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
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
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.