The Hermitage’s magnificent collection of European porcelain comprises several thousand items. The main part, eighteenth century porcelain, is displayed in room 271, the former church of the Winter Palace, decorated by Stasov after the fire of 1837 in the style of Rastrelli.

The exhibition includes an exceptionally large collection of Saxon porcelain, the initial creation of which by Johann Fried-rich Bottger (1682-1719) in 1709 opened up a new era in European ceramics. There are also some specimens of a reddish brown stone-like substance obtained by Bottger in the course of his experiments, a few early examples produced by the Meissen Factory, set up in 1710, and other items from the period when Meissen was flourishing as a centre of porcelain manufacture. Of particular interest are some bird and animal figures and a sculptural group entitled Parnassus, made by the famous sculptor Johann Joachim Kandler (1706-1775). Notice especially the large banqueting services, Service of the Order of St Andrew First Called and The Hunting Service, made for the Russian court. The exhibition also contains some typical Meissen dishes in the form of fruits, vegetables and flowers, and valuable examples of porcelainware made in some of the small German factories, including Hochst, Frankenthal, Nymphenburg and Fiirstenberg.

Deserving special note is a large eighteenth century service of Viennese porcelain and the Service with the Cameos, consisting of over seven hundred pieces and made to the order of Catherine II in the French town of Sevres.

Mention should also be made of the collection of Englishmade porcelain – Wedgwood pottery from the works at Chelsey, Bow, Worcester, Derby and Swansea. Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Hungary are also represented by some fine items (room 269-271).

The outstanding item in room 269 is the large dessert set made in Berlin and presented by the Prussian king Frederick the Great to the Russian empress Catherine II in 1722. The purely decorative objects in the set include a large number of figures representing the different nationalities in Russia who are surrounding a throne upon which sits Catherine II. The groups of bound captives and the trophies refer to a Russian victory in the war with Turkey.

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3 May 2007