Frog service dessert plate - 1773
Queen's ware dessert plate painted in monochrome with a 'View of Castle Acre Castle, Norfolk'. This was the first dessert plate to be decorated for this service, however it was incorrectly painted with the oak-leaf border of the dinner wares and, therefore, could not be sent to St Petersburg. The 'Frog Service' was ordered by Empress Catherine II of Russia.
In June 1774 a notice appeared in several London newspapers, Josiah Wedgwood and his partner, Thomas Bentley, informed the nobility and gentry that those who desired could obtain tickets to see ‘a Table and Dessert service now set out, at their new rooms in Greek Street’. With this modest statement the fashionable London society learnt about one of the most important and extravagant commissions to be carried out by Josiah Wedgwood.The service, now universally referred to as the ‘Frog Service’ was commissioned by Empress Catherine II (the Great) of Russia. It was intended for her gothic-style pleasure palace that was to act as a resting point on the route between the winter and summer palaces. The building was in the English taste and was to be appropriately equipped in the English manner.Catherine II had been introduced to the idea of English gardens and landscapes and requested that each piece of the dinner and dessert service, for 50 people, should be hand-painted with different views of British scenery.The views were copied, by Wedgwood & Bentley’s team of 30 artists employed at the Chelsea decorating studios, from existing engravings, published topographical books and pictures provided by landowners anxious to have their property depicted on the prestigious service. A catalogue was prepared and sent to the Empress detailing the location of each view.The majority of the service has survived and is now in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.
- Type of object: Dessert ware/plate
- Year first produced: 1773
- Body: Queen's ware, cream-coloured earthenware
- Material: ceramic
- Decoration: hand-painted
- Accession number: 5379
Catherine II, Empress of Russia
Catherine II, Empress of Russia - Associated (1729 - 1796)
The daughter of the Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, she married Peter, heir to the Russian throne in 1745. Her husband only reigned for a few months before he was murdered, and their son Paul I, was also assassinated. Catherine was exceptionally clever, and Josiah regarded her as his ‘great patroness of the north’. Catherine was a passionate anglophile purchasing from Wedgwood two services – the first in the ‘Husk’ pattern – which featured hand-painted botanical specimens hand-enamelled in mulberry pink – the second was a dinner and dessert service in Queen’s ware which was intended for the palace of La Grenouillière. Each of the 952 pieces bore the emblem or crest of a frog in green enamel, and the ware was decorated with 1244 ‘real views of Great Britain’ painted in a ‘delicate black’ – in reality a sepia tone. Wedgwood in a clever marketing ploy exhibited the service at his newly opened showrooms located at Portland House, Greek Street, Soho prior to its dispatch to Russia. The majority of the service has survived and can be seen at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Catherine went on to purchase Wedgwood jasper plaques, and other ornamental wares. The Scottish architect, Charles Cameron designed three suites of apartments for Catherine’s palace at Tsarskoe Selo – unfortunately the palace was destroyed during the siege of Leningrad.