The History of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Manufacture.

Tea Set Recollection. IPM

Imperial Porcelain Manufacture – IPM, for more than 270 years of its history is inseparable from the history of Russia, and its bone china is a unique piece of art. Ceremonial sets and interior items made of Imperial porcelain not only adorn the residences of many heads of state, but are also represented in the largest museum collections around the globe, as part of the world’s decorative and applied arts. Today Imperial Porcelain Manufacture assortment includes about 4,000 items made of hard-paste, soft-paste, and bone china: sets, souvenirs, vases, genre and animalistic sculptures, museum replicas and other wonderful things. The Imperial porcelain factory develops, modernizes, actively takes part in international art exhibitions, and implements social and charitable programs. In our online store you will find lots of amazing products that will be great gifts for you and your friends. Get in touch with “white gold” and feel its history with us.

Foundation and development of the porcelain factory under Empress Elizabeth.

Portrait of Empress Elizabeth
the Russian Empress Elizabeth

In the middle of the 18th century there was not any enterprise to produce china in Russia. Many people wanted to know the secret of “white gold” but Chinese and then European porcelain manufacturers carefully guarded it. Then the Russian Empress Elizabeth Petrovna assigned the invited foreign master H. Gunger and Russian scientist D. I. Vinogradov to create a recipe for porcelain and organize china production in the country. Although Ginger turned out to be a fraud and was ignominiously expelled from Russia, a mining specialist Vinogradov managed to get the long-awaited recipe for porcelain at the cost of his short life and to establish its production with incredible efforts.

Since 1744 the Neva porcelain manufactory created high-quality porcelain that could compete with foreign samples. D. I. Vinogradov discovered the secret of domestic porcelain and organized the first porcelain production in Russia. He developed compositions of porcelain mass, glazes, porcelain paints, and gold powder for the decoration of porcelain products based on Russian fossils. Vinogradov independently designed the furnaces, determined the optimal firing conditions, and developed molding methods. It is known that the first samples that meet the criteria of whiteness and transparency were obtained in 1747. Initially, the products were small, but from 1756, when the founder of porcelain built a large forge, the factory moved to the production of large products.

The period of Russian porcelain prosperity under Catherine II and Paul I.

Bust sculpture of Empress Catherine II
Empress Catherine II

If during the reign of Empress Elizabeth, the porcelain factory produced mainly only for a small number of people close to her Majesty, then Catherine II set out to provide porcelain to all of Russia. As a result, the Neva porcelain manufactory was renamed the Imperial porcelain factory and had become one of the leading porcelain enterprises in Europe by the end of the 18th century. Under Catherine II, the porcelain manufactory created by Vinogradov began to flourish rapidly. The appearance of the talented French sculptor J.-D. Rachette was of great importance for the enterprise.

During his work at the factory, the influence of French art with prevailed classicism was established. Rachette created the famous series “Nationalities of Russia”, which made the IPM famous. Among his best works is also a bust of Catherine II, made of a special porcelain mass. Refined ceremonial sets appeared also during the reign of Empress Catherine II. The central part of the ensembles was occupied by table sculptures celebrating the acts of the Empress. Allegorical painting also glorified the virtues of Catherine and reflected the events of her reign.

Paul I (1796-1801) inherited his mother’s interest in the porcelain factory. He provided the factory with large orders, visited it himself and was happy to show it to his high-ranking guests. Sets of that period were not distinguished by luxuriance and solemnity like Catherine’s: they were designed for a narrow circle of people. At the same time, sets for 2 persons became fashionable. The last service of the XVIII century was a service ordered by Paul I to his new residence-Mikhailovsky Castle and served a table on the eve of the death of the Emperor. According to the memoirs of a servant: “the Emperor was in extreme admiration, repeatedly kissed the paintings on the porcelain and said that this was one of the happiest days of his life.”

Reorganization of the factory under Alexander I and historical period under Nicholas I, Alexander II, Alexander III.

During the reign of Alexander I (1801-1825), the factory was managed by the Emperor’s trustee D. Guryev. Russian porcelain did not so much glorify the acts of the Emperor, but was a reflection of national themes and subjects in art, such as the “Guriev” service, which became an ode to the people — the winner in the Patriotic war of 1812. French invasion of Russia also gave birth to a series of “military plates” depicting soldiers and officers in uniforms of all branches of the armed forces. Portrait painting is also widely used. It became a custom at the Imperial porcelain factory to depict crowned heads and famous figures, especially generals, on cups.

high-end art service Guriev
the “Guriev” service

In the years of Alexander and Nicholas reign, the factory produced sets of almost all St. Petersburg residences. Currently there was a revival of interest in the Russian artistic heritage. Vases and other products of that period were painted with the greatest skill. Each work was striking in its beauty and grace. Vases were adorned with a variety of relief decor or whole sculptures, each of which was produced with filigree precision. Another interesting way of painting was the image on vases of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Correggio, Murillo paintings. The copies of famous paintings transferred to porcelain were impressed with their similarity to the original and quality of execution. In combination with gilding, which was richly covered with products, the works were so spectacular that they were appreciated both in Russia and abroad.

