Imperial Porcelain Factory

Russian Porcelain Dinner Service, Lomonosov, Cobalt Net pattern

p4A ItemID F7988410
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT (1867 - 1959); HEINZ AND CO. NORITAKE porcelain partial dinner service for eight, Japan, 1984, forty-five pieces

p4A ItemID F7979786
CHINESE FAMILLE ROSE PORCELAIN LIDDED JAR. lobed form with ornate, scrolling floral decoration on yellow ground

p4A ItemID F7978246
Thirteen Losomonov Porcelain Serving Pieces, Russian, 20th/21st century, Cobalt Net pattern with gilt accents

p4A ItemID F7965740

The Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory

Founded at St. Petersburg in 1744 by the Empress Elizabeth (daughter of Peter the Great), who entrusted a German, Chistoph Konrad Hunger, then employed in Stockholm, with a written contract to ‘found in St. Petersburg a factory for making Dutch plates and pure porcelain, as it is made in Saxony’. His first firing in the kiln was a total failure, but he always found plausible excuses. Eventually he exhausted the patience of the director, Baron Cherkasov, who complained that during three years Hunger had turned out barely a dozen cups, and even they were crooked and discoloured.

After this painful initiation, the factory came into its own during the reign of Catherine II [1762 to 1796]. She made a thorough personal inspection of the factory in 1763, and at once ordered it reorganized and renamed the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and that highly skilled painters, modellers, and craftsmen be engaged, regardless of expense, from Germany, Austria, and France. The “Catherine porcelain” differed in its composition from European porcelain because it was made from native raw materials and was thus rather closer to the Chinese but its forms and decoration following the most fashionable European models.

The greatest fame, which accrued to the Imperial Porcelain Factory, came through the gala table services commissioned by Catherine II. The first of these, the “Arabesque Service”, derived its name from the arabesques in the style of the classical frescoes discovered during excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The most important part of the service is a centerpiece of many items, a “surtout de table”, with the figure of the Empress on a plinth surrounded by allegorical groups depicting “Justice” and “Philanthropy”. The service had 60 covers and consisted of 973 pieces. Another palace service – “Yachtinski” – with painted decoration in praise of Russia’s sea power and the flourishing of her trade. The Porcelain Factory also produced a famous series of figures “The People of Russia”. This series was later extended to include St. Petersburg intellectuals, tradesmen and street vendors. With this collection began one of the most notable traditions of Russian porcelain.

During the reign of Catherine’s son, Paul I, large display vases were made. Alexander I commissioned Neo-Classical wares painted with battle scenes; porcelain decorated largely with military motifs continued to be made under Nicholas I, much of it sumptuously executed. Art Nouveau porcelain, reflecting Danish influence, dates from the reign of Alexander III, and the famous painted Easter eggs from that of Nicholas II. In the 1920′s, “propaganda” porcelain was produced. Modern porcelain tends to have patriotic decorative motifs or to reflect other arts, such as ballet.

The first mark of the Imperial Factory in the reigns of Elizabeth and Peter III consisted of a black or impressed double-headed eagle, and, more rarely, an impressed anchor. From the time of Catherine II, and under all subsequent emperors, the mark consisted of the reigning sovereign’s initials painted under the glaze, usually in blue, but sometimes in black or green. Except in the reign of Catherine, these initials are surmounted by the Imperial crown. Some pieces, made in the reign of Alexander II, have the Emperor’s initial surrounded by a circular wreath. Many pieces are marked, since marking was first made compulsory by Nicolas I.

The Imperial Porcelain Factory remains in operation today and is known as the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory.


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