Ceramics Study Circle marks 25 years

The Connecticut Ceramics Study Circle will mark its 25th year of presenting learned, sumptuously illustrated and entertaining lectures on antique and modern ceramics with an anniversary celebration to be held at the Riverside Yacht Club, 102 Club Drive, on Monday, Oct. 20.

A hallmark of this special egl-Vase-collection-10-2vent is the opening lecture, “Imperial Russian Porcelain Treasures of the 18th and 19th Centuries,” which will precede a reception to honor past presidents of the organization.

A seated luncheon will follow. The event will start promptly at 11.

Scott Ruby, associate curator of Russian and Eastern European art at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C., will illuminate Russia’s long involvement with producing exquisite porcelain tableware and decorative objects, beginning as early as 1744.

“Few people realize that Russia had one of the earliest porcelain manufactories in Europe,” Mr. Ruby said in a recent email.

He will focus on the “great works” that flowed out of the St. Petersburg factory in astonishing number and array during the 18th and 19th centuries, concluding with the little-studied Soviet period.

In the decorative arts, the 18th Century is defined by a mad scramble by courts all over Europe to discover the well-guarded secret of coveted hard-paste porcelain, then produced solely by China. The Russian court plunged in as early as 1718, when Peter the Great visited Saxony and saw the Meissen works.

Production and styles remained relatively modest until the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796), when her court required great numbers of table sets of the finest quality. This was the “golden age” of Russian porcelain with astonishing dining services, finely wrought gift items and decorative objects flooding the many ceremonial court receptions that Catherine reigned over. Until the end of the Romanov dynasty in 1917, Russian porcelain was second to none, though little known outside the country.

It wasn’t until the Soviet era that collectors began to take notice.

One passionate collector was Marjorie Merriweather Post, heir to the Post cereal fortune, who took up a brief residency in Russia when her husband, Joseph Davies, was appointed ambassador in 1936.

Her timing was fortunate, as Soviet leaders were eager to sell off imperial treasures to fund their industrialization programs. Ms. Post ultimately assembled the largest collection of Russian imperial art outside Russia, now showcased in her former estate, Hillwood, which she bequeathed as a public museum in 1977.

Dr. Ruby is well-positioned to bring Russia’s porcelain treasures to light, having worked with the collection at Hillwood since 2006. He holds a doctorate from the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London, and recently curated “Passion of the Empress: Catherine the Great’s Art Patronage.” In September, he participated in the highly prestigious 2014 Royal Studies program in the United Kingdom.

The recently renovated Riverside Yacht Club will be a welcoming environment for this opening lecture and celebration of CCSC’s quarter-century. The fee for members and guests alike is $50 per person. For information, go to [email protected]

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