Over the years of Imperial Porcelain Manufacture existence, the rulers changed many times in the country, and each of the kings contributed to the development of porcelain production. Under Alexander I, a major reorganization of the plant was made, and significant funds were invested in the production. Alexander III managed to save the plant from bankruptcy, to which it came after the reign of Alexander II. Alexander III breathed new life into the enterprise and introduced various technical innovations, as well as ordered to create all sets for the Imperial family in two copies (one for the museum).

Thanks to this order and the early evacuation of the museum during the war years, many items of the IPM have reached our days and can be replicated for art lovers. For example, tea service “Recollection” made at the Imperial porcelain factory on the form “Alexandria” after the Museum model of the 1820s, which was created specifically for the Peterhof Cottage Palace, or the original service “Golden” is now displayed in the State Hermitage Museum.

Russian porcelain of the 1920s.

The factory had the achievements not only in the field of artistic porcelain, it successfully developed the production of chemical and technical porcelain, the first optical glass was obtained here. On the 200th anniversary of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1925 the plant was named after the brilliant Russian scientist M. V. Lomonosov – the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory.

A special place in the history of the IPM belongs to the so-called agitation porcelain, a phenomenon that has no analogues in world art and reflects the mood of the first years of the proletarian revolution in a perfect artistic form. Outstanding artists of that time like Kandinsky, Malevich, Petrov-Vodkin, Chekhov, Tatlin and many others followed fashion and used elements of Soviet symbolism. They introduced into the ornament spikes, sheaves, sickles, hammers, workers in red kerchiefs, workers with a hammer, tractors, machines, etc. All this was new and unusual for porcelain, and since it was produced in small editions, the collectible appeal of agitation porcelain was undeniable and obvious to contemporaries.

Pre-war years and the building of socialist society.

As you have already known, with the beginning of cultural construction in the USSR in the 1930s, the first art laboratory in the country was opened at the Lomonosov porcelain factory. Under the guidance of a student of K. Malevich and N. Suetin, the creative team of the enterprise creates a new style of Soviet porcelain, consonant with “socialist life”. Suetin was talented Suprematist artist and leader, who organically applied avant-garde patterns and artworks to porcelain. Creativity of A.Vorobyevsky, I. Riznich, T. Bezpalova, L. Protopopova, A. Yatskevich, S. Yakovleva and others for many years defined the appearance of Leningrad porcelain with its purity and softness of forms, the whiteness of the material, the specificity of painted images and the juiciness of colors.

Postwar period in art.

Cobalt net painting inventor
Anna Yatskevich

A separate page of factory’s history is the war years, which changed a lot in its life, as well as in the life of city, country, and world. The legendary “Cobalt net” became a symbol of the besieged Leningrad. Service sets in white and blue style appeared in 1944 and became the sign of the IPM. The pattern was created during the years of the siege by the Leningrad artist Anna Yatskevich, graduate of the Leningrad Art and Industrial College. The painting was invented for a tea set in the form “Tulip” (based on the model of Seraphim Yakovleva). You can find the wonderful copy of this set filled with one of the symbols of Russian porcelain in our store.

Coffee set Tulip
Porcelain Coffee Cup and Saucer

Any legendary work keeps various versions of its creation. It is not really known what inspired the gifted artist, once she voiced a version that the drawing was created in memory of the cross-glued windows of houses and the cross-light of searchlights that illuminated the sky of the besieged Leningrad.

cobalt net pattern inspired by World War 2

Crosses on the Windows served as a device that reduces small vibrations. A strong blast wave created such vibrational movements on the window frame that the standard window shattered into thousands of small fragments. With the cross on the window, this did not happen. There is also a version that the famous pattern of Yatskevich inspired the service with pink stripes, which was made for the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna by Dmitry Vinogradov in the middle of the XVIII century.

