Russian Porcelain from the 18th to the Early 20th Century
Porcelain from China and Germany had been known in Russia for centuries due to trade relations with foreign countries and private travel. But porcelain production became possible in Russia only in the 1740s as the result of work done by talented Russian scientist Dmitry Vinogradov, who discovered the secret of porcelain production and began its industrial manufacture.
Thus, due to his efforts, the Imperial Porcelain Factory was founded. Vinogradov was also the author of the first theoretical study on porcelain production written in Europe.
The products of the Imperial Porcelain Factory (at present, the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in Leningrad) were intended to be used at the royal court. Early Russian porcelain generally followed Saxonian porcelain styles: the white surface was decorated with small bunches of flowers, birds, and decorative ribbons. The plate with oriental motifs copying the serving plate of Meissen manufacture was made at the Imperial Factory during the reign of Catherine the Great: here the usual white background is covered with representations of a dragon, a stork, a flowering branch and a beetle, the board relief imitating braid is decorated with flowering branches and butterflies.
The famous Guryev service was manufactured at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in the first third of the 19th century. Its sculptural part was made according to the design of Stepan Pimenov, Professor of the Academy of Arts. The service was commissioned for Alexander I in 1809 and completed in 1817. In the course of the following years, several objects were added to it. But all in all, the service consisted of about 1,000 pieces.
Many museums in this country possess articles from it. They are decorated with the figurines of the peoples of Russia, artisans and hawkers, landscapes after engravings by Hans Georg Heissler, Yefim Korneyev, John Augustus Atkinson, and other artists. Plates constituted the greater part of the service. Their dark-cherry rims are decorated with a golden design in an antique style which is different for each piece. The plate from the collection of the Rostov-Yaroslavl museum features a pedlar with baskets and a hoop-maker, as runs the inscription on the reverse of the plate. The Guryev service is a unique work of Russian Classicism in porcelain.
Starting with 1814, a stamp design, a very rare type of porcelain decoration, was used at the Factory. Of interest here is the plate showing the Triumphal Gate in the town of Gatchina. The impression was made after an engraving by Ivan Chesky based on Semion Shchedrin’s original.
The "Golden” Service in the Empire style was produced at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in 1828. Its articles are richly gilded and have a minute design on the sides of cups and on saucers.
From the late 1830s, historical subjects were well represented in architecture and monumental sculpture, and in porcelain as well. Objects of everyday use tended to acquire complex shapes and to be richly decorated. The service belonging to Grand Prince Konstantin was manufactured at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in 1848. It is decorated with an intricate design in the Russian-Byzantine style. The author of the design for the whole service as well as for the cup with the monogram "BKKH” was artist and archaeologist Fyodor Solntsev. Red, green, and gilt are dominant in the lavish decoration of its pieces. The Rostov-Yaroslavl Museum of Art and Architecture possesses four articles from this service: two plates, an oval dish and an elaborately shaped compote.
In the late 19th century, the Factory continued to produce copies and variants of 18th-century services. The objects reproduced here — a plate, a jam-dish, and a cup and a saucer are imitations of a famous Sevres service of the 1870s. The articles bear the trademark of the Imperial Porcelain Factory and date back to the time of Alexander II. The objects are elegantly decorated with thin golden lines and swirls. Along the rims of the plates are cartouches, ornamented with swirls executed in the elaborate Rococo style. The focal points of the ornamentation are birds painted against a landscape in the background.
In 1913, a figurine Lady with a Mask was made after a model by artist Konstantin Korovin. This sculpture was put out in small editions at the factory and repeated in subsequent years both without glaze and with under- and over-glaze of various colours.
Gardner’s factory also produced tableware for everyday use. The plates with openwork edges, coffee-pots, and a covered candy-dish from the Rostov-Yaroslavl Museum are decorated with bunches of flowers and landscapes. The tea and coffee service pieces are remarkable for their complexity of shape and lavish ornamentation. The tea pot and the coffee-pot are Rococo in shape, and are covered with cobalt, and a golden design shines on the cobalt background of the cups and saucers. In the medallions of these pieces are nosegays, while individual flowers are painted on a grey background. The polychromatic decoration stresses the exquisiteness of the objects.
