11125

A MOST UNUSUAL PAIR OF CHINOISERIE WHITE OPALINE GLASS AND POLYCHROME ENAMEL VASES

Probably Russian. Second Quarter Of The Nineteenth Century.

Measurements

Height: 15 3/4" (40 cm; Width 7 1/2" (19 cm).

Research
Of white opaline glass and colored enamels. The ovoid body mounted by a flared neck and supported by a socle resting on a square plinth. Each vase with paired gilt and enameled handles in the Islamic taste. Each vase decorated with different vignettes depicting full length Chinese dignitaries and fanciful chinoiseries scenes to the reverse.  Some old repairs to two handles.

The glass industry in Russia during the nineteenth century was characterized by technological innovation and rapid expansion. The import of foreign glass was banned1 and therefore the establishment of domestic glassworks was encouraged. The Imperial Glassworks at St. Petersburg was the leading factory in Russia, producing wares to outfit the palaces of the imperial family and aristocracy, and was unrivaled in the production of colored glass both in Russia and throughout Europe.

The extensive production of colored glass accompanied an interest in revival and exotic styles, and a range of forms and decorative motifs covering a variety of periods and styles were produced, including Islamic, Gothic, Etruscan, and Chinoiserie. For instance, the State Hermitage holds examples of opaque glass vases produced by the Imperial glassworks decorated with Iranian motifs (figure 1), while the State History Museum, Moscow, as well as a few of the royal residences, have in their collections “Etruscan” (or “Pompeian”) style glass in imitation of red-figure and black-figure vase painting (figure 2). The use of opal glass, also referred to as “milk” or “bone glass,” was particularly employed in these instances and the “opaque white glass made at the Imperial Glassworks was almost indistinguishable from the porcelain it was supposed to imitate.”2

Unlike their Continental neighbors, Russia enjoyed unique overland access to the Far East, procuring goods and sharing cultural exchanges though envoys. During the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96) chinoiserie (kitaishchina) reached its peak; the monarch appreciated not only architecture and the decorative arts, but the political and literary contributions of China as well. The East and West cabinets in the Peterhof Palace, the Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum, and the Chinese village at Tsarskoe Selo were executed in response to the monarchy’s Eastern fantasies. According to renowned scholar Emmanuel Ducamp it is possible that the present pair of vases could have been made for the Chinese Room at Tsarskoe Selo, or another of the royal chinoiserie constructions.

Full research report available on request.

Full research report available on request.