These imperial blanks, some of them decades old, were typically marked with a monogram of the tsar to the base, but these could be covered up or took on a very different meaning when the plates were decorated with propagandist slogans and revolutionary images.
In the trenches
The 9in (22cm) plate offered by Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium) in Colchester in a timed sale that ended on November 29 was finely painted in sepia with two Soviet soldiers from the ‘Russo-German War’ in conversation in a trench.
The various printed and painted marks to the base include the green imperial cypher of Nicholas II dated 1915, an overglaze blue hammer and sickle factory mark dated 1921 plus a Cyrillic inscription that includes the name of the artist and a description of the scene.
A similar plate is pictured in Revolutionary Ceramics: Soviet Porcelain 1917-1927 by Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky (1990). It is a rare subject.
The Reeman Dansie plate sold at £21,000 against an estimate of £500-700.
Another good example of agitfarfor (agitational) porcelain – as popular in the west as it was in the homes of Leningrad – was a large oval tray offered by Bellmans (22% buyer’s premium) in Sussex on November 21.
Using an 18in (46cm) blank with an obscured green cypher for Nicholas II dated 1895, it was painted in 1920 with a deep border of flowers and leaves beneath a brown line rim. It took £7500.
The £220,000 charger
However, these multi-estimate sums paled in comparison with the huge price achieved at Christie’s (25% buyer’s premium) online sale of Russian art that closed on November 23.
The sum of £220,000 – one of the highest prices ever for Soviet porcelain – was bid for a 14in (35cm) charger by Rudolf Vilde.
Artists from the State Porcelain Factory planned an auction to raise money for victims of the Volga famine of 1921. The State Porcelain Factory archives indicate that a total of five dishes were made to two designs by Vilde.
Three versions of this design of an angel atop an industrial landscape are known (one was shown alongside the original drawing at the 2018 Kuskovo Museum exhibition Rudolf Vilde Porcelain Glass Drawings) with this one bearing the Cyrillic initials ‘EYa’ for the decorator Ekaterina Yakimovskaya. The banner held by the central figure reads To Save the Revolution To Help the Famine Victims with the border inscribed in gilt Workers of the World Unite.
The other platter designed by Vilde in the same year has the more macabre subject of a soldier warding off the figure of death.
Peasant figure makes £7500
Estimated at £300-500, a 7in (18cm) high Soviet porcelain figure of a peasant girl sold to a bidder using thesaleroom.com for £7500 at Swan Fine Art (21% buyer’s premium) in Tetsworth.
The figure marked in red Made in Russia also has impressed marks for the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory, Leningrad.
Made in the 1930s, the model is probably by Natalia Danko.
The sale took place on December 10.