During the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855) the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory underwent both a technical and artistic renaissance. The Emperor's interest in, and support of, scientific advances in the manufacture of porcelain and paints resulted in new shapes and colors that had heretofore been unable. While pairs of large vases based on Classical models were best known, factory sculptors, having studied the collections of the Winter Palace, also produced large vases based on Chinese and Japanese models, particularly in the 1840s. As this unusual and rare set of vases proves, factory painters were just as able to copy the figurative painting on Chinese vases as they were Old Master canvases in the Imperial collections. It is interesting to note that in choosing Rococo-style gilt bronze mounts, the factory artists were evoking earlier European practices of mounting precious Asian ceramics as they were producing their own version of contemporary Chinese ceramics. Vases with such Chinese-inspired, figural decoration were quite rare in the period and only a few examples are extant in public collections such as the State Russian Museum. The appearance of such works is a rare occurrence unlikely to occur again for many years. For a similar lamp with Chinese-style figural decoration once in the collection of the Kremlin Palace, see N.B. von Wolf (ed. T.N. Nosovich), Imperatorskii farforovyi zavod, 1744-1904, St. Petersburg, 2003, fig. 308, p. 199.
We are grateful to Irina Popova of the State Russian Museum for assistance in cataloging this lot.
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