An Octofoil Deep Plate from the St. Andrew Service, Meissen, 1744-1745
- with crossed swords mark in blue underglaze, impressed number 21, also with Cyrillic inscription G.Ch. 1604. in red
Kept in the Empress Elizabeth's private apartments, July to November 1745, transferred to the Court Pantry by order of the Empress on November 5, 1745
Transferred from the Imperial Court Chamberlain's Office in the Winter Palace in 1911
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg/Petrograd, Inv. No. 1604
Transferred to Antikvariat on March 22, 1930
Christie's Geneva, November 16, 1992, lot 138, illustrated
The Meissen St. Andrew Service was the largest diplomatic gift the august factory ever produced and demonstrates the key role that unimaginably rare and luxurious porcelain table services played in the complicated diplomatic relations of the eighteenth century. Traditionally, it has been thought that the impetus for the service was Empress Elizaveta Petrovna's complaints to Nicolaus Willibald, Baron von Gersdorf (1713-1765), Saxon ambassador to Russia, that the porcelain services she had were not of sufficient quality and luxury to be used at the annual dinner celebrating the Order of St. Andrew, the first and most prestigious of all the Russian honorific orders. More recently, Lydia Liackhova of the State Hermitage Museum has shown that Russia and Saxony had concluded several important treaties and, perhaps in a bid to gain further Russian support in Saxony's struggles with Prussia, decided to make the St. Andrew Service, on which work had already begun, a gift to the Empress in honor of the marriage of her nephew and heir, Grand Duke Petr Petrovich, to Princess Sophia Augusta Frederika of Anhalt-Zerbst, the future Catherine the Great. The St. Andrew Service holds a central place in the history of European porcelain, for it was among the earliest official services to be produced in Europe, and was the first full table service at the Russian court extensive enough to fulfill the ever more complex requirements of European dining customs and court table etiquette. Designed by the leading Meissen sculptors Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775), Johann Gottlieb Ehder (1716/7-1750), Johann Friedrich Eberlein (1695-1749), and Peter Reinecke (ca. 1711-1768), the Andrew Service, as it was originally known, consisted of over 400 pieces including dinner and dessert plates, tea, coffee and chocolate sets, lighting devices and a magnificent centerpiece comprising 190 figurines. The various parts of the service are ornamented with a decorative vocabulary including the mirror cypher of Peter I, founder of the Order, the black double-headed eagle of the Russian state coat-of-arms, and the St. Andrew Cross. The four Latin letters on the ends of the cross – SAPR – stands for the Latin motto Sanctus Andreas Patronus Russiae, or, Saint Andrew, Patron of Russia. On this service, see L. Liackhova, "The Andrew Service," in U. Pietsch et al, Meissen for the Czars, Dresden, 2004, pp. 66-85 and "In a Porcelain Mirror: Reflections of Russia from Peter I to Empress Elizabeth," in Fragile Diplomacy: Meissen Porcelain for European Courts, ca. 1710-63, New Haven and London, 2007, pp. 73-79.