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RUSSIAN LACQUER BOXES

THE STORY OF RUSSIAN LACQUER MINIATURE PAINTING


There are few art lovers who have not heard of Palekh. Its art has been called "a
small miracle." Lacquered miniatures, as bright as the feathers of the legendary
Firebird, originate here, taking the inspired poetic art of the wondrous village and
its magnificent artists and craftsmen to the far corners of the world.

Palekh is an unusual village, a bit of ancient Russia, in which the past and the
present coexist. Log houses with intricately carved lattices stand opposite modern
brick buildings. There are street pumps, and the crowing of roosters can be heard
above whatever traffic there is. Each house stands among poplars, acacias, and
rowan trees. Here the soft hues of the Russian countryside are both a part of every-
day village life and an endless source of inspiration for the artists.

Icons found in old Russian churches attest to the glory of the painters of Palekh, who
were famed for their Icon painting in ancient times. The secrets of the craft were
handed down from father to son.

After 1918, the demand for Icons stopped and the artists turned their efforts towards
the making of miniature boxes, jewelry, panels, etc. based on the rich Russian folk -
lore, fairy-tales, folksongs and dances, legends and chronicles from ancient times,
and stories from the imaginative giants of Russian literature such as Alexander
Pushkin, the latter to be also the basis for many of the Operas and Ballets which we
enjoy today.

The boxes come not only from Palekh, but also from three other villages-Mstera,
Fedoskino and Kholui - each with its own unique and individual style and interpretation
of the various subjects. Fedoskino is noted for the way its artists achieve a
wondrously luminous quality on snow, dancers' costumes and flowers by the use
of overlays of transparent colors.

The designs are handpainted on a specially treated papier mache. The basic boxes
themselves are a feat of technical skill and are beautiful before a single stroke of
design is applied. The colors are oriental in inspiration - rich oranges, reds and
yellows, brilliant blues and opulent golds-on backgrounds of jet black or red.

The production is necessarily limited, but each box is surely worth waiting for. No
two, even if on the same subject, are ever exactly alike. For example, in the "Coq
D'Or" series, one box will show the presentation of the Golden Cockerel to King
Dodon by the Sorcerer, another may show Dodon and his courtiers, still another will
show King Dodon in his sumptuous bedroom with oriental rugs and draperies painted
in beautiful detail, while a fourth depicts the appearance of Queen Shemakha outside
her tent.

Whether a box shows a lovely Victorian bouquet of flowers or deals with ordinary
peasant life, a fairy tale, or an ancient legend, each one is a signed original and a
collector's item of heirloom quality.
#380299 Book "FEDOSKINO" - Moscow, Izobrazitelnoe Iskusstvo Publishers, 1984, This beautiful album focuses on highly original art in Russia an Fedoskino school in particular of miniature painting on lacquered papier-mache boxes with 176 exquisite full-color plates in Russian and English translation in back. The book is in mint condition, but the outside jacket is riped.
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buy it
$40.00

PALEKH

DESCRIPTION OF SOME OF THE LEGENDS AND STORIES PAINTED
ON RUSSIAN LACQUER BOXES


COQlD'OR (THE GOLDEN COCKEREL): An opera by Rimsky-Korsakov was based
on this story by Alexander Pushkin. The Golden Cockerel is given to King Dodon by
his Astrologer when the King is beset by troubles surrounding his Kingdom. The
Cockerel has a gift of prophecy and is thus able to warn the King whenever his
enemies approach. The Cockerel saves the King from disaster many times by his
warning crows and the Kingdom prospers as a result. The King meets the beautiful
Queen Shemakha and his happiness is complete. However, when the Astrologer demands
payment for the Cockerel, King Dodon kills him. The King is then killed by the avenging
Golden Cockerel.

THE FIREBIRD: An ancient fairy tale, upon which is based the magnificent ballet
by Igor Stravinsky. The young hero, Prince Ivan, crosses mountains and fields to find the
magic forest in which the legendary Firebird lives. His aim is to obtain a feather from
the Firebird, by means of which he can lift the spell which has been placed on his Beloved.
The boxes show the weaving exotic ferns and brightly colored shrubs and bushes in the
magic forest, as well as the exquisitely delineated folds of the hero's clothes. The fabulous
Firebird symbolizes freedom and joy.

