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Painting Palekh lacquer is a Russian folk handicraft of miniature painting, which is done with tempera paints on varnished articles made of papier-mâché (small & medium sized boxes, cigarette and powder cases etc.). These boxes are extremely unique, rare and they have a unique Russian history and culture of their own.
The small town of “Palekh” is located in 360 kilometers East from Moscow. This unique and historic town specialized in painting religious Russian orthodox icons for hundreds of years. In 1917 communist philosophy was spreading throughout Russia and this nearly ended the work on the icon artisans. However, many of the original orthodox icon artists quickly shifted to painting “Palekh” lacquer boxes. The artists banded together over the years of 1918 – 1958 to form cooperatives & small art schools to ensure the survival of their unique painting skills and styles. Despite the torments of Stalinism, the Russian people created the State Museum of Palekh Artists (1935) and the Association of Palekh Artists (1935). In the 1960s, during the Russian period of de-Stalinization, these original skilled Russian artists revived the Palekh style and expanded this painting style into Europe and abroad. In the post Stalinist years, an influx of enthusiastic artists also helped ensure the Palekh art would continue to thrive. Today, the lacquer art of Palekh is called "a small miracle", a label particularly fitting since this style of box originated from the same village and from the same painters that specialized in religious icon-painting for many centuries. Many of the skills and techniques that were used in painting famous hand-painted Russian religious icons have been adopted and utilized in making these Palekh boxes. When you hold one of these lacquer boxes in your hand, you will realize that this is something truly special. These boxes have extraordinary detail, with fine lines painted in gold and contrasting colors. Artists use single-hair brushes, real gold and egg tempera paint. Palekh miniature is signed on the same pattern. On the cover of a thing there is a mark of the place of production (Palekh), the date (year) and the author's autograph.
This style of box also has a simple one-color background (usually red inside and black outside) which provides the most contrast with gold leaf accents. In addition to the extraordinary painting, the boxes have several layers (usually 4 to 5) of high gloss clear lacquer coating. The Palekh style is truly unique due to the extraordinary workmanship and attention to detail that these Russian artisans possess and put into each box. Palekh lacquer boxes are famous worldwide as a result of this workmanship. The artists never cut any corners when making these and every single detail is handmade or hand-painted. For centuries to modern days Palekh artists try to balance both “agriculture” and lacquer miniature art. Today, the Palekh lacquer boxes remain in a high-demand both within Russia and around the world and many artists work full time to produce these famous lacquer boxes. The 1980s can be called the “Renaissance Period” of Russian Palekh Art.
Our boxes are transferred to new owners with an original Certificate of Authenticity that guarantees the origin, style, authenticity, and names the artist. Reference: Vadim Shchanitsyn. Palekh and Palekhians. 1994, Zet Industrial Company.