market. It now seems probable that
at least some of
these catalogued but unmarked items are earlier Rosal versions from which
the sticker has been lost. The inherently
temporary nature of stickers would also explain why relatively few Rosal
items explicity attributable as such are seen today.
Recently, however, collector Robert E. (Gene) Woods
sent me a picture (above right)
of the simple impressed mark that appears on the
base of at least two of the Rosal items in his own collection, which might
indicate that, at a certain point, the Lladró company began to envision
Rosal's potential as a more permanent brand.
Subsequently, collector Jose Juan Nadal Cuesta sent me the photo here of a Rosal
squirrel, which also has an impressed Rosal mark.