The present tureen is apparently from a service commissioned by the influential eighteenth-century patron of the arts, Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev (1751-1809). 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 is nielloed with 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 and other pieces from the service are reproduced in A. von Solodkoff, Russian Gold and Silverwork, 17th-19th Century, and Fribourg, 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. The pieces from the service illustrated in Solodkoff were sold Sotheby's, Geneva, 22 November 1978, lots 78-80.
A niello soup tureen from the Sheremetev service was sold at Christie's, New York, 24 April 2009, lot 66. A meat dish and cover from the same service were sold as part of the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra, Sotheby's, New York, 3 November, 2005, lot 74.
Count Nikolai Petrovich Sheremetev (1751-1809) was born into one of the wealthiest and most distinguished noble families of Russia. He was appointed Chamberlain at the court of Empress Catherine II and also served as a Senator and Private Councilor. Following the accession of Paul I to the throne, Sheremetev became Arch-Chamberlain, later Hofmarshall and Director of theatrical performance. He was awarded the order of the White Eagle, St Stanislaus, St Alexander Nevsky, St Andrew the First Called, St Anne, the Grand Commander cross of the Maltese Order, and the French Cross of the Order of St Lazarus. Count Sheremetev also became known as an avid collector and patron of the arts as well as the owner of one of the finest serf theaters in Russia. In 1801 he secretly married one of the theatre's actresses, P.I. Kovaleva-Zhemchugova, with whom he later had a son, Dmitri.
We are grateful to Lyudmila Syagaeva for helping research the present lot.