|| THE REIGN OF ELIZABETH AND PETER III
|The period between 1747 and 1758 in the history of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Manufactory can be truly called Vinogradov’s period.
The question of the continued existence of the manufactory became acute after Hunger proved himself completely useless. The answer to this question depended largely on the ability of Russian masters to fire porcelain in a large kiln without distorting the shape and quality of the items.
The Russian government did not have many choices. They could either look for another foreign master or entrust management of the factory to Vinogradov. All known foreign porcelain specialists at the time were under the strict supervision of their governments; to invite any of them legally was almost impossible. Betting on an unproven talent (as they had with Hunger) would be too risky and could turn out to be another disappointment and a waste of time.
The second path was even more difficult, as all tasks of machinery development, furnace construction, finding the porcelain mass formula, glazing and painting, as well as worker training would fall entirely on the shoulders of Vinogradov, and he had nobody to rely on. No one could guarantee that all those enormous tasks were within his depth and that he could actually perform as the government wanted him to. However, Baron Cherkassov had no doubts on this matter. In his opinion, the future of the porcelain manufactory would rest with Vinogradov. Beginning in 1747, all business, financial and manufacturing matters of the manufactory were under the supervision of Dmitry Vinogradov. As it turned out, the decision was the right one.
Vinogradov was a very diligent director. He cared about every aspect of porcelain production, but most of all he respected the interests of the workers who in return loved him and were ready to work hard. Being a caring person, Vinogradov could not stand misconduct, such as theft or carelessness. The workers were severely punished for it. That was not brutality from the new director; it was more about dedication. Experiments with the porcelain mass continued. Vinogradov carefully recorded all results in his journal. No printed references for porcelain production existed in those years. Despite titanic efforts by Baron Cherkassov to find at least something that would help to build the kiln and produce the right porcelain mass, he found only brochures which were more notes of travelers to China or Europe than serious recommendations. In addition to endless experiments with porcelain mass, Dmitry Vinogradov tried to improve the firing process. Vinogradov could successfully fire porcelain in the small manual kiln, but when he tried to fire in the big kiln, all of the porcelain pieces lost their shape and turned yellow. Of course, under the circumstances, the mass production of porcelain was still out of reach.
Vinogradov did not give up; slowly but surely he was moving forward. In a year it had become possible to accept private orders from noble customers for a few cups and saucers, coffee pots, snuffboxes and other small pieces.
In 1748, Vinogradov started building a new large kiln. Baron Cherkassov was so excited that he demanded that a large dinner set be produced for Empress Elizabeth, to be presented to her on her birthday. Vinogradov enthusiastically assured the baron that everything was under control and would be done in time. Unfortunately, that was the moment when everything began falling apart. Vinogradov had the old enemy – alcohol. This enemy he could overcome from time to time when he was excited about his job, but unfortunately with time, his addiction to alcohol grew stronger, ruining everything in a matter of months. Possibly because of physical fatigue, or perhaps because of multiple failures, Vinogradov began heavily relying on alcohol.
When drunk, Vinogradov was a danger to everybody, including himself. Baron Cherkassov had no option but to order all chemicals, heavy tools and keys hidden, but soon it become clear that these measures were not effective. As a final measure, Cherkassov decided to report Vinogradov to authorities, and called for Colonel Hvostov, who had the reputation of being a brutal human being who would stop at nothing to carry out orders. Legend has it that Hvostov incarcerated Vinogradov for days and even chained him to the wall.
How these cruel measures affected Vinogradov we know from his letters to Baron Cherkassov. "Everything I am trying to do is falling apart. I have become very frustrated. I have no power anymore; all I have is hard work."
In fact, all power was transferred to various courtiers. These people were chosen at random; their experience in manufactory affairs was not significant. By the end of 1750s, Vinogradov began to recover from the alcohol addiction and, at the same time, gain back Baron Cherkassov’s trust and respect. Shortly, Vinogradov was back to his position of Manufactory Director and continued his work with incessant energy and dedication. Unfortunately, he never recovered physically. His health had deteriorated due to his hard work in poor working conditions, and to alcohol abuse. He died suddenly in his late thirties.
Vinogradov’s heritage was priceless. Thirteen years of his short life were dedicated entirely to the development of Russian porcelain production. He found the porcelain mass formula, built a kiln, and prepared successors. He left behind a fully functional production line which was completely Russian and not imported.
Unfortunately, Vinogradov had burned the candle at both ends and did not live long enough to enjoy the success of the Manufactory.