The Lomonosov (Imperial) porcelain factory founded in 1744 in Saint-Petersburg by decree of Empress Elisabeth, Peter the Great's daughter, became the first enterprise in Russia and the third in Europe.
It is the place where D.I.Vinogradov, talented Russian scientist (1720-1758), solved the secret of "white gold"
manufacturing. He was the first in the hisory of ceramics to form a scientific description of porcelain manufacturing, which occured to be close to the new foundations of ceramics chemistry. The porcelain created by D.I.Vinogradov was just as good in its quality as Saxon, and in its mass composition it was close to the Chinese one.
Initially the Nevskaya porcelain manufacture specialized in producing small items, mainly, snuff boxes for Empress Elizabeth, which she used to present to her favourites and to send as diplomatic gifts. Since 1756, when D. Vihogradov managed to design a large furnace, it became possible to produce large items. Just in that time the first set "Sobstvennyi" by name was manufactured especially for Empress Elizabeth. Since the 1750s the first porcelain dolls, i.e., figures of animals and human beings, had been produced. Despite the increase in porcelain output, these items were accessible only to a narrow circle of favourites. In XVIII the porcelain items, being prestigious, were kept in special storages, along with other treasurous things, and only dozens years later they came into use for arranging the table.
As far as its status and development is concerned, the enterprise was mainly dependent on regard and the needs of the Emperor's court, and most of all, of the monarch himself.
With coming Catherine II to the reign (1762 - 1796), the manufacture was rearranged, and since 1765 it had been called the Emperial Porcelain factory, with the task "to please all the Russia with porcelain". The Russian porcelain was greatly affected by the work of G. D.Rachette, the talented French sculpture, who was invited to the Factory as a model master. With him, the French art classicism became predominating. The end of the XVIII century was the time of Russian porcelain flourishing state, and the Emperial Porcelain Factory became one of the leading enterprises in Europe. The top glory came to the Factory due to the luxury tableware sets, "Arabeskovyi", "Yakhtinskii", "Kabinetskii", which comprised as many as a thousand of items, all being ordered by Catherine II. The table decorating sculptures glorifying the Empress's deeds were their central parts. Allegoric paining also served to glorify her virtues and to demonstrate the events of her reigning. By the Empress's approval, the Factory began producing a series of sculptures "Russia's peoples" (about one hundred figures), which was later extended by the characters of Saint-Petersburg manufacturers, craftsmen and street sellers. A great number of various vases were also produced. Painting was in harmony with form and emphasized porcelain whiteness and shining glaze warmness.
Contemporaries highly appreciated the "Catherine porcelain" and positioned it as paintings and sculptures of outstanding masters. "The today's porcelain is beautiful in consideration of mass purity and taste and of form and painting", wrote I. G. Georgy, the well-known ethnographer and traveller."Displayed in the shop, you may find rather large and perfectly manufactured things".
When came to the reign, Paul I (1796 - 1801) inherited his mather's interest in the Porcelian Factory. He provided it with large-scale orders, used to visit and demonstrate it to his honourable guests. The Paul's period sets were not so ceremonial and magnificent as those of the Catherine's period, they were intended for a narrow circle of favourites. The sets for two persons, so-called de jeuneur, also came into fashion in that period.
The management by Prince B.Yusupov, who was an expert in art, facilitated the artistic trend development of the Paul's porcelain , which became a brilliant top of the Emperial factory activity.
The last set manufactured in the XVIII century occured to be the one ordered by Paul I for the Mikhailovsky palace, his new residence. It served the table on the eve of the Emperor's death. In the recollections of one of the court pages of that period, it is said, "The sovereign was in raptures, he kissed the paintings on the porcelain again and again and said that it was one of the happiest days in his life." In the reign of Alexander I (1801-1825) the factory was managed by Count D.Guriev, confidential representative of the Emperor. With him, a great re-organization of the factory started and continued under the guidance of F.Gottenberger, Professor of Technology, Geneva University. To attract the best home and foreign masters, Guriev didn't save money. S.Pimenov, Professor of the Academy of Arts, one of the outstanding masters of his time, was appointed to head the sculpture chamber.
To implement the ampire style at the factory, the best painters of the Sevre porcelian manufacture were invited. However, the Russian ampire porcelain essentially differed from the Sevre one which was considered to be the standard of the art achievements in Europe that time. The Russan porcelian was the mapping of national themes and plots in art, rather than glorified the Emperor's deeds. E.g., the Gurievskii set celebrating the victory of Russian people in the Patriotic War of 1812 had become the ode to Russian people. This war inspired the creation of a series of the so-called war plates showing soldiers and officers in the uniforms of different kinds of troops. Widespread was also the portraiture displaying the crowned characters, famous persons and, particularly, celebrated military heroes.
