The Orloff Service is perhaps the best known of the great services commissioned by the Russian imperial house from Parisian silversmiths in the eighteenth century. Its history has been well documented, first by Baron Foelkersam in the early years of this century, and later by Clare le Corbeiller, Angela Kuodriavceca and Marina Lopato. It was Foelkersam who first revealed correspondence between Catherine the Great and the French sculpture Etienne-Maurice Falconet, at the time working in Russia, which shows how Falconet influenced Catherine in her choice both of style and of silversmiths.
Intended as a service for sixty persons, it was delivered to the Empress between 1771 and 1775. The size of the service when originally supplied is not know but it is thought to have numbered at least 3,000 pieces including eight soup tureens, eight pots à oille and forty-eight dozen plates.
In 1772 Catherine decided to give the service to her lover, Count Gregory Orloff, evidently as a reconciliation present, and it was delivered to him over the next few years. In 1776, however, Orloff fell from favor and left Russia for exile. After his death in 1783 Catherine reacquired the service and it remained in the Russian imperial collections until the Revolution in 1917. About 1930 pieces from the service, evidently sold by the Soviet government, appeared in auctions in Berlin and with various dealers, most notably the great Parisian expert and dealer, Jacques Helft.