History of Imperial (Lomonosov) Porcelain - 9

first letter IF PORCELAIN COULD TALK...( part II).
by Dasha Demourova
"Russian Life" magazine http://www.russianlife.net/
The factory was made possible by Russian scientist Dmitry Vinogradov, who invented a means of mass production of porcelain, with a quality not unlike the famed Saxon and Chinese porcelain of the time. Vinogradov was a rather disorganized, profligate genius, and Elizabeth had to keep him "focused" on his task at hand, legend has it, by chaining him to his workbench and ordering an assistant to write down every "recipe" he concocted. Vinogradov succeeded in the end, though he would die an early death (at 39) fromhis labors.

Over the years, items produced at the factory would be specially marked, to indicate which tsar or tsarina was reigning at the time. But the very first marking used by the factory under Vinogradov's guidance was "W" (a German transcription for the Russian "B" which is the first letter of Vinogradov). Just nine items with the marking "W" have survived to the present day. Seven are in Russian museums, two in private collections.Initially, the factory produced mostly miniature items, such as snuffboxes for Empress Elizabeth, who used them as gifts for her favorites, candlesticks, Easter eggs, plates and trays. In 1756, Vinogradov designed a huge furnace that allowed for the manufacture of larger pieces. In the 1750s, the first figurines were produced.

Under Catherine II (1762-1796), the factory was reorganized, and in 1765 was renamed the Imperial Porcelain Factory. By the end of the 18th century, the factory flourished, becoming one of the leading enterprises in Europe. Luxury table sets appeared during this period. The factory did such a fine job replicating some broken pieces of a service Catherine had imported from Germany, that she ordered from the factory the first large imperial table setting--the famous Arabesque service (inspired frescoes unearthed at Herculaneum), for 60 persons (973 objects). When Paul I (1796-1801) ascended to the throne, he inherited his mother's interest in the Porcelain Factory and made several large orders. He visited the factory frequently, often bringing along honored guests. During his reign, table settings for two, so called de jeuner, became fashionable. The last table set manufactured in 18th century adorned the table in Mikhailovsky Palace on the eve of the Emperor's assassination. During the reign of Alexander I (1801-1825), the most qualified domestic and foreign artisans were invited to work at the factory. The famous Gurievsky table setting, celebrating Russia's victory in the Patriotic War of 1812, was ordered for the Emperor's family; it included 4500 objects and was gilded with several kilograms of gold. During the 19th century, imperial interest in the factory waxed and waned, and a variety of new styles and motifs were introduced. But nothing could have prepared the factory for what would come next ... to be continued
© 2004, Russian Life magazine, all rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission of the publisher.
Photos are provided by Russian State Hermitage Museum
"Russian Life" magazine http://www.russianlife.net/
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