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Each boat-shaped on fluted oval foot, with guilloche and rosette borders, the sides flat-chased with husk swags, the foliate scroll handle applied with husks, each on oval stand with four fluted bracket feet, the raised centre chased with flutes and pendant husks between four paterae, each marked underneath and on stand, the undersides of each base and stand further prick-engraved with Cyrillic initials 'RIZH' and with inventory number 'N 1', and with later Dutch and French tax marks
the stands 10 ¾ in. (27.5 cm.) wide
96 oz. 16 dwt. (3,011 gr.)
Ordered by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (r.1762-1796) for use at the Governor's Palace, Riga during the governorship of Count George von Browne (1698-1792).
Recalled to St. Petersburg by her successor Paul I, Emperor of Russia (r.1796-1801).
Probably acquired by Anatole Demidoff, Prince of San Donato (1812-1870) and possibly then by descent.
A Nobleman; Christie's, Geneva, 17 November 1998, lot 267.
Nikifor Kargorodow, Verzeichnis von dem Silbernen Tisch Service, [Inventory of the Silver Table Service] 4 April 1784, as ‘Drey Saucier mit Unter=Tellern, gewogen 11 Pf’ [Three sauceboats and plates, weighing 11 Pfunds], approximately 144 oz. for three, as translated by Kommer, op. cit. p. 40.
Die benutzung des Rigaer Gouvernementsservices: Besuch des Herzogs von Kurland [The Use of the Riga Gubernatorial Service: Visit of the Duke of Kurland], 19 and 20 January 1795, as ‘3 Sauciers mit Unterhaltern’, from case 1, [3 sauceboats and underplates], as translated by Kommer, op. cit. p. 35.
Kommer, op. cit., pp. 35-6, 40, 64, pl. 5.

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Lot Essay

From 1775, following various reforms to the regional government of Russia, Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (r.1762-1796), commissioned a series of dinner-services, known as the Gubernatorial Services, made variously in Augsburg, Paris and London to be used in the regional capitals of the Russian Empire. Catherine’s secretary, A. V. Khrapovitskii, mentions 13 services, including Riga, Ekaterinoslav, Moscow, Nizhnyi Novgorod, Kazan, Moscow, Iaroslavl, Tula, St. Petersburg, Perm, Tver and Kharkov, in his diary, edited and published by N. Barsukov in 1874 and quoted by Baron Foelkersam (Inventaire de l’Argenterie conservé dans les gardemeublesdes Palais Impériaux, St. Petersburg, 1907). The presence of Gubernatorial Services in her regional capitals avoided the expense and risk of shipping extensive silver services for the Empress’ use as she toured her realm. The Augsburg services benefited from the collaborative nature of the Augsburg manufacturers as indicated by the various makers involved in the production of the Riga Service as well as the Kharkov Service, which was produced by at least nine different silversmiths’ workshops.

The sauceboats and the pair of candelabra, the following two lots, form part of the Gubernatorial Service made for Riga and which was commissioned by Catherine and delivered on 4 April 1784, during the governorship of Count George von Browne (1698-1792). The service’s intended use in the regional capital of Riga can be identified by the prick engraved Cyrillic initials ‘RIZH’, the Russian adjectival form of the name of the city of Riga. While little information about the actual commissioning of the Riga Service survives, we do know that the service was extensive, having been designed for use at a banquet of up to forty people. It consisted of four oval tureens, eight candelabra (including the pair offered as lot 4), twenty-four candlesticks, eight wine-coolers (see Christie’s, Paris, 8 November 2013, lot 137), sauce-boats (including the pair offered here), plates, dishes and dish covers and other smaller items with a total weight in excess of 17,000 oz.

The Verzeichnis von dem Silbernen Tisch Service, [Inventory of the Silver Table Service] of April 1784, including the weights, and the Die benutzungdes Rigaer Gouvernementsservices: Besuch des Herzogs von Kurland [The Use of the Riga Gubernatorial Service: Visit of the Duke of Kurland] of January 1795, quoted by Dr. B. R. Kommer, Zirbelnuß und Zarenadle, Augsburger Silber für Katharina II von Rußland, Augsburg, 1997, pp. 40-44 and pp. 35-37 respectively, suggest that the Riga Service has the most extensive 18th century documentation of any Gubernatorial Service.

As mentioned earlier, the extent of the service meant that it was not possible for it to be produced in a single workshop in a reasonable time. Instead, most of the leading Augsburg goldsmiths of the late 18th century collaborated in its production, probably working under the direction of a single retailer. Besides the workshops of Sebald-Heinrich Blau and Johann Philipp Heckenhauer, makers of the present sauceboats and the candelabra respectively, pieces are known to have been made by Johann-Christian Neuss (see Christie’s, Geneva, 17 November 1998, lot 268 for a set of four mustard-pots), Philipp Friedrich Bruglocher, Johann Georg I Stenglin, Johann Jakob and Hermann Grabe.

