Despite a simmering undercurrent of social unrest, the reign of Nicholas I saw the Russian Empire at the height of its geographical expansion and gave rise to a period of unprecedented artistic growth. Under the Emperor’s patronage, the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg grew in stature and earned widespread support from contemporary artists. Russian literature reached its golden age, with works by Aleksandr Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev published during Nicholas I’s reign. Classical music became firmly established in Russian culture with Mikhail Glinka’s compositions, and ballet also began to take root, following the French example. Russian porcelain, too, was taking its place on the world stage – during the first half of the nineteenth century, it attained such widespread recognition that it was finally considered on a par with its European competition.
Large and exceptionally crafted vases such as the current lot are listed in the Imperial Porcelain Factory’s historical records as their most expensive works. The central part of these vases was treated as a canvas, and factory artists took advantage of this space to display their work. The present lot depicts a bouquet of flowers in the style of Ivan Ivlevich Tychagin, a renowned floral porcelain artist who received the Order of St Anne in 1837 for his designs on porcelain. His vases were presented during his lifetime at the first public exhibition of Russian works of art in St. Petersburg in 1829. Nicholas I commissioned a number of porcelain vases during his reign, mainly intended for presentation and to adorn the Imperial family’s palaces, exhibition pavilions, and private mansions. Vases of such grandeur and splendour were often commissioned by the emperor as gifts to be presented to the heads of foreign royal families and to foreign diplomats, as acknowledgement for outstanding service.
Born Prince Nikolaus Friedrich Peter on July 8, 1827, Peter II was Grand Duke of Oldenburg from 1853 until his death in 1900. The only child of Grand Duke August I of Oldenburg and his second wife, Princess Ida of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym. He served during his youth in both the Prussian and Hanoverian armies. In February 1852, he married Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg.
The Grand Duke’s family ties with the Russian Emperor (both were descendants of Christian Albrecht of Holstein-Gottorp) meant that he sided with Russia during the Crimean War and later, during the Second Schleswig-Holstein War, laid claim to part of the territory seized by Prussia. In a treaty with Prussia, signed in February 1867, Peter gave up his claims. In exchange, he received the district of Ahrensbök and the Prussian part of the former Principality of Lübeck. This expanded territory gave Oldenburg direct access to the Baltic Sea. He also fought with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian War.
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