Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849) was the fourth son of Russian Emperor Paul I.
In 1819, Grand Duke Mikhail began building a magnificent palace, designed by Carlo Rossi in neoclassical taste, which is today the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Paid for in part by his father, Emperor Paul I and then by his brothers, Emperor Alexander I and Emperor Nicholas I, the palace cost some 9 million roubles by the time of its completion in 1823. During the same period, Mikhail commissioned a vast silver-gilt service from the Paris retailers Martin-Guillaume Biennais and Jean-Charles Cahier. Together, Biennais, Cahier, and their affiliated workshops produced an enormous service, in fitting style for the palace, which had the finest interiors in all of Russia.
A large component of the Grand Duke Mikhail dinner service matching this table silver was sold at Christie’s, London, 30 November 2004, lot 438. Like the present service, it bore the marks of both Cahier and Biennais (whose shop-name, “Au Singe Violet,” is marked on these knives). As typical of such a large order, the table silver was created in several Parisian workshops under the auspices of Biennais and Cahier, and a significant number of pieces of the Grand Duke Mikhail table silver are marked by François-Dominique Naudin (see a set of 58 pieces from this service, all marked by Naudin, sold Christie’s Geneva, 17 November 1998, lot 166).
It appears that, like so many artistic treasures in Russia, the Grand Duke Mikhail silver service was confiscated following the Revolution, and then sold by the Soviet Government in the 1920s and 1930s to raise much-needed foreign currency. A substantial part of the service appeared as a single lot at auction at Christie's in London on 30 June 1965.
Examples from the Grand Duke Mikhail service can be found today in the Hermitage Museum, the Rijksmuseum, and the Santo Spirito Foundation in Lisbon.
Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich of Russia
Monogram and Imperial coronet of Grand Duke Mikhail