The Riga Service, in common with the other Gubernatorial Services, conveyed the power and authority of the Empress through its scale and splendour. The documentary evidence shows that the Riga Service was, at least initially, not used a great deal. On its arrival in Riga in 1784 Governor Count George von Browne ordered an inventory to be undertaken of the entire service. This inventory was conducted by Nikifor Kargorodow, described by Kommer as the ‘Collegian Assessor.’ The inventory records the scale of the service (see Kommer, op. cit., pp. 40-44). This was a precursor to the service being packed and stored. It was decreed that, should pieces be wanted for use, an application should be made listing the pieces that were required. From this list a receipt was prepared to check the pieces in and out of storage. There seems to be no record of such an application being made until January 1795 when a selection of pieces is recorded, including both sauceboats and candelabra, presumably including the present lots among them, to be used at a reception in honour of Peter von Biron, Duke of Kurland (1724-1800).

The following year, after the death of Catherine the Great on 17 November 1796, her son, now Paul I, Emperor of Russia took a very different view of the Gubernatorial Services. He decided that they should be sent to the Imperial Court in St. Petersburg. To this end instruction was given on 14 December 1796 to Baron Meyerdorff that the entire service was being recalled by the Emperor. On 2 January 1797, under supervision of Michael Morosow, Second Lieutenant of the 3rd Battalion of Riga, the service was packed into its cases, locked and sealed for its journey to St. Petersburg.

Unlike much of the other silver from the Russian Imperial Collection the Riga Service is not included in Baron Foelkersam’s inventory published in 1907 and the whereabouts, and indeed the very existence, of the Riga Service was unknown until pieces reappeared in an auction held by the firm Frederik Müller et Cie. in Amsterdam in June 1925. The sale included a tureen, candelabra and a cruet, with the provenance for each listed as ‘Collection Demidoff’. This would suggest that at least some of the service was either given to or purchased on the open market by the Russian industrialist and collector Anatole Demidoff, Prince of San Donato (1812-1870) at some point in the 19th century.

The Gubernatorial Services were a continuation of a tradition that began much earlier in the reign of Catherine the Great. The presentations of these Imperial services were made to both official bodies and to individuals. The lavish scale of her generosity is perhaps best illustrated by the presentation, in 1765 on the anniversary of her accession, of no less than 33 silver services to her stalwarts, many of whom had been directly or indirectly involved in the coup against her husband (J. T. Alexander, Catherine the Great; Life and Legend, Oxford, 1989, p. 99).

The lots from the Riga Service, as well as those from the Ekaterinoslav and Moscow Services (see lots 16 and 17) are in the Louis XVI style favoured by Catherine the Great who, like Peter the Great before her, sought to create an enlightened government adorned by Western civilities.

Perhaps the most famous illustration of Catherine’s love for le goût français is the extensive Orloff Service which she ordered from Jacques Roettiers and his son Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers in 1770. The service was intended for use at the court of the Empress but she subsequently presented it to her lover and political ally Count Gregory Orloff (1734-1783). Roettiers, father and son, both Orfèvres du Roi, enlisted at least four other workshops to produce an astonishing 3,000 pieces in only 18 months, including at least 16 oval and circular tureens. After the death of Gregory, Catherine failed to persuade the family return the service and was forced instead to buy it back.

The order of the Orloff Service is, unlike the Gubernatorial Services, extensively documented by correspondence surviving in the Court Ministerial Archives and published by Foelkersam in 1907 (op. cit., vol. II, pp. 87-124).The letters show that, beginning in March 1770, Catherine enlisted her most important art advisor, the French sculptor Etienne-Maurice Falconet, who was working in St. Petersburg from 1766 to 1778, to procure for her a silver dinner service from Paris ‘for the court of her Imperial Majesty.’ Catherine had been introduced to Falconet by her Ambassador in Paris, Prince Dmitry Golitsyn, in 1766. Golitsyn, established in French intellectual circles, procured important pictures for the Empress and introduced her to Diderot, a close friend of Falconet who also influenced her collecting activities. Falconet was persuaded to move to St. Petersburg in 1766 by Catherine’s commission to create a monumental bronze equestrian sculpture of Peter the Great, finally completed in 1782.

On 13 February 1770, Catherine wrote to Falconet, ‘I hear you have some designs for a silver service... I should like to see them if you will show them tome, for I have a mind to order one for sixty people’. The result of this ‘fantaisie’ as she put it, was one of the largest orders of French silver ever executed, numbering over 3,000 pieces when it was completed in 1773. While one of Catherine’s letters of April 1770 expressed reservations about the projected cost of the service, Falconet’s reply in May pronounced the designs to represent ‘bon gôut dans l’orfèvrerie’, and the commission was approved. Falconet ordered the service through the St. Petersburg retailer Barral, Chanony & Cie., and payment was recorded on 14 January 1771, with the transfer of funds to their agent at the French Court, Nikolai Khotinskii, ‘for delivery to the silversmiths Roettiers on account of the famous table service.'

Catherine sought out European intellectuals and art, which she bought in vast quantities. One purchase stands out in particular, the acquisition of almost 200 pictures from Houghton Hall through Christie’s in 1779. She also acquired a collection of 225 pictures from Johann Gotskowski of Berlin in 1764 and the vast ‘Swan’ service of Meissen porcelain from Heinrich von Brühl of Saxony in 1769. Countless specially commissioned French paintings and works of art were also added to her collection, among them Sévres porcelain, Gobelins tapestries, and magnificent Parisian silver. The silver and porcelain in particular were purchased with a view to elevating manners at official entertainments thereby ending the tradition by which guests had to eat several courses off the same plate.

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