Lot 414
  • 414

A pair of monumental gilt-bronze mounted porcelain vases, Imperial Porcelain Factory, St Petersburg, dated 1825

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • porcelain, gilding, metal
of bandeau form, each with flared neck and foot, on a square gilt-bronze base, the bodies and rims moulded with raised neoclassical friezes comprising acanthus, anthemia, rosettes and arches on burnished grounds, each painted with a landscape view with figures and animals, possibly after Karl von Kügelgen, one signed lower left in Cyrillic 'N. Kornilov', the other signed lower left in Cyrillic 'Stoletov', both dated 1825, within frames of ciselé leaf tips, the back of each painted with a gilt and ciselé trellis of rosettes on white ground, the gilt-bronze brackets cast with acanthus, issuing gilt-bronze scroll handles, possibly later, of grape vines, apparently unmarked 


Property of a New York Museum, sold, Sotheby's New York, 21 April 2005, lot 61

Property of a Private Collector

Catalogue Note

These vases are the earliest known pair of this monumental size produced by the Imperial Porcelain Factory.  Dated 1825 in both paintings, their production almost certainly commenced during the reign of Emperor Alexander I, who died on 19 November (O.S.) of that year.  (This may account for the fact that they lack the expected cypher mark; if they were finished perhaps just after the death of Alexander but produced mainly during his reign, it may have been deemed preferable to forgo marking them with the cypher of either Emperor.)  As such early examples, they represent the beginning of what is considered the peak of porcelain production in Russia, the reign of Nicholas I, during which technical advances and the keen personal interest of the Emperor himself resulted in porcelain of the finest quality.  Vases of this scale were usually intended for the use of the Emperor or Empress or another member of the Imperial family, or occasionally as gifts from the Emperor to foreign rulers. 

The signature 'Stoletov' may refer to either Vasili Alexandrovich Stoletov, born 1802, or P. Stoletov, both highly-regarded porcelain painters at the Imperial factory.  V.A. was almost certainly the son or grandson of Imperial porcelain sculptor Alexander Stoletov, who was born circa 1762; P.'s relationship is less clear.  It seems the former was more specialised in figures, the latter in landscapes.  Thus a tentative attribution could be made in this case to P. Stoletov, who is known to have painted, in 1848, a pair of vases with pictures by the Dutch landscape artist Jacob van Ruisdael.  P. Stoletov is also credited with painting the dramatic seascapes on a pair of vases now in the Russian Museum, St Petersburg, and which are dated 1840 and of campana form (illustrated, A. Lanceray, Russian Porcelain, Leningrad, 1968, pl. 162-163).  It is possible that the Stotetovs, probably brothers, worked in collaboration on the same painting, each responsible for his own speciality, figures or landscapes, and thus did not distinguish themselves one from another by signing with their first initials. 

The painter-decorator N. Kornilov, died 1852, is known to have painted military plates (see Sotheby's New York, 26-28 April 2006, lot 363) as well as large-scale vases.  He copied one of Philips Wouwerman's The Stable Interiors in 1848 on one of a pair of monumental vases which sold, Sotheby's London, 10 June 2009, lot 586; he copied two other Wouwerman pictures on a pair of 1835 vases which sold separately, Sotheby's London, 19 May 2005, lot 184, and Sotheby's London, 28 November 2006, lot 231.  A vase painted by Kornilov after Paulus Potter's The Punishment of the Hunter was presented to Emperor Nicholas I at Christmas in 1830 and is now in the Hermitage (inv. no. ZPF-7363).

The whereabouts of the paintings from which the images on the present lots were copied is a mystery, as is the identity of the artist or artists who painted them.  If indeed the original paintings were at the Hermitage in 1825, which would be expected, given that painter-decorators usually used paintings in the collection as source material, they appear to have left the collection since.   They certainly date from the late 18th or early 19th centuries.  Possible attributions include Jacob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807), Karl von Kügelgen (1772-1831) and Ludwig Philipp Strack (1761-1836), all of whose works bear resemblance to the paintings seen here.  Von Kügelgen, German by birth, spent much of his career in St Petersburg and was a Court painter and member of the Russian Academy of Art; the Hermitage has today a number of his landscape works on paper and his self portrait, an oil on canvas (inv. no. GZ-4284).