A Russian Imperial Porcelain military plate

Imperial Porcelain Factory, St. Petersburg, 1891

"Officier Superieur et Subalterne du Regt. des Grenadiers de la Garde" [Superior Officer and Subalternate of the Regt. of Grenadiers of the Guard] depicting two Grenadiers at ease in a landscape, the title in French on verso, and with green underglaze cypher of Alexander III dated for 1889, signed M. Shmakov and dated 1891.

Dia: 9 1/2 in.

Estimate $10,000-15,000

The military porcelain plates commissioned by Nicholas I are considered perhaps the greatest expressions of the art of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Factory. The offered lot was likely specially commissioned as a gift during the period of Alexander III, and is a unique example of the Imperial Porcelain Factory's ability to recreate a period form faithfully and with enormous fidelity and skill.

The Military Plates of Nicholas I (1825-1855)

It was during the reign of Nicholas I, that the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg reached its peak, and the technical proficiency and scientific advances of this period of production are regarded as the apex of the factory's work. During Nicholas' reign, in addition to the importation of French kaolin clay, lead-based fluxes and oxide tints increased the palette offered by the factory. The invention of a durable fire-gilding process which could be burnished increased the number of luxurious effects available.

In 1827, Nicholas ordered 120 military dessert plates, many of whose subjects can be seen in the 1830 edition of Sobranie mundirov rossiiskoi imperatorskoi armii (A Collection of Uniforms of the Imperial Russian Army), with plates after images rendered by P. Alexandrov and L. Belousov. There were the "golden" and "green" plates, named for their borders, all featuring meticulous military subjects in their cavetti.

The Period of Alexander III (1881-1894)

The offered lot shows the "Officier Superieur et Subalterne du Regt. des Grenadiers de la Garde" [Superior Officer and Subalternate of the Regt. of Grenadiers of the Guard] and was painted by artist M. Shmakov after the original lithograph by L. Belousov. Shmakov is recorded as starting as a modeler and decorator at the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory in the reign of Alexander III, and worked into the period of Nicholas II. In addition to this exceptional military plate, his most notable contribution was in his work on the objects designed for the Imperial Porcelain Factory by Konstantin Somov. (cf. Khmelnitskaya, pp. 200-201.)

We are aware of unique copies of the military service plates from the "golden" and "green" series, executed under subsequent reigns - examples from the periods of Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II survive. The latest known plate with a gold borders and an image of the "Lancer (private) of the 1st Squadron of the Life Guards of the Ulan Regiment" dates to 1896.

These very small number of military plates commissioned at later dates confirm the assumption that these were not "replacement" or "expansion" pieces, but specially commissioned unique versions, intended perhaps as gifts.

Freeman's is exceptionally grateful to Ekaterina Khmelnitskaya, PhD., St. Petersburg, for her assistance in the cataloging of this lot.


Khmelnitskaya, E. S., Skul'ptory Imperatorskogo Farforovogo Zavoda: Evolyutsiya Tvorcheskikh Poiskov ot Istorizma k Ar Deko [Sculptors of the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory: The evolution of the creative search from Historicism to Art Deco], dissertation, Herzen University, St. Petersburg, 2014.

Kudryavtseva T.V., Russkii Imperatorskii farfor. SPb., 2003

N. von Wolf, ed. V. Znamenov, Imperatorskii farforovyi zavod, 1744-1904, 2008.

Sold for $11,050 (buyer's premium included)