period of Nicholas I (1825-1855), circa 1833
each of bandeau form, on square ormolu socle with flared foot and neck, the ormolu handles formed of scrolling leaves, the central panels painted with marinescapes of Cape Colonna and Corfu, inscribed, above moulded acanthus leaves, the backs elaborately decorated with stylised green foliage on white grounds, with blue Imperial cipher of Nicholas I
Vases of this form were produced in three sizes, the present pair being the smallest size, usually intended for use in the private apartments of the Emperor or Empress; this size is the rarest produced during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I. They were possibly meant for display on a fireplace mantle, where a mirror would provide a view of the decoration on the reverse.
The Greek marinescape views depicted are after engravings by the Englishman Edward Finden (1797-1857), which were published in Illustrations to the Life and Works of Lord Byron in 1833, edited by William Brockedon (1787-1854). The view of Corfu is after a painting by Clarkson Frederick Stanfield (1793-1867), and that of Cape Colonna after a painting by William Purser (1790-1852). The publication was hugely popular in Russia and captured the Romantic spirit of the age.
The fact that the vases are not painted after Old Master pictures but rather with contemporary works makes them rarer still. Furthermore, if indeed they were commissions for the Emperor or Empress, it suggests a less reactionary and more fashionable taste in art than that with which the Imperial couple is usually credited. Certainly, the Empress was a great bibliophile and would have been familiar with the 1833 publication of Finden's engravings.
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