In the time of Alexander I till the end of the 1860s, vases played a particular part in the factory manufacture. Gold became one of the favourite decoration materials. Paintings mainly depicted everyday life and battles. The second after vases were palace sets. In the periods of Alexander and Nicholas reignings (1825 - 1855), the sets for almost all the Petersburg residences, all in different styles, were manufactured, with the Russian style manifesting itself among others. Based on the design of F.Solntsev, archeologist and expert in Russian antiquities, the sets were manufactured for the Bol'shoi Kremlevskii Palace in Moscow and for Great Duke Konstantin Nicholaievich.
Masterly decoration was characteristic of the Nicholas porcelain. Depicted on vases were the chefs-d'euvres of outstanding old masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Correggio, Murillo and others, mainly, from the Hermitage collection.The copies were characterized by an accuracy and thinness of dotted lines.The spectrum of colours, purity and brilliance of paints were adecuate in a full measure to an original. Portrait, icon and miniature painting on vases and plates had also received development. The factory priority in porcelain painting was marked by the diplomas of the World exhibitions in London, Paris and Vienna.
In 1844, a 100-year anniversary of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, there was founded a museum added by the things from the storages of the Winter palace (the decision to manufacture all the things in two copies, one for the court and the second for the museum, was made in the period of Alexander III ).
In contrast to the predecessors, Alexander II (1855 - 1881) did not show his personal interest in the factory. In the 70s the porcelain output decreased, only the gifts to the Court in celebration of Easter and Christman survived that was customary as far back as Paul I period. The factory continued working mainly to enrich the palace storages by the sets. The set sizes were less, decoration became much modest. With all the diversity in forms , those were mainly the copies of old European and Oriental ceramics. There appeared the idea of closing "the useless and unprofitable" enterprise.
Thanks to Alexander III (1881 - 1894), the factory was saved: "The Sovereign likes the Emperial Porcelain Factory to be put in the best conditions, both technical and art, in order it could be worthy of the Emperor's name and be an example for all private manufacturers in this field of industry". The factory started their work on manufacturing large sets, "Koronatsionnyi" and that on the themes of Raphael paintings in Vatican, which design was corrected by the Emperor personally. The art course of the factory was strongly affected by the tastes and bents of the Emperor himself. He prefered Chinese and Japanese vases, terracota, coloured glazes, under-glaze painting, which came into fashion under the influence of Copenhagen King's manufacture and also because the Emperor's wife Maria Fyodorovna was Dannish Princess.
The porcelain with its snow-white surface, architecture monumentality, sculpture plasticity and painting fascination, which, by the XXth century, had manifested sophisticated taste of a limited group of people, became the first, brightest and vivid proclaimer of the revolutionary ideas. In the meantime, it was a favourable material for implementing a new trend in art, so-called suprematism.
In the time of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II (1894-1917), due to the novelties of the previous period, both technical and technological state of the factory was perfect.
The richness of art technologies was the pride of the factory, and later on, in the period of the First World War favoured the development of the new branches of chemical and electrotechnical porcelain manufacture. Among the large orders, there were Alexandrinski and Tsarskosel'ski table ware sets, placed by the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna who supervised the factory after the fiasco it suffered at the World exhibition in Paris, 1900. By the order of Nicholas II, the factory manufactured a series of battle-piece plates depicting the troops in uniforms of the Alexander III period and the sculpture series "Peoples of Russia" designed by P.Kamenskii. This series continued undertakings of Catherine II and favoured the idea of securing of Russian power. The characteristic feature of the figures is their ethnographic authenticity.
Since the middle of the 1900s, the cooperation between the Factory and the artists of the WORLD OF ART Association, K.Somov, K.Lanceret and S.Chekhonin, had contributed to neoclassics development.
The chain of Russian revolutions in the beginning of the XX century divided for a long time the life of Russia into two historical periods. For the previous 150 years the Imperial Porcelain Factory developed in the trend of European King's and national manufactures, while the revolution of 1917 in Petrograd had changed the situation radically.
In addition to the achievements in the field of art porcelain, the Factory succeeded in manufacturing chemical and technical porcelain, it was the first to manufacture optic glass, too. And this is natural that in 1925 to celebrate a bicentenary of the Russian Academy of Science the Factory was named after the great Russian scientist M.V.Lomonosov.
With the beginning of cultural development period, in the 30s, the art laboratory, first in our country, is open at the Factory. Under the guidance of N.Suetin, K.Malevich's follower, the factory's team develops a new style of Soviet porcelain, which is in line with the socialistic everyday life. N.Suetin, being a talented artist and supervisor, organically implemented suprematic ideas of world-of-art decorativity and realistic mapping of nature. The peculiarities of art of the painters, such as A.Vorobievski, I.Riznich, M.Mokh, T.Bezpalova, L.Protopopova, L.Black, A.Yatskevich S.Yakovleva and others, predominated for a long time the Leningrad porcelain image featuring purity and softness of shape, vivid material whiteness, specific images of decoration and brightness of colours.
The target of socialist realism to the solution of ideological problems and an official style of state orders in 1930 to 1950 have not become of an ode character, thanks to a many-year experience and highest professionalism in manufacturing ceremonial vases , paintings and portraits.
