Harlequin and Harlequin Dressed as Colombine, ca. 1770–80
Russian; Verbilky, Gardner Porcelain Factory
Hard–paste porcelain; H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.157, .158)
In 1766, the English entrepreneur Francis Gardner, with the permission of Catherine the Great, established the first great porcelain factory in the Russian empire, in the town of Verbilky. The factory operated under the Gardner name until 1892, when it was acquired by M. S. Kusnetsov, who continued the production as Kusnetsov Brothers until 1917.
This pair of porcelain figures reflects the enchantment of the Saint Petersburg nobility and the imperial court with masquerades, metamorphoses, and theme balls. Such figures also reflect the fascination of the so-called Venice of the North with southern Europe and its theatrical characters, such as those of the commedia dell'arte.