A Set of Nine Russian Porcelain Dinner Plates from the Yacht Service, Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, St. Petersburg, 1784-1787; 1796-1801
- two with blue Imperial cypher of Catherine II (1762-1796), six with blue Imperial cypher of Paul I (1796-1801), one apparently unmarked
Sotheby's New York October 23, 2004, lot 70, illustrated
The decoration of this service was based on the neoclassical ornament of the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory's influential Arabesque Service of 1784, the first great ceremonial service produced by the Russian factory. The ornament is distinguished by the inclusion of the double-headed eagle clutching the laurel wreath and white standard of the mercantile fleet with crossed anchors. Sergei Troinitskii, writing in the journal Bygone Years (Starye Gody) in October 1911 was the first to suggest that this service, one of the first in a long line of services used on Imperial vessels, was created as part of the equipment for Empress Catherine the Great's famous trip through the Crimea in 1787. Organized by Grigorii Potemkin, governor general of the province that had been annexed in 1783, the Empress's progress through the region represented one of her most important political achievements and required the most lavish of decorations. After her triumphant return, the Empress used the service at sumptuous dinners to honor visiting foreign dignitaries and to subtly remind them of the achievements of her reign. Because of the stylistic similarities between this and the Arabesque Service, it is assumed that work on the service was begun in 1784 or 1785. The existence of a number of plates with the cypher of Paul I in public and private services demonstrates that the original service, thought to have been designed for 60 persons, was expanded during his reign. See S. Troinitskii, "Galereia farfora Imperatorskogo Ermitazha," Starye gody October 1911, p. 11; T. Kudriavtseva, Russian Imperial Porcelain, St. Petersburg, 2003, pp. 56-57; Pod tsarskim venzelem, St. Petersburg, 2007, p. 85; and I. Popova and N. Sipovskaia [Entries on the Yacht Service], Shedevry russkogo farfora XVIII veka iz sobraniia galerei "Popov i Ko.," Moscow, 2009, pp. 78-81.