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Porcelain for Alexander Palace


A family from St Petersburg donated to Tsarskoe Selo a remarkable collection of porcelain from the mid-19th and the first half of the 20th century.

The Zverev family spent decades gathering marvellous pieces of Danish, British and Russian porcelain, from animal figurines to vases with architectural masterpieces of Sweden and landscapes of Denmark.

Sixty three items from the Zverev family collection are now at Tsarskoe Selo. Most of them will be showcased in the recently restored private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna at the Alexander Palace. Those rooms used to be filled with Art Nouveau porcelains until the post-revolution art sales in the 1920s-30s and the desolation of the Second World War.

According to Dr Iraida K. Bott, Tsarskoe Selo deputy director for research and education, "it's true happiness for the Museum" to receive such a wonderful gift in the year when the east wing of the Alexander Palace finally opened after a long restoration and Tsarskoe Selo is trying to replace the lost pieces of its collection.

The donated items are mostly Danish by the Royal Porcelain Factory and the Bing & Grøndahl factory (both now merged as Royal Copenhagen). Their porcelain animals by such designers as Arnold Krog, Christian Thomsen and Peter Harold, are especially impressive, with typically smooth outlines and complex underglaze painting of muted colours.

Especially remarkable among the Royal Porcelain Factory's creations are: a Polar Bear & Seal group made in 1923-35 to Knud Kyhn's 1909 design; a Monkey jewellery box by Christian Thomsen, who worked at the factory during 1889-1921 (as of today, it's the only known surviving example of this box with a bottom part); and a unique vase hand-painted in blue poppies by Jenny Meyer in September 1902.

The Bing & Grøndahl items include Rabbit by Jens Peter Dahl-Jensen, who worked at the factory during 1897-1917, and pot-shaped vases with floral designs, one of which was painted and signed by Ingeborg Nielsen who worked there in 1900-11.

Five vases of the early 20th century by the Swedish Rörstrand porcelain depict the Gripsholm, Torup, Borgholm and Kalmar Castles and Tullgarn Palace, with the paintings by Nils Emil Lundström and Karl G.E. Lindström.

Russian porcelain includes a cup and saucer depicting the Solovetsky Monastery. Such sets were produced by the Matvey Kuznetsov Partnership factory near Moscow during 1892-1917.

Also noteworthy is an English porcelain plate by Ashworth Brothers, decorated with transfer-printed sights of St Petersburg for export to Russia in 1866.