The present large sculptural tureen is a faithful copy of one made for the Demidoff Service, which itself has been researched and discussed extensively by Anthony Phillips and Jeanne Sloane in their exhibition catalogue, Antiquity Revisited, English and French Silver-Gilt from the Collection of Audrey Love, London, 1997. Count Nikolai Demidoff (1773-1828), for whom the original service was made, was born near St Petersburg in 1773, son of Nikita Akinfiyevich Demidoff (1724-1786) and his third wife Alexandra Safonova. His father died when he was only fifteen at which time he inherited the family's industrial empire, consisting of some eight metallurgical factories as well as mines in the Urals and Siberia. They were said to have produced a huge annual income and employed some 12,000 serfs. The young Demidoff began to spend so recklessly that the government had to appoint receivers.
In September 1795 at St Petersburg he married Baroness Elisabeta Alexandrovna Stroganoff (1779-1818). The couple had two sons, Pavel Nikolaievich (1798-1840) and Anatoly (1812-1869). Nikolai entered the diplomatic service and the young couple moved to Paris, becoming ardent supporters of Napoleon I and setting up home in the hôtel de Brancas-Lauragais, at the corner of rue Taitbout and Boulevard des Italiens. However, rising Franco-Russian tensions forced his recall and they moved back to Russia via Italy, arriving in 1812. He fought with distinction in the Russo-Turkish War (1806-1812) and at the start of the French invasion of Russia he financed the creation of an infantry regiment, which he then commanded against Napoleon's forces, fighting at Oravais and Borodino.
Demidoff returned to Paris in 1815 where his house soon became a centre for leading academic and literary figures of his day. In 1819 he was made Russian Ambassador to the court of Tuscany. Having divorced his wife, who moved back to France, he lived his last years between France and Italy among scholars, financing the creation of schools, hospitals and other charitable institutions in Tuscany. He bought 42 acres of marshland north of Florence from the Catholic Church and there built the Villa San Donato from 1827 to 1831 where he set up richly-decorated private rooms to house his enormous art collection, which was divided between his residences in San Donato, St Petersburg, Paris and Moscow. By decree of Leopold II of Tuscany, on 23 February 1827 Demidoff was made Count of San Donato for the services he had rendered to Tuscany.
On the death of Count Nikolai Demidoff in 1828 the service presumably passed to his second son Anatole Demidoff. The younger Demidoff was born near St Petersburg, as his father had been, but grew up in Paris. His western upbringing led him to move away from his Russian ancestry and by the time of his father's death in 1828 he had more or less settled entirely in Europe, splitting his time between Paris, Rome and Venice. This attitude alienated him from Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, who always had an antipathy towards him. Following in his father's footsteps Anatole was interested in scholarship and as a result of his support was created Prince of San Donato in 1837. He also considerably expanded the Demidoff collection assembled by his father at the Villa San Donato near Florence, being particularly interested in Romantic art for example buying, at the Paris Salon of 1834 Paul Delaroche's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey (now in the National Gallery, London). His collection was dispersed through public and private sales in Paris starting in 1863 and it seems likely that the Demidoff service was one of the earliest pieces to leave the collection, having been with the London based Gentleman dealer Charles Frederick Hancock by 1863.