This tureen and stand comprise one of twenty-two such tureens in the most extensive silver service of the second half of the eighteenth century, numbering more than 3,000 items. Catherine the Great commissioned it to be "made in the latest fashion" in Paris. The empress was concerned with the smallest details of the design and production. The sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet, who had been instrumental in introducing the Neoclassical style to the Sèvres porcelain factory, advised on stylistic matters and may have been responsible for some of the drawings, whereas imperial Russian agents periodically supervised the execution at the various workshops involved in filling this large order.
Catherine, born Princess Anhalt-Zerbst, had grown up in comparatively modest circumstances, thus possessed an intense enthusiasm for an opulent court life, in which the decorative arts played an important role. The silver service is a rare document of the exuberant gifts that Catherine showered on her lovers. Count Gregory Orloff (1734–1783) and his four brothers orchestrated the conspiracy of 1762 that dethroned Peter III and brought Catherine to power. In September 1772, Catherine presented the service to Orloff, who "retired" shortly afterward and lived in Gatchina Palace until his death in 1783, after which the crown reacquired the service from Orloff's heirs.
Aside from its bold Neoclassical appearance, a total innovation was the omission of the elaborate centerpiece, or ménage, that had hitherto dominated princely table decorations. The space was now occupied by large tureens on stands and candelabra. Such formal table settings have been known in western Europe as services à la russe since the early nineteenth century.
Inscription: see catalog cards
Marking:  Fleur-de-lis, 2 grains de remède, J N R, device a sheaf of wheat (maker's mark)  Crowned A (Paris charge mark for large silver, 1768-74)  Calyx surrounded by fleurons (Paris charge mark for gold and small silver, 1768-74)  Crowned G (Paris warden's mark, 1770-71)  Little cow (Paris discharge mark for work intended for export, 1765-74[?])  Scepter and crossed anchors, 1784 below (St. Petersburg town mark, 1784)  9 and 1, the numerals stamped individually (Russian standard mark, representing 91 zolotniks pure silver to 5 of alloy)  H M, pellet between, in a rectangle (mark of unidentified Russian assayer Nikifor Moschtjalkin, 1778-1800)  Weevil in rectangle (mark for silver imported into France from countries with customs conventions, 1893 to present)
Location of marks:  twice inside bottom of tureen; under rim of stand  inside bottom of tureen, underneath stand  inside cover, under rim of stand  inside bottom of tureen, underneath stand, under rim of stand  underside of tureen, on insetting rim of cover - on underside of tureen, insetting rim of cover, rim of stand  on rim of tureen, on each handle, on insetting rim of cover, on rim of stand
Gregory Orloff (until d. 1783) ; Catherine II of Russia ; [ Jacques Helft , 1933; sold to MMA ]