Russian Porcelain can, without fear of exaggeration, be placed on a level
with such well-established phenomena and concepts in the history of world
culture as Russian literature, Russian music and Russian painting. Only
insufficient knowledge of it among specialists and lovers of porcelain
abroad and the fact that it is concentrated in a few excellent private
collection and hardly to be found at all in the museums of Western Europe
and America can explain why it has still not received due recognition.
Mikhail Vrubel, the famous Russian artist whose authority was undisputed
among his contemporaries and has withstood the test of time, once said:
"Russian porcelain is the best art of all". According to the painters in his
circle, he got the same pleasure from porcelain produced by the private
factories of Popov and Gardner as from the literature of Pushkin and
The year of the founding of Russia`s first porcelain manufactory, one of the
oldest in Europe, 1744, is usually taken as marking the beginning of the
history of Russian porcelain. In terms of status and artistic development
the factory rated for more than a century-and-a-half with such leading royal
and national manufactories, as those in Meissen, Vienna, Sevres and Berlin.
In the 18th century all European monarchs dreamed of setting up their own
porcelain factory. Elegant and rare as it was, porcelain was one of the
attributes of a court`s brilliance and majesty. The organization of a
porcelain manufactory in Russia was stimulated by reasons of an objective
and subjective nature. They derived from the changeover to a European path
of development begun by Peter the Great and from the fact that his daughter,
Empress Elizabeth (1741-1761), had a private passion for porcelain.
All possible paths were explored to obtain the secret of making porcelain.
There were attempts to find people close to Bottger, the inventor of
European porcelain, to use the experience of Russian Czhel pottery and to
find out and purchase the `Chinese secret" in China itself. The empress was
in a hurry. And official in charge of her cabinet sought by eliminating all
rivals to set up porcelain production in St.-Petersburg.
The first large private enterprise, the Gardner factory just outside Moscow,
appeared in 1766 and grew so fast that by the 1770s - 1780s it was capable
of carrying out a large commission for four order services for court
receptions in honour of people awarded Russia`s main orders - St. Andrew the
First-Called, St. George, St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Vladimir.