In the late 1770s, Catherine II had four gala porcelain services made for the receptions of the Knights of the Imperial Orders. Modeled after medieval orders of chivalry, these orders were established to bestow honors on deserving individuals. The insignia of the Orders consisted of stars, crosses, and ribbons. The receptions of the Knights were held annually at the Winter Palace on the feast days of the Orders’ patron saints.

Catherine commissioned the Order Services from the Gardner porcelain factory whose high quality wares equaled those produced at the Imperial Porcelain factory. Founded in 1766 by the English merchant Francis Gardner, it was one of the first private porcelain factories in Russia. Like the Imperial Factory, the Gardner made use of Dmitry Vinogradov’s porcelain recipe.

The Orders

The Order of St. Andrew (established 1699) was the highest honor of the Russian Empire, awarded to the Imperial Family, ambassadors, and servants of the state. The blue ribbon of St. Andrew was often worn by the Russian royalty and featured on Imperial portraits. The Order’s motto is For Faith and Loyalty, as inscribed on the plate shown here.

The next highest honor after the Order of St. Andrew, the Order of St. George the Triumphant was Russia’s exclusively military award. The St. George Service bears the Order’s motto For Service and Bravery.

The Order of St. Alexander Nevsky (established in 1725) was bestowed on distinguished civilians and war heroes. The Order’s motto is For Labor and Fatherland.

The Order of St. Vladimir (established in 1782) was awarded for achievements in civil service. The non-aristocrat recipients of the Order were raised to the rank of nobility. The plate and saltcellar of the St. Vladimir Service bear the inscription For Service, Honor, and Glory.