Mstyora Miniature Lacquer Boxes

Mstyora miniature is a Russian folk handicraft of miniature painting, which is done with tempera paints on varnished articles mostly made of papier-mâché or wood.

Mstyora miniature appeared in a settlement of Mstyora in the early 20th century on the basis of a local icon-painting handicraft. In 1923, they formed a workshop of Mstyora painters called "Ancient Russian Folk Painting" which would be renamed to "Proletarian Art" in 1931. This artists’ workshop was turned into a factory in 1960. The Mstyora painting technology was borrowed from the Fedoskino artists.

The Mstyora miniatures usually represent characters from real life, folklore, literary and history works. Warmth and gentleness of colors, depth of landscape backgrounds (often with blue dales in the back), small size and squatness of human figurines, and subtlety of framing pattern done in gold are typical for the Mstyora miniature.

The lacquer boxes from “Mstera” usually have lighter colors and the painting backgrounds are never black. Some of the most common backgrounds for all artwork are: light blue, red, gold or ivory. Unlike Palekh, Mstera is famous for its wide range of compositions; also every Mstera artist will have a slightly different artistic style. While some artists paint dynamic and colorful scenes from old well-known fairy tales or historic events, others concentrate their skills on exquisite floral designs. Creating a high-quality lacquer box is a long seven step process. Each box is covered with three or four layers of high gloss lacquer (usually black on an outside and red lacquer on an inside of the box). In the process of miniature painting, most artists use several sets of brushes of various thicknesses and very strong magnifying glasses. Finally, artists polish each box to make it extra smooth and shiny.

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