Skip to content

Soviet Propaganda Porcelain: Inside the Imperial Porcelain Factory

Soviet Propaganda Porcelain - Lenin plate

Soviet Propaganda Porcelain - Lenin plateWhile we were in St. Petersburg, we went on a private tour of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and got to see some Soviet propaganda porcelain for the first time. I didn’t know such a thing even existed – I always thought propaganda was largely “limited” to media. That is, posters, movies, radio and TV. But really, nothing says “this moment brought to you by…” quite like polishing off a bowl of soup to find Lenin’s face staring back up at you.

It was a surprisingly interesting visit overall – every piece is individually hand-painted, so the “factory” is really more of an outsized artists’ studio. It was established in 1744, and has survived through from Tsarist to Soviet ownership, and most recently, was purchased by a Russian oligarch as a gift to his wife – it’s now one of the few remaining porcelain factories in Europe that still dates back to the earliest days of porcelain manufacturing. It’s a long history, and Wikipedia can tell you far more about it.

Most of the pieces were used for state purposes – at official functions, or abroad at international exhibits – but much of it was designed to be displayed in people’s homes. Really, not all that different from commemorative plates of the royal family, yes? (And possibly a little less tacky.) An article in the Chicago-Tribune, about a 1992 exhibit of propaganda porcelain at the Art Institute of Chicago explains: “The porcelains that stayed in the big cities of Russia probably were not used for eating or drinking but were displayed in the home like commemorative posters. However, after a restructuring of ceramics production in 1927 there was an increase in the number of cheaper standardized items intended for rural markets. A number of new subjects-electrification, industrialization, collectivization-entered the list of themes treated on porcelains in the early 1930s, when pre-Revolutionary designs and subjects that alluded to Western culture were phased out.” And you can read a bit more about it here. And, you can always stock up on eBay.

For the rest of you, don’t worry, I took pictures. (We weren’t really supposed to have our cameras out in this part of the tour, so a lot of these photos were taken on my phone. That, plus the red background on the display cases… calling Soviet designers…)

Soviet Propaganda Porcelain

Sign up for the Soviet Samovar, my monthly newsletter of all things Russian-Jewish

Comments

ipsum dictum Aliquam tristique mattis vel, ultricies