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A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE
A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE
A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE
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A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE
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THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE

BY THE IMPERIAL PORCELAIN FACTORY, ST PETERSBURG, PERIOD OF ALEXANDER II

Details
A MONUMENTAL TWO-HANDLED PORCELAIN VASE
BY THE IMPERIAL PORCELAIN FACTORY, ST PETERSBURG, PERIOD OF ALEXANDER II
Of amphora form on spreading circular foot, the body finely painted with a school room scene after B. De Loose, inscribed 'After the painting by B. DE LOOSE.' (lower left) and signed in Cyrillic 'M. Kriukov' and dated '1866' (lower right), within ciselé geometric border, the reverse decorated with a band of ciselé stylised strapwork cartouches within scrolling foliate acanthus painted en grisaille with gilt detailing, the waisted flared cylindrical neck with everted rim moulded with burnished gold acanthus leaf and pellet border, and flanked by two upswept acanthus-capped and goat mask scrolling handles, the lower section gilt and moulded with rising rosettes, on a waisted gilt and foliate acanthus painted socle, the matte gold leaf-moulded foot on square ormolu base, apparently no factory mark, parts of the vase incised and inscribed with Cyrillic initials 'P:D:' and 'P:A:' and numerals; together with framed parchment manuscript detailing the vase's provenance and dated 1889
59½ in. (151.1 cm.) high, including base
Provenance
By repute, presented by Emperor Alexander II to Queen Olga of Württemberg.
Presented by Queen Olga of Württemberg to the 'Frauenverein' in 1870.
Purchased by E.J. Matthews in 1887.
Presented to P.A.B. Widener (1834-1915) in 1889.

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Alexis de Tiesenhausen
Alexis de Tiesenhausen

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Lot Essay

During the reign of Emperor Alexander II (1855-1881), the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory did not produce vases in such great numbers as it had during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855). By the 1860s, most vases were produced primarily as exhibition pieces at international expositions and at All-Russian exhibitions rather than as grand presentation gifts to adorn palaces (A. Odom, Russian Porcelain at Hillwood, Washington, D.C., 1999, p. 83). Many of these vases were decorated, as they were during the period of Nicholas I, with copies of Old Master or nineteenth-century paintings. Consistent with the European predilection for using academic paintings as porcelain design sources, the middle section of the vase was treated by Imperial Porcelain Factory artists as a canvas on which to showcase their work after important paintings. The paintings were typically scaled-down, faithful copies of original works in the State Hermitage Museum, the Academy of Arts or from collections in the Imperial palaces in the vicinity of St Petersburg. The names of both the original artist and factory artist were usually added to the vase paintings.

The present vase likely was commissioned as a grand presentation gift rather than an exhibition piece, as suggested by its commanding size and its reputed provenance. A manuscript which accompanies the vase asserts that it was presented by Emperor Alexander II to his sister, Queen Olga of Württemberg, née Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1822-1892). Written by J.S. Potter, former U.S. Consul at Stuttgart, Württemberg, and dated 14 December 1889, the manuscript states:

'This vase was commenced in 1862 and finished in 1866 by order of Alexander II Emperor of Russia and was among the admired works of Art in the Imperial Palace at St. Petersburg until the year 1870 when it was presented to the Queen of Wurtemburg [sic] (sister of Alexander II.).'

This information lends insight into the way in which grand porcelain vases were exchanged during the period. After it had been presented to Queen Olga, the present vase was given to a German Frauenverein, which in turn sold it to a Frankfurt banker for the benefit of wounded soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The vase then came into the collection of an American, E.J. Mathews, who presented it to his friend, P.A.B. Widener (1834-1915), the renowned American financier, art collector and philanthropist.

The present vase is painted after an original work by the nineteenth-century Belgian genre painter Basile de Loose (1809-1885). De Loose trained with his father and half-brother, both of whom painted religious subjects. In 1829 he submitted a painting to the exhibition at the Sint-Niklaas Academy and at the Salon in Gent; when it was favourably received, de Loose turned to portraiture and genre painting. After several trips to Paris, the Netherlands and Germany, during which he studied the masters of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, de Loose's work began to reflect the influence of French neoclassicism and seventeenth century Dutch genre painting. The narrative element, which is evident in the varied vignettes comprising the present school room scene, became a defining aspect of his style. At the Paris Salon of 1841 de Loose won the first prize for his genre painting. School room scenes were a favoured subject matter of de Loose that he is recording as having painted in 1847 and twice in 1862.

The painting on the present vase was copied from the de Loose original by the Factory artist, Mikhail Kriukov. Coming from a family of Imperial Porcelain Factory painters, Kriukov entered the factory school in 1825 and rose to the position of master painter in 1854. He specialised in painting figures and primarily decorated vases and military plates (T.V. Kudriavtseva, Russian Imperial Porcelain, St Petersburg, 2003, p. 255).

A porcelain vase of similar form and size by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, painted by Kriukov in 1864 after a Dutch genre scene, was held in the collection of Oranienbaum (N.B. von Wolf (ed. T.N. Nosovich), Imperatorskii farforovyi zavod, 1744-1904, St. Petersburg, 2008, p. 518). Another related vase by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, decorated with gilt strapwork on a grey ground, is in the collection of the Hillwood Museum, Washington, D.C. (A. Odom, op. cit., pp. 83-84, fig. 65).

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