Paradise on Porcelain - Catherine the Great’s Green Frog Service

Paradise on Porcelain - Catherine the Great’s Green Frog Service

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This talk is the third in our online series exploring how flowers and gardens have inspired ceramic artists and collectors, on Mons @ 6pm

About this event

Our second series exploring how gardens and flowers have influenced and inspired other arts and crafts turns to ceramics. This lustrous material was invented centuries ago in China and has long been regarded as rare, beautiful and highly sought after, and by the 18th Century the secret of making and firing this material had been discovered in Europe. Porcelain provided an ideal background for painted decoration, and botanical designs and landscapes provided a rich source of inspiration. Three of our talks provide a brief chronology of floral images and themes on porcelain from the symbolism of Chinese peonies to the botanical depictions of ‘Sir Hans Sloane’s plants’. We also look at the eighteenth century fashion for illustrating topographical views on ceramics, including the iconic Green Frog Service and the depiction of the circuit created at Hafod, as well as other picturesque views, all of which have provided objects of great beauty, usefulness and prestige, as well as being an invaluable tool for the modern researcher.


This ticket is for this individual session and costs £5, and you may purchase tickets for other individual sessions via the links below, or you may purchase a ticket for the entire course of 6 sessions at a cost of £24 via the link here.

Attendees will be sent a Zoom link 2 days prior to the start of the talk, and again a few hours before the talk. A link to the recorded session (available for 1 week) will be sent shortly afterwards.

Due to a recent Apple decision to charge a 30% fee for paid online events unfortunately you may no longer be able to purchase this ticket from the Eventbrite iOS app. Please use a web browser on desktop or mobile to purchase or follow the link here.


Week 1. 14th November: Flowers and the Gardens of Asia. First in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 2. 21st November: Flowers and Magnificence in 18th Century Europe. Second in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 3. 28th November: Catherine the Great’s Green Frog Service. Third in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 4. 5th December: Flowers and the British Garden. Fourth in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 5. 12th December: In Search of the Picturesque. Fifth in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.

Week 6. 19th December: The Derby Hafod Service. Last in a series of 6 online lectures, £5 each or all 6 for £24.


Week 3. 28th November: English landscapes glimpsed on Catherine the Great’s Green Frog Service with Caroline Holmes

In 1762 Catherine II acceded to the Russian throne. Within 10 years, as the taste for the French baroque moved towards a more ‘natural’ approach to landscaping, employing English gardeners had become all the rage. Catherine wrote to Voltaire: I love English gardens to the point of folly; serpentine lines, gentle slopes, marshes turned into lakes, islands of dry ground, and I deeply despise straight lines. … in a word, my plantomania is dominated by anglomania. Negotiations were opened with Josiah Wedgwood to create a 50-person set of 90 pieces for dinner and dessert in creamware paste (rather than the finer porcelain). Her Anglomania was pampered by some 1,222 views of castles, abbeys, stately homes and gardens, and scenes of town and country not forgetting natural curiosities in Britain. Each piece had a green frog device for her ‘English’ residence on the road between St Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo which she affectionately called La Grenouilliere, thus it has become known as the Green Frog Service. It is a marvellous product of Enlightenment and Industry in eighteenth century England. Most pieces are in The Hermitage.

Image: Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire, Frog Service, Wedgwood, 1774 © Birmingham Museum of Art


Caroline Holmes is an experienced and accomplished lecturer working for a wide range of organisations including leading tour and cruise operators. She is an Accredited Lecturer of The Arts Society and is also a Course Director for the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education. Her own gardens are open to the public and have featured in many magazine articles and on television in both Britain and Japan. She is author of 12 books, her latest being Where the wildness pleases – the English garden celebrated (2021).


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