Objects of the minor plastic arts were also produced at Gardner’s factory. The museum exposition boasts such statuettes as The Turkey and The Goat and the Dog, and the biscuit figurines The Blind Beggar, Playing Push-Me-Pull-Me, and The Honey-Tea Vendor, depicting common people.
Another well-known private porcelain Works was Popov’s factory founded by Melly in 1804 in the village of Gorbunovo, Dmitrov District, Moscow Province. Alexei Popov acquired the factory in 1811 and began to produce articles of superb technological and artistic quality. There was a great variety of products: complete services, tea and dinner tableware, so-called tavern tableware, and the inevitable statuettes which enjoyed great popularity in the 19th century. Among them are figurines of hunters and peasant women as well as subject compositions, e.g., the sculpture Asia of a woman in a long dress with a crown on her head and a sceptre in her hand; she is seated on a camel. This is a version of a model produced at the aforementioned Meissen works, as in the composition with the figures of Venus and Bacchus. Popov’s factory also produced objects of the minor plastic forms, often depicting animals.
The museum collection happily contains a service with so-called romantic landscapes incorporating architectural structures. A tea pot on a burner is decorated with Gothic motifs and landscapes; the details in relief are gilded. A cup and a pitcher produced at Popov’s factory were rendered in the shape of a shell; the light-coloured flowers stand out against a dark-cherry background. The handles of the cup and the pitcher are executed in the elaborate shape of red corals.
The factories of Batenin and the Kornilov brothers are represented in the museum by fewer exhibits. The landlords of Rostov, the Leontyevs, commissioned a service which features their coat-of-arms against a white background. It was made at the Kornilov brothers’ factory in the late 19th century. The powder-blue tea service is remarkable for its intricate shape, the floral design on the surface, and gilt handles which resemble corals.
The Gzhel ceramics district where numerous small enterprises producing tableware and minor plastic forms were situated began to manufacture porcelain tablewate in the 19th century. As a rule, these factories were small with only a dozen or so workers each who did the moulding, glazing and painting of the tableware. Gzhel porcelain, which has retained its fine reputation to the present, is associated with folk ceramics. The favourite type of decoration for tableware was bouquets of flowers with large rosettes against a white background. Of interest are the Gzhel figurines which depicted the life and life styles of different strata of people in Russia. The simplified and somewhat harsh treatment of these figurines is softened by bright ornamentation, making them look like the lubok, the cheap but colourful prints often found in common people’s homes. Examples of this are the statuettes Woman at the Tombstone, The Dancer, Woman with a Peacock and The Yard-Keeper. The designs and compositions were borrowed from the country’s larger porcelain factories, but the folk masters of Gzhel imparted to them quite a different character. Objects of everyday use were manufactured of famous Gzhel clays in thirty villages. The most well-known were the works of the Novy brothers and of Fomin in the village of Kuzyaevo, Khrapunov-Novy’s factory, the enterprise of the Terekhovs and of the Kiselyovs, as well as factories in the villages of Zhirovo, Turygino, Bekhteevo and many others. Typical of this area is the tea service with cornucopia brimming with flowers, produced at Khrapunov-Novy’s factory. Most of the pieces are gilded and ornamented with a golden design.
The 19th century in Russia witnessed the rapid development of capitalist relations and the intensive growth of plants and factories. Porcelain enterprises also adopted new methods of labour. In terms of the late 19th —early 20th centuries one should not leave out the activity of Matvey Kuznetsov, who managed to take over almost all the porcelain factories in Russia, including those in Verbilki, Gzhel District, Dulyovo, the village of Pesochnoye, Yaroslavl Province, and other places as well. The incorporated enterprises began to produce high-quality tableware in great quantities. It sold well, which also promoted the growth of the enterprises of Kuznetsov’s Company. Small factories could not compete with this clever businessman. The museum possesses a few exhibits of mass-produced tableware manufactured in the late 19th century at Kuznetsov’s factories. A tea pot, a cup and a saucer, a creamer and a pepperbox are decorated with details in relief and golden lines. The figurine Peasant Woman Churning Butter is made of biscuit (non-glazed porcelain). A covered goblet and saucer are decorated with floral designs against light-pink and light-blue backgrounds; the handles are gilded.
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