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Lomonosov Porcelain

Lomonosov PorcelainRussian porcelain was not a topic of interest among European experts and porcelain lovers until quite recently. There was no comprehensive documentation in existence for one thing, and, also, there were very few pieces from the Lomonosov factory on view in European museums and private collections.

Tsar Peter the Great was fascinated by Bottger's invention at the court of Saxony. From 1718 onward, he tried to penetrate the secret of the 'white gold', but neither the foreigners summoned to the Russian court nor his endeavors to get at the Arcanum at Dresden proved effective. A recipe bought around 1740 at a high price from a master porcelain maker to the Emperor of China proved equally useless. It was only from 1744 onwards, when Christoph Conrad Hunger was called to St. Petersburg, that attempts to produce porcelain met with success. Hunger, who had worked with Bottger at Meissen, and had later been employed in Vienna, Venice, Stockholm and again in Vienna, was made gilder and enamel painter. But he proved not to have a pleasing hand at porcelain manufacture and he was expelled from the country in 1748. It was his successor, Dmitri Vinogradov, a mining engineer who had studied metallurgy in Freiberg and a talented technician who documented his porcelain studies with precision whose working methods, who ensured the survival and further development of the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory. To this day his notes on production technology provide the basis of porcelain manufacture at what is now the Lomonosov factory.

If one looks at the products of this factory, so richly illustrated in this monograph, it is clear that, as in the European centres of manufacture, its production was oriented to the needs of the court. Ranging from the first snuffboxes to the multi-figured centerpieces for the tsars' table and the monumental vases of the 19th century, everything bears the imprint of the imperial patrons. The technical development of porcelain production led to the attainment of high standards. The catalogue shows that the great porcelain services embraced everything a princely table of the time could possibly demand, and the art of decorating these pieces was masterly. The porcelain from the imperial factory was not only magnificent, but showed from the beginning the traits of a typically Russian perception of beauty. Rich, decorative shapes were created, and were equally richly painted. The abundant variety of motifs in their density of color, whether floral or ornamental; the narrative verve of pictorial images; the exuberance of the sculptural elements - all these united to form an unmistakable whole.

The porcelain sculptures shows similar characteristics. Pieces intended as table decorations are monumental, aiming at ceremonial splendor, but in the small figures from the series "Peoples of Russia" (1780-1800) the narrative element, nourished by the rich treasure of Russian folk art, comes fully into its own. Equally, the series "Tradesmen and Artisans" of the same period, for all its connections with the European "cris-de-Paris" figures, could not be more Russian.

Towards the end of the 19th century artistic vitality was visibly waning, many more copies of European models were produced and there was no longer any innovative spirit at work.

In this contradictory situation - perfection of the technical mastery of porcelain manufacture and decoration coupled with a decline in artistic vitality - some members of the recently founded artist group "World of Art" joined the porcelain factory. Their aim was to instill new artistic values and it was men from this group who created totally new decorations when the factory became state-owned in 1917. Now "Agitprop" porcelain was produced, with slogans and aphorisms in praise of the revolution and the new regime. Parallel to this, the traditional themes of eternal Russia -country life with its abundance of flowers, peasants, fishermen and the world of Russian mythology - came into their own. The Suprematist pieces were also produced at that time. All pieces dating from the first ten years after the revolution are characterized by vivid colors. It is as if a volcanic eruption had taken place, bringing forth incredibly vivacious new things out of an ossified past. The following decades brought a diminution of the impetus for creating new ceramic forms. The narrative element from the world of myth and fairy tale was given more scope; peopled landscapes and colorful flowers became more usual, until 1968 when there appeared the very fine-shelled tea cups with delicate, gold ornamented patterns which so enchanted us when we visited the Lomonosov factory in 1990. Recently these pieces have found their way to Western Europe and they reflect a new flowering and continuing perfection from within the ancient walls of the St. Petersburg factory.

"To serve native trade and native art"- this was how Empress Elizabeth, daughter of. Peter the Great, formulated the aims of Russia's first "Porzelin" factory, which she established in 1744. Dmitri Vinogradov also worked here for the well-being and the benefit of the fatherland and was the originator of Russian porcelain.

Two hundred fifty years have passed - 250 years of unique, remarkable, difficult and highly interesting history for the first Russian porcelain factory.

About 100 years after its foundation, the factory, which until then had belonged to the ruling house of Romanov, was proclaimed the Imperial Porcelain Factory (IFZ - Imperatorskii Farforovyi Zavod). After the October Revolution of 1917 it was nationalized and renamed the State Porcelain Works (GFZ Gossudarstvennyi FZ). In 1925, however, on the occasion of the 200th jubilee of the Russian Academy of Science, it was given the name of the academy's founder, Mikhail Lomonosov, a man well-versed in arts and science, and until recently it was called the Leningrad Lomonosov Porcelain Works (LFZ- Leningradski FZ imeni M.V. Lomonosova). Since 1993 it has been reorganized as the "Lomonosov Porcelain Factory", a private joint-stock company.

Russian porcelain owes its existence to notable Russian and foreign sculptors, painters, architects, scholars and artisans. During the Soviet era leading masters of fine and applied arts, expert technologists, workers and engineers continued the tradition. The best of Russian decorative porcelain from the Lomonosov factory today takes pride of place in the rich Petersburg collections, both in the Hermitage and the Russian Museum, as well as the Palace Museums of Pavlovsk, Petrodvorets and Tsarskoe Selo, the State Historical Museum in Moscow and the Ceramics Museum of Kuskovo, and thus are part of the rich fund of Russian and international art. There are many important foreign collectors who own such pieces. The Museum of the Petersburg Porcelain factory, established in 1844, contains some 20,000 exhibits.

For more than two and a half centuries the factory on the banks of the Neva has been in the forefront of high-class porcelain production. Its products are of immense cultural value to the country and set the yardstick for artistic form and quality of execution.

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