Early 19th-Century French Empire Botanical Plates
In 1917, my mother was a child of seven, living in Saint Petersburg. They lived on Ekaterina Canal, which is about two blocks from what is now the Hermitage. And in 1917, her father went to an auction that was held immediately following the revolution, and he came home with these plates. My mother married an American, she came to the United States in 1935. And they were a wedding present to her from her mother. And she brought them with her. So, in essence, we think that these were part of the Hermitage, at some point.
That appears to be where they came from. Well, let's talk a little bit about the plates themselves. They're what we call botanical plates, which are plates, obviously, depicting various types of flowers. In the early 1800s, there was an obsession with painted flowers. And you find books and papers and lots of things with this type of illustration on them. They're beautifully done. And the way we can date these is particularly by the border here-- this gilded border. And these are actually not Russian plates, but they are French plates. But there's an interesting tie-in here, because the Russians were very, very impressed with the decorative arts coming out of France throughout the 1700s and the early 1800s, as well. So it is logical that these actually went from Paris, which is where they were most likely made, to Russia. Now, they're not marked on the back, as we can see. They have no markings here. This is the only one that has a star crack on the back. So this one, actually, with the star crack is the only one that has any real condition issues. But if you look carefully at the painting, each one is different and each one is beautifully done. But as far as I know, there were no auctions at the Hermitage after the revolution. There was a lot of pilfering and a lot of chaos. But as far as I know, there was no sign that said, "Yard sale here" at the Hermitage. (laughing) They are absolutely lovely plates. This is actually a luncheon set, probably part of a larger service. It would've had platters and compotes and whatnot. But they're beautifully done. They were made sometime between 1800 and about 1820. I would put the value at auction of the whole group somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000. The ones that are undamaged are probably worth around $500 apiece. And this one, with the damage, maybe $200, $300, so... But it's a lovely group of plates. And I wish I could tell you they're absolutely from the Czar's collection, but I don't think so. But I'm really glad you brought them down, 'cause they're a lovely set of plates.
Thanks very much.
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