Stories of things. Viewing the dinnerware set of Sergey Efron's mother

November 18

Museum exhibits keep memories not only of their former owners — they can be used to study history. For example, a faience dinnerware set that belonged to Elizabeth Efron (Durnovo), and later to her son Sergei Efron and his wife Marina Tsvetaeva, can both be an evidence of happy and sad events in the life of two families and a witness of the socio-political life in Russia at the turn of the century, and speak about a very famous old porcelain factory too.

You can see the set in the Marina Tsvetaeva House Museum at the From Gagarinsky to Trehprudny exhibition, that will last until September 1, 2022. To visit the museum, you need a QR code.

Family dinnerware set

A beautiful blue-and-white faience dinnerware set made at the F.Ya Gardner porcelain factory was Sergei Efron’s memory of his beloved mother, whom he lost at the age of 16.  The set has not been completely preserved, the surviving part of it is now in the Marina Tsvetaeva House Museum.

The plates have slightly wavy edges, there is a blue border with a gold outline on the outer edge and an openwork geometric ornament shaped as isosceles triangles on the inner one. The set also includes a similarly decorated two handle gravy boat with a removable lid. The items have a gold monogram — the initials "E.D." (Elizabeth Durnovo) in Gothic script with a pink and gold crown above them.

Дом-музей Марины Цветаевой

Marina Tsvetaeva who married Sergei Efron in church in 1912, loved this set very much. After the wedding, the couple brought many things from their homes to the common house. The dishware set took its place of honor in the house in Borisoglebsky Lane, where the family moved in 1914, and was carefully kept for many years. The family faience tableware was among the things that Marina Tsvetaeva took with her when she left Russia in 1922 (she left half of the set to her husband's sister, Elizabeth Efron). Perhaps, looking at the openwork patterns, Tsvetaeva recalled the wonderful summer of 1911, when she met Efron in Koktebel.

Young Marina and Sergei arrived there at the invitation of Maximilian Voloshin. He — a famous poet, critic and artist — was friends with the Efron family of political emigrants during his years in Paris. Voloshin first met Tsvetaeva, then a high school student, after the publication of her debut collection of verses The Evening Album, of which he published a warm welcome. This review was the beginning of their acquaintance that grew into a lifelong friendship. Tsvetaeva's first collection by that time won the favor of many writers, including Nikolai Gumilev and Valery Bryusov.

Сергей Эфрон и Марина Цветаева

Talking with Voloshin once, the young girl made a wish that she would connect her life only with someone who would guess her favorite stone from all the gems that the Koktebel coast was rich in. Efron, in love with her, not just guessed: he found and presented her with a carnelian bead that became one of the poetess’s most favorite things.

Sergey Efron 's mother

Elizaveta Petrovna Efron, nee Durnovo, graduated in the 1870s from the Higher Women's Courses of Guerrier (now Moscow State Pedagogical University). Interested in the revolutionary movement, she joined the Tchaikovtsy populist society and later became a member of the Black Redistribution anarcho-populist organization. She tried to help like-minded people as much as possible, including financially. In 1880, she was arrested while transporting illegal literature from Moscow to St. Petersburg and sent to the Peter-and-Paul Fortress. Once set free on a bail by her father, Durnovo went abroad, where Yakov Efron followed her — the young people got acquainted in Moscow at a the secret meeting. He adopted Lutheranism, and after having children, they married in church in Marseille in 1885.

Елизавета Петровна Дурново-Эфрон и Яков Константинович Эфрон

Yakov Konstantinovich eventually lost interest in politics, putting the family at the forefront. But Elizaveta Petrovna, having raised her elder children (nine children were born, but only six sons and daughters survived, among whom Sergei Efron, who was the fifth), began to cooperate with the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries, or SR. Forbidden literature was kept in the house in Gagarinsky Lane, where the family lived. She was re-arrested and sent to Butyrskaya prison in 1906. Set free on bail again, she went to France with her youngest son Konstantin, who was called a He-Kitten in the family.

In 1909, the family father died of illness and double tragedy happened in 1910 ― suicides of He-Kitten and the mother. Sergey Efron, who was 16 at the time, was ill with tuberculosis, aggravated by shocks. The Voloshins decided to warm him up from the grief of losing his parents and brother, and save him from the disease, they invited Sergei and his elder sisters Lilya and Vera to stay in their house in summer of 1911. But the real healing for Sergei was a meeting with the love of his life — Marina Tsvetaeva.

Ancient brand marks

The Sergei Efron’s dinnerware set was produced at the Gardner Porcelain factory presumably in the 1870s-1880s. The brand mark is still in place on the reverse side of the plates and the gravy boat: a red stamp shaped as a double-headed eagle and an oval with the image of St. George and the inscription "Fabrik. Gardner: in Moscow No. I. OPAQUE". Opaque is a coarse grade of porcelain. Next to the brand mark there are factory signs pressed in: the image of St. George, the inscription "F.B. Gardner", an asterisk and the number "50".

Дом-музей Марины Цветаевой

The plant was founded in 1766 in the small village of Verbilki, Moscow province. It was opened by a russified merchant from Scotland, Franz Gardner, who had previously been engaged in the timber industry and sugar production. It was not by chance that Gardner chose the remote plant site: this way it was easier to keep secret from competitors everything related to the production process. One of his secrets was a special clay for making porcelain — to find it he spent a lot of time and efforts. Workers, including painters and sculptors, were chosen from those who lived nearby, but some masters were invited from Saxony.

Very soon the Gardner plant won recognition, orders were received even from the imperial court. The company became an exemplary one, its products were repeatedly noted at various exhibitions, including international ones. In 1833, faience items were also produced here — rougher than porcelain, it was easier to produce and cost less.

Дом-музей Марины Цветаевой

In 1856, the factory became a supplier to the court of His Imperial Majesty, and the Moscow coat of arms appeared on porcelain products. This happened in the time of Franz Gardner descendants, who continued to develop his business. Although the main emphasis was still on tea utensils, the chandeliers, decorative items and much more were created here.

In 1892, the plant was sold to industrialist Matvey Kuznetsov, who retained production and even used the old brand marks. After the revolution, the company was nationalized, it became known as the Dmitrovsky Porcelain Factory.


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