|| MEASURES UNDERTAKEN BY THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE 18th CENTURY TO BOOST THE MANUFACTURE OF CERAMICS.
|The birth of the Russian Imperial Lomonosov Manufactory was a result of deliberate and determined measures undertaken by the Russian government. It began with Peter the Great, whose goal was to bring ceramic manufacturing in Russia to the level of that in Europe and China.
TEven though pottery was being manufactured in Russia long before the reign of Peter the Great, it was still on a primitive level. The poor quality of the ceramics did not satisfy the tastes of the Russian nobility who, at that time, with support from Peter himself, had became accustomed to European fashion and style. Peter himself placed many orders for porcelain and delftware from abroad to furnish his newly built palaces.
The Russian Imperial Court had two sources for porcelain: one from China through Siberia and the other from Western Europe through Amsterdam or Hamburg. Supplying the tsars� household with Chinese, Japanese, Venetian and Dutch ceramics was very expensive, and did not meet demand. Peter the Great understood the time had come for Russia to establish her own ceramics factory. In 1716, during his voyage to Western Europe, Peter visited the Brandenburg factory. Peter ordered several sets of porcelain, and decided to build a similar factory in Saint Petersburg. For this purpose, several Russian specialists were sent to Venice to study porcelain manufacturing techniques. At the same time, a Russian minister, Alexander Golovkin, signed a contract with Peter Eggebrecht, a well known master in Delft. According to historical chronicles, Eggebrecht safely arrived in Saint Petersburg in September 1718. This is the only known fact about Eggebrecht�s stay in Russia. His further destiny, as well as that of those specialists sent to Venice, is unknown. But the fact remains that no porcelain factory was founded in Russia during the reign of Peter the Great.
In 1723, the Russian Ministry of Manufacturing came forward with a report of rich white clay fields located in several regions of Central Russia. This white clay was used by Russian peasants for making primitive household dishes. The assumption was made that white clay from these fields could be used in making porcelain. The Russian government, now under the aegis of Empress Elizabeth, Peter�s daughter, announced a tender for those who were interested in porcelain manufacturing. The winner was to be granted privileges and a full promotion by the government.
Afanasiy Grebenshikov, from Moscow, became the first founder of a Russian ceramics factory. By 1727, the factory was already producing tobacco pipes and roof tiles. Later, Grebenshikov began to manufacture crude ceramic dishes.
However, the further development of the factory was slowed by a lack of workers. Numerous attempts of Grebenshikov to buy a village with peasants for working in the factory were declined by the government, citing the Law of 1736, which forbade all manufacturers from buying people from villages. In 1742, Grebenshikov sent a request to Elizabeth explaining that his factory would soon halt production if no measures were taken to provide workers. Porcelain manufacturing was considered so important that in 1742 the Empress actually nullified the Law of 1736.
This radical step gave a great boost to Grebenshikov's factory. It became so successful in producing delftware that he even received several orders from the Imperial Court. Thus, Grebenshikov�s factory can be considered the first Russian Imperial ceramics factory.
A few years later, a new factory was founded in Saint Petersburg. Afanasy Grebenshikov was a major contributor to this new venture. He supplied the clay and even sent his best masters, but he did not abandon the idea of finding a recipe for fine porcelain and glaze which would equal porcelains produced in Europe. In 1747, Grebenshikov produced a line of porcelain mugs adorned with cobalt designs and the master�s initials. One of the mugs was sent to the Manager of the Imperial Cabinet, Baron Cherkassov. This mug was pronounced �not bad� and promising, but unfortunately this was the only porcelain successfully produced in Grebenshikov�s factory. The recipe for porcelain remained a secret from Russian manufacturers.
The next attempt of the Russian government to discover the porcelain mass recipe was to send a caravan to China. Special agents were given the task of finding the Chinese secret recipe for porcelain. Russian agent Osip Miasnikov managed to bribe one of the Chinese masters, who agreed to reveal his secret and even to draw a schematic of the kiln.
Pleased with this success, the Russian government ordered all other experiments with white clay to cease, and organized a laboratory in Tsarskoe Selo to build a kiln and produce porcelain mass. Unfortunately, either the Russian clay was not suitable for the recipe, or the Chinese master deceived the Russian agents, because this attempt was unsuccessful. Soon, financing of the project was stopped and the masters had no other choice but return home.
To be continued ...