Comparing the “Cobalt net” of Yatskevich and the painting of the Vinogradov’s service, experts believe the similarity is very remote – the artist’s net is more intricate, made with underglaze cobalt. At the intersection of the blue lines, the grid is decorated with 22-Karat gold stars, which makes the painting even more noble and elegant. Subsequently, this method was used to decorate other products of the plant: coffee and table sets, various cups, vases, and souvenirs. The service received a gold medal at the world exhibition in Brussels in 1958. Since then, the “Cobalt net” has become famous all over the world. The award-winning service was not specially prepared for the competition, but it was included in the range of factory products. Unfortunately, Yatskevich could not live as long to see the triumph of her pattern. She, like many people survived the siege of Leningrad, died soon after the war and did not know that her drawing had become a symbol of Russian porcelain and of her triumph in Brussels. The service with the painting “Cobalt net” is one of the best-selling sets in the branded stores of the Imperial porcelain factory.

Workshop of bone porcelain
Workshop of bone china. IPM. Casting cups on a semi-automatic machine. Photo of the 1970s.

In 1966, the head of the IPM A. S. Sokolov set the factory laboratory a very difficult task — to create a formula for bone china, and products made of it had to be no more than 1 mm thick. Two years of persistent search for specialists led to the fact that the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory became the first plant in Russia producing fine bone porcelain. That porcelain was significantly different from foreign samples: it was stronger, thinner, and more ringing than English bone china.

Collectors quickly fell in love with the thinnest snow-white cups and bone china gained popularity among the general population, so in two years the factory increased the number of products to 850 thousand a year, and then to 1.2 million units a year. A great contribution to the popularity of bone porcelain was made by famous painters of the factory. One of these painters was master A. Vorobyevsky, created many wonderful works.

Aleksey Vorobyevsky was born at Tankhoy station (Zabaikalie) in the family of a railway worker. Since childhood, the little boy was attracted to painting, and at the age of four he learned to draw. In 1926, he graduated from the art school in Pavlovsk near Leningrad. In the same year, he entered the Leningrad porcelain factory with the recommendation of his teacher and mentor Ivan Grigoryevich Mikhailov. After working at the factory, two of his vases were received with great enthusiasm at the International exhibition in Milan. So Vorobyevsky turned into a real master. The artist worked at the IPM almost all his life, with a break from 1941 to 1945.

Vorobyevsky’s work is characterized by an appeal to fantastic and fairy-tale stories, based on the motives of folk art. From the very beginning, the master defined his own circle of topics that were close to his worldview. He depicted only two seasons: spring and winter, but summer and autumn were never represented. His unfulfilled dream of becoming a theater artist left an imprint on all his work. He did not try to draw reality as it really was, that is why his flowers and trees have no analogues in living nature, buildings surprise with their appearance, and bridges are built of crystal. To sum up, everything the artist depicted was fabulous. When he was asked, how such wonderful stories were born, he replied that he had seen them in a dream, and then transferred them to the porcelain.

Bone Porcelain Coffee Cup and Saucer
Covered cup with saucer Winters Tale

The manner of painting Vorobyevsky is very unusual, sometimes he is called an artist-jeweler. He liked to fill almost the entire surface of porcelain with paintings, using a unique technique: first, a thin pen was applied to the outline of the drawing, and then the drawing was filled in with multi-colored paints with a thin brush. This technique is very time-consuming, but it gives more expressive possibilities than painting on porcelain with ordinary brush strokes.

Bone china porcelain artist
Aleksey Vorobyevsky

Vorobyevsky was recognized as a people’s artist of the RSFSR (1969), laureate of the Ilya Repin State Prize (1970). His works were also presented at World exhibitions in New York (1939), Brussels (1958), and Montreal (1967). In 1984, “Winter Tale” was awarded a gold medal at the International fair in Leipzig. Works of Alexey Vorobyevsky stored in the State Hermitage, the Museum of ceramics “Manor Kuskovo XVIII century”, State Russian Museum, numerous private collections.

Bone Porcelain Coffee Cup and Saucer
Tea pot Folk Pattern small

Imperial porcelain manufacture today.

In recent years, the Imperial porcelain manufacture produces fewer items than before, which is explained by the transition to the production of luxury products. The basis of modern technologies for the production of classic Russian porcelain is based on the technology discovered by the founder of “white gold” in Russia – D. I. Vinogradov. Combined, manual or mechanized methods are used in decorating porcelain at the IPM. Just as in tsarist times, not everyone can have a whole set from the IPM, the prices for porcelain products are high due to many factors of production: hand-painting, complex molding process, long-term firing, and so on.

Currently, IPM produces about four thousand types of porcelain products. These are products in a wide range from sets for home use to luxury presidential-level sets, as well as prizes for major events. During its long history, the factory has flourished and created so many great works that we cannot describe everything. IPM products are a real collection of graceful, elegant, and original works, and every item is a separate piece of art.


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