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A rare covered ice cup from the service for the Order of St Alexander Nevsky, Gardner, 1778-1780. The cup’s form is based on those of the Berlin Service (given to Catherine II by Frederick the Great in 1772), the bowl painted with the red moiré sash of the order centering a star with the Cyrillic motto Za trud i otechestvo (For Labor & Fatherland), the handle molded in imitation of rose branches & with rose blossom terminal, the slip on cover similarly decorated with the order’s red moiré silk ribbon centering an exquisitely formed magenta rose blossom, the underside with blue factory mark & two small circles impressed in the paste.
Catherine II commissioned the Francis Gardner Porcelain Factory to produce the services for the exclusive use of the cavaliers of Russia’s earliest Orders honoring those who had shown special service to the ruling sovereign. Their design was clearly inspired by similar sets created at European factories as gifts to the Russian court, particularly the so-called Berlin Service Catherine had received from her rival Frederick II of Prussia in 1772. Emperor Peter I (“the Great”) had intended to found a military order named in honor of the Russian hero-saint Alexander Nevsky, but had died before being able to do so. He had had the saint’s remains brought from Vladimir to St. Petersburg on August 30, 1724 & re-interred at the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, founded on the spot where some 500 years earlier, on July 15, 1240, Alexander Nevsky had led his troops to victory over the Swedes. His widow, Empress Catherine I, established the order in 1725 as both a military & civil award & it was directly after the Order of St. Andrew in terms of prestige. The Empress’s Cabinet ordered the service for sixty covers & it was used on the saint’s feast day, August 30. On this service, see Nataliia Sipovskaia, “Ordenskie servizy,” Pinakoteka No. 5 (1998), pp. 16-31.
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