Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849) was the youngest of ten children of Russian Emperor Paul I and his wife Maria Feodorovna and the brother of Alexander I (r. 1801-1825) and Nikolai I (r. 1826- 1855). In 1825 he married Elena Pavlovna, Princess of Wurtemburg. Mikhail commissioned Carlo Rossi to build his new residence in St. Petersburg, the Mikhail Palace (now the Russian Museum), between 1819-1823, with the finest interiors of its day, and a perfect setting for this Empire service.
Mikhail and his brother Nikolai patronized the leading Parisian silversmiths. The Biennais and Cahier workshops together produced the enormous Mikhail Pavlovich service, which comprised over one thousand pieces. Both silversmiths' marks appear on different parts of the same pieces, as here, where three salt cellars are marked Biennais and one is marked by Cahier. In 1819, Biennais retired and sold the business, archives and designs to Cahier. By 1828 Cahier was bankrupt.
Today the service is the collections of the Hermitage, Kremlin, Rijksmuseum and Espirito Santo Foundation in Lisbon. Three pairs of double salt cellars from the service sold at Christie's, Geneva, 1 May, 1974, lots 103-105. A pair of five-light candelabra by Cahier sold at Christie's, Geneva, 19 November, 1996, lot 37. Other pieces from the Pavlovich service sold at Christie's, Geneva, 17 November, 1998, lots 164-170 and 171, and a set of four wine coolers were offered at Christie's, London, 19 November, 2002, lot 12.