British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 22.200 cm
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Porcelain dessert plate from the 'Kremlin Service' designed by Fedor Grigorievich Solntsev (1801-92)
Made by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, St Petersburg, Russia, AD 1837-8
In the old Russian style
Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-55) himself instructed that this service should be designed in the 'old Russian' style. This is the first account in the decorative arts of a return to Russian ornament of the seventeenth century.
The defeat of Napoleon in 1812 had inspired a surge of Russian nationalism which expressed itself in music, architecture and the fine and decorative arts. Although essentially a court style encouraged by Nicholas I and the Academy of Arts, the style also had a political element: supporters of Russian nationalism feared the liberal influences of the West and sought reassurance in the romantic past. In 1830 and again in 1836 Solntsev was directed to make drawings of antiquities in Moscow and other Russian cities, to be used as sources for artists. The basis for this plate was a gold and enamel plate in the collections of the Kremlin Armoury, made in 1667 for Tsar Alexis (reigned 1645-76).
The 'Kremlin Service' comprises two parts, the 'white' service, used for soup, and the 'gold' service, intended for dessert. Ornament on the dessert service is always more elaborate, and this rich decoration of blue, green red and black is particularly effective against a gold ground.
The plate is inscribed around the double-headed eagle in Cyrillic characters, 'Nicholas Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias'.
A. Odom, A. and L. Paredes Arend, A taste for splendour: Russian (Alexandria, Virginia, 1998)
A. Odom, 'Fedor Solntsev, the Kremlin Service, and the origins of the Russian style', Hillwood Studies (Fall 1991), pp. 1-4