Lot 427
  • 427

A rare and monumental Soviet porcelain kumys pot for the Mongolian People's Republic, Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory, Leningrad, 1939

35,000 - 55,000 GBP
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  • porcelain, paint, glazing
  • diameter 54.5cm, 21 1/2 in.
the form designed after a traditional Chinese vessel by Serafima Yakovleva, painted after the design by Ivan Riznich, the sides with a reddish brown yak, horse, Bactrian camel and sheep, on a white ground, the borders of stylised foliage and red stars within lappets issuing pine branches, the rim border painted with red flowers within green diaper pattern, with blue LFZ factory mark

Catalogue Note

While the precise origins of this commission, presumably ordered by the government of the Soviet Union, for the Mongolian People’s Republic, are unknown, the first public mention of it appeared in the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory’s weekly newspaper Lomonosovets on 15 November 1938, when the ‘Factory News’ column included a notice saying that the factory artists Ivan Riznich, Mikhail Mokh, and Grigorii Gorkov were designing four separate schemes for the decoration of vessels for kumys, a strong fermented drink made from milk.  This would have been an important diplomatic presentation gift at the time.  The Soviet Union's relationship with Mongolia took on increasing significance in the latter half of the 1930s, given Japan's encroachment into continental Asia.  When work on the commission began in 1938, Serafima Yakovleva designed a form exclusively for the project, taking inspiration from Chinese pottery in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum.  The massive and sturdy pot was meant not only for holding and serving large quantities of kumys, but also for its lengthy preparation process.  Ivan Riznich then designed the decoration, based on regional decorative motifs and the sacred animals of the nomadic peoples of Mongolia.  All the animals depicted can produce milk used for making kumys.  Red stars are incorporated, symbolising the Soviet liberation and the Socialist future of the Republic.

The original commission was for 400 vessels, but it is not known how many were actually produced and delivered.  Only two other kumys vessels from the commission are known to have survived, both in private collections.  The present lot can be said to be among the rarest examples of Soviet porcelain.

We are grateful to Natalia Petrova and Dr Karen Kettering for their assistance in researching and cataloguing this lot.  For a more detailed essay on this lot, written by Dr Kettering, based on original research by Ms Petrova, Curator of the Lomonosov Porcelain Museum, St Petersburg, please visit sothebys.com.