The present tureen is from a service apparently ordered by Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev (1751-1809). A meat dish and cover from the same service was sold Property from the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra, Sotheby's, New York, November 3, 2005, lot 74. It had been sold previously at Christie's, New York, June 15, 1982, lot 57.
This service is related to another made by Semen Kuzov in 1798 for the marriage of Count Petr Petrovich Konovnitsyn (1764-1822) to Anna Ivanovna Rimskaya-Korsakova. A soup tureen from the Konovnitsyn service, which closely resembles the present lot, is preserved in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (Z.Z. Bernyakovich, Russian Silver Wares of the XVIIth - Beginning of the XXth Century in the State Hermitage Collection, Leningrad, 1977, p. 96.) It bears the coat-of-arms of Count Konovnitsyn, which resembles that of Count Sheremetev. Parts of the Konovnitsyn service were in the collection of Princess M.A. Shakhovskaya prior to the Revolution (see Starye gody, June 1914, pp. 6-7). Related soup tureens are reproduced in A. von Solodkoff, Russian Gold and Silverwork, 17th-19th Century, New York, 1981, pp. 104-105, plate 114. The decoration on the body of the present lot appears similar to that on the tureen illustrated in Solodkoff, op cit, plate 114, far left.
Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev, the son of Petr Borisovich Sheremetev and grandson of Boris Petrovich Sheremetev, was born into one of the wealthiest and most influential noble families of Russia. He was passionate about music and, like his father, the theater. Returning to Moscow from Europe, he set out to reconstruct his father's theater and engaged in the special education of serf children. The project eventually led to the development of a troupe capable of staging elaborate performances. As the troupe grew, Sheremetev moved his serf theatre from the Kuskovo estate to Ostankino, where a new more sophisticated theater was opened in 1795. Count Sheremetev recognized a special talent in one of the serf performers, Praskovya Ivanovna Kovaleva, and sought to prepare for her for stardom as "Praskovya Zhemchugova." The two fell in love and eventually married in secret in 1801. The marriage was made public only after Zhemchugova's death in 1803.