In the 60s, the years of "Khrushchov ottepel", the art turned over again to the mottos of the 20s, such as "Art - to everyday life" and "Art - to industry". After pompous and extremely decorative Stalin's period, the interest in white porcelain aroused again, along with the work on shape and constructive conciseness of geometrical volumes. Those years were marked by an active work of some artists and sculptors, such as E.Kremmer and A.Leporskaya, V.Semyonov and S.Yakovleva, creative work of genuine master V.Gorodetskii is being developed. The artists who graduated in the 50s from the Leningrad All-Union Art & Industry High School named after V.I.Mukhina actively show their worth. Among them are S.Bogdanova, K.Kosenkova, N.Pavlova, N.Semyonova, V.Zhbanov, P.Veselov. The leading masters of decorative-applied art N.Slavina and I.Olevskaya widened the ideas about porcelain by creating multi-article huge compositions.
Stage-by-stage reconstruction of the oldest enterprise, implementation of new technique and technologies of porcelain manufacture allowed increasing and diversifying the assortment of the products. First in Russia, the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory has developed the technology and arranged industrial production of thin-walled alabaster (bone) porcelain articles, characterized by higher whiteness, thinness and transparency. This development of the group of specialists was awarded the USSR State Prize in science and technology, and the artists themselves got a possibility to widen their creative range in developing and decorating new forms from this marvellous material.
In the 70s the Factory takes part in home and international art-industrial exhibitions. The creative team is the leader in producing remarkable works.The well-known Soviet expert in art N.Voronov calles the products of that period the standard of art and high quality. In 1980 The Lomonosov Porcelain Factory is awarded the prestigious international Prize "Golden Mercury", "to appreciate the contribution into the development of industry and international cooperation".
Careful usage of the inheritance, continuous development and permanent innovation of art traditions are the integral part of the Petersburg porcelain art school. This is obvious in the works by T.Afanasieva and G.Shoulyak, N.Petrova and O.Matveyeva, M.Sorokina and S.Sokolova et al. Each of them has developed their own approach to creating porcelain articles, what allows a great variety of products labelled by "LFZ" to be picturesque and emotionally evocative. As far as the Factory itself is concerned, its characteristic feature has been preserved, i.e. it continues to be the plant of porcelain art.
As stated by L.V.Andreeva, an expert in Russian art culture history, whose investigations on porcelain have been based on here, the Russian porcelain of the recent decades with its romantism faced to national culture in the full scale is one of alive and creative phenomena of European art culture of the second half of the XX century. And Lomonosov porcelain is one of the most attractive and bright sides of it.
Lomonosov porcelain today
At the current time the Factory has been producing over 500 names of articles, including tea, coffee and table services, separate items of plates and dishes, souvenire-gift items, genre and animation sculptures, vases, decorative plates and trays etc., which are made of solid, soft and alabaster (bone) porcelain, with over- and under-glaze decoration by hand, mechanized and combined methods, using paints and rare precious metals.
Porcelain under the label of the LFZ is manufactured by the samples of the well-known Russian artists, such as A.Vorobievsky and I.Riznich, S.Yakovleva and N.Slavina, P.Veselova and V.Zhbanova, N.Pavlova and A.Semyonova, S.Bogdanova and I.Olevskaya, N.Petrova, T.Afanasieva, G.Shoulyak, O.Matveyeva et al. The Factory also manufactures the replies (copies) of the XVIII - XIX centuries from the museum collection, brand table sets with logos and monograms of customers.
The porcelain of the LFZ is exhibited in the largest Russian and foreign museums all over the world, such as the Hermitage, the Russian Museum, Saint-Petersburg, the State Museum of History, Moscow, the Victor and Albert's Museum, London, Metropolitan Museum, New York, and others. In banquet halls of the Kremlin and in the residences belonging to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church they are presented on behalf of the government to the leaders of foreign countries, they are also used as the prizes at the championships and festivals.
The products of the LFZ are exported to the dozens of countries, including Germany, the USA, England, Sweden, Norway, Canada and others. The LFZ was awarded the International Prize "Golden Mercury" for a long-term fruitful commercial and cultural cooperation.
Thimbles of LFZ
During the past decade porcelain thimbles have appeared among other splendid articles of LFZ. They are very elegant and beautiful, every of it has trade mark of LFZ, they are so thin that it’s rather fearful to hold them. The quality of porcelain is splendid. All of thimbles except one are made of solid porcelain and have various shapes: a bell, a helmet, a dome, a box. Themes of painting are various, the most well-known is cobalt net, handicraft golden painting — it’s the painting of LFZ firm. One of the thimbles stands apart from the other — it’s a rose. The thimble and the rose itself are made of hand-made alabaster porcelain (bone china), the thimble is made with the help of shape castings, the rose is shaped. All workshops of Western Europe cast flowers or shape them in porcelain moulds, but thimbles of LFZ have roses which are unique because they all have hand-made shape and that’s why flowers are never repeated.