This pair of vases depicts two paintings by Franz Jansz van Mieris the Elder (1635-1681). Ivan Morozov was the master painter charged with recreating “Lady at her Toilet”, 1660 and Ilya Artemiev « Oyster Eaters », 1659. These paintings originally entered the Hermitage collection in 1769 when Catherine II bought the rather large collection of Count Heinrich von Brühl, German statesman for the court of Saxony and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a few years after his death.
In the summer of 1849, Emperor Nicholas I’s brother Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich Romanov passed away. His widow, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (1807-1873, born Princess Frederika Charlotte Maria of Württemburg) was a well-educated and respected lady and now lived alone at Mikhailovskiy Palace with their daughter Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna (1827-1894). It is most likely that the Emperor and his Empress wanted to convey their appreciation and affection for their sister-in-law that year, especially having suffered such a loss, by offering a gift of considerable value. The Imperial Porcelain Factory received an order from the Minister of the Imperial Court: “The Empress demands to know which gift has been created for Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, please send immediately some suitable creations for their Imperial Highnesses to choose from. 26 December 1849, General Count Volkonskiy.” (RSHA, f.468, op.10, ed.hr. 613, l.8)
Once the Christmas exhibition was over, the Imperial Porcelain Factory was charged with preparation for the delivery of items selected as gifts. From the collection displayed at the Winter Palace in 1849, the following instruction was given for distribution: « To their Imperial Highnesses Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna and Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna: vases of Medici form of the second size with paintings of figures and gold decoration – 2 » (RSHA f.468, op.10, ed.hr. 613, l.42). This pair of Imperial porcelain vases was delivered to the Mikhailovskiy Palace along with other gifts. At a later date, the vases left the Mikhailovskiy Palace not appearing in the palace’s cabinet inventories after 1894. With the marriage of Grand Duchess Ekaterina Mikhailovna to Duke Georg August of Mecklenberg-Strelitz in 1851, the vases were likely relocated to another residence.
We would like to thank Anna Vladimirovna Ivanova, Curator of the Russian Imperial Porcelain Museum for all archival information and authentication.
Julija M. Rogatkina-Ezhikova was considered the most beautiful woman in Moscow. Wife of the important Muscovite fur trader Dmitri M. Rogatkin-Ezhikov, Julija was travelling in Italy when the Russian revolution broke out. She never returned to Russian and married her second husband, Count Bioglio in Rome. After the death of Julija, the count re-married America D.G. who bequeathed the locket to the current owner.