During the reign of Nicholas I, the Imperial Porcelain Factory produced a remarkable number of vases, many decorated with copies of Old Master or 19th century paintings. The vases, frequently presented by the factory as gifts to the Emperor and Empress at Christmas and Easter, were used to adorn palaces, mansions and pavilions. They were also used as grand presentation gifts to both foreigners and Russians.
Consistent with the European trend to use academic paintings to decorate porcelain, the middle section of the vases was treated as a blank canvas. The paintings were often scaled-down copies of the originals in the Hermitage, the Academy of Arts or from collections in the Imperial Palaces in the vicinity of St Petersburg. The names of the original artist and factory artist are sometimes added to the paintings.
The present vase is painted after the original by Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668) entitled Travellers [Puteshestvenniki], which is recorded by Andrei Somov, curator of the Imperial Hermitage, in his 1901 catalogue of the collection. See A. Somov, Imperial Hermitage. Catalogue of the painting gallery. [Imperatorskii Ermitazh. Katalog kartinnoi galerei.], St Petersburg, 1902, vol. II, p. 89, No. 1002. The original painting was acquired en bloc by Catherine II in 1769 from the collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl, Dresden, and was likely sold by Gostorg in the 1920s. Its present whereabouts are unknown. In addition to the engraving by Jean Moyreau (J. Moyreau, Oeuvres de Philips Wouwerman, Hollandais, Gravées d'après Meilleurs Tableaux qui sont dans les plus beaux cabinets de Paris et ailleurs, Paris, 1737-1762, no. 60), the present vase is one of the only surviving records of the original painting.
The signature 'Semenova', suggests the vase was painted by Timofei Semenov, who came from a family of Imperial Porcelain Factory workmen and specialized in landscape painting. Semenov studied at the factory school from 1840, became an apprentice at the factory in 1844, and was appointed a painter in 1848. In 1849, he was appointed to assistant master and then, in 1854, master painter.
We are grateful to Dr. Birgit Schumacher for her assistance researching the present lot.