These imperial blanks, some of them decades old, were typically marked with a monogram of the tsar to the base, but these could be covered up or took on a very different meaning when the plates were decorated with propagandist slogans and revolutionary images. It was known as agitfarfor (agitational) porcelain – and was as popular in the west as it was in the homes of Leningrad.
Many pieces celebrate anniversaries. The 10in (24cm) plate offered by Bigwood in Stratford-upon-Avon on September 4 was prominently dated 1921. As well as an image of a hammer, sickle, flowers and four books is a slogan that translates as ‘All Who Are Bold and Young of Heart Should Take Up a Book, a Sickle and a Hammer’.
The various printed and painted marks to the base include the green imperial cypher of Nicholas II dated 1902, an overglaze blue hammer and sickle factory mark dated 1921 plus the painter’s initials and the name of the artist in Cyrillic.
A similar plate is pictured in Revolutionary Ceramics: Soviet Porcelain 1917-1927 by Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky (1990), where the design is attributed to Alexandra Shchekotikhina-Pototskaya (1892-1967). Bigwood’s example was offered with various clippings assembled by the vendor on the topic of Revolutionary porcelain.
Many would have loved to buy it at the estimate of just £40-60 but the hammer price of £8000 (20% buyer’s premium), tendered via thesaleroom.com, was much closer to the sort of sums pieces of this calibre bring at specialist sales.