So What's the
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.)
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.
A Collector's Book of Retired Lladró
by Peggy Whiteneck
Old Line Publishing, LLC
Ever since its founding in the 1950s and its subsequent, stellar rise to global prominence,
collectors have been fascinated with the singular modeling and attention to detail in
Lladró Spanish porcelain figurines. Eventually, collectors discovered that Lladró
wasn't just one brand, but several. At the same time, other companies began to sprout up all
over Spain, particularly around Lladró's own region in Valencia, working
"in the Lladró style" and hoping to catch a ride on the tailwinds of its popularity.
This book is written to acquaint readers with retired figurines in all the Lladró and
Lladró-affiliated brands and to help distinguish them from the work of other Spanish
companies. The book features substantive chapters on the Lladró "core brand,"
NAO by Lladró, Zaphir, Golden Memories, Rosal, and Hispania, complete with
representative photos for each brand.
Retail Price: $29.95
S & H: $5.95
at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com
or through any bookseller by ISBN order #13: 978-0-9845704-6-1.