THE SNOWMAIDEN: An old folk tale. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote an opera based on
this "Legend of Springtime." The setting is the land of Berendeys in prehistoric times. The
Snowmaiden, daughter of Spring and Frost, wants to live the life of a mortal and is placed in
the care of two childless villagers. She is safe from death by the sun's rays only so long as
she is innocent of love. She is happy as a mortal and very soon the handsome Mizguir falls
in love with her, wooing her with his wondrous flute playing. The Snowmaiden falls in love
with him and while she is with Mizguir, the sun touches her and she disappears.

RUSLAN AND LUDMILLA: A poem by Pushkin, upon which an opera by Glinka
is based. The story starts at the court of Svietosar, where the Grand Duke is entertaining his
daughter Ludmilla's three suitors-Ruslan, Ratmir and FarIaf. When the festivities are at their
height, Ludmilla mysteriously disappears. Svietosar promises his daughter to the suitor who
finds her. Ruslan learns from a Sorcerer that Ludmilla has been abducted by a dwarf,
Chernomor. He is also warned about the witch Naina, who is Farlaf's ally. FarIaf, meanwhile,
visits the witch for help. Her advice is to allow Ruslan to find Ludmilla and then to kidnap
her from Ruslan. The scene changes to a battlefield, where Ruslan kills a breathing Head,
under which lies a magic sword. By means of this magic sword, Ruslan is able to overcome
all obstacles and win Ludmilla as his bride.

PRINCE IGOR: An old Russian chronicle. An opera was written by Borodin based on this legend. In the twelfth century, the Polovitzi a Tartar race of Central Asia capture
Prince Igor and his son Vladimir. Khan Kontchak, the Polovetzian leader, assures Prince Igor that he is a guest and not a captive and entertains him with a lavish feast and oriental
dances. He offers him his freedom if he is ready to promise not to fight the Polovitzi. Igor cannot do this. He effects his escape and returns to his own people and to his wife
Yaroslavna. His son, in love with the Khan's daughter, refuses to flee and is accepted by the Khan as a son-in-law.

Other subjects shown on the boxes include well known fairy tales such as "Sleeping Beauty", "The Enchanted Frog-Princess", "The Magic Carpet" and "Vasilisa the Beautiful", also scenes
from legends such as "Don Quixote", "Sadko" and "The Prophet Oleg.". The wonders of
ancient Byzantine architecture are depicted in all their detailed splendor. The ancient cities and monasteries of Suzdal, Uglich, Rostov and Pokrov make wonderful subjects.

In addition, the artists paint scenes from peasant life or landscapes. Many boxes simply show lovely bouquets of spring or summer flowers or various birds or animals. Legendary
Russian Troykas are pictured in different ways-on some boxes the horses are shown jogging along the luminescent snow and on others they rear up in a frenzy of mythological splendor.

#280110 Small Palekh, round, black lacquer box, depicting Sadko playing gusli for a young Sea Maiden coming out of the water, signed "#15138, Palekh, 1970, Kosarev.", with elaborately decorated bottom border. Size: 2.375" in diameter x 0.875" high or 59mm in diameter and 22mm high. Mint condition.
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buy it
$250.00
#380300 Medium Palekh rectangular black lacquer box, depicting Tsarevna walking toward Palace with a poison apple in her hand, signed "Palekh, "Tale of Sleeping Tsarevna", Kotov L.", with elaborately decorated borders, Made in Russia sticker inside, 5.25" x 3.5" x 1.25" high or 130mm x 88mm x 33mm high. Near mint condition.
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buy it
$195.00
#380301 Small Palekh rectangular black lacquer box with bombe chest style sides on small legs, depicting winter ride on Troyka. Signed: "Palekh, "Troyka", Serov", with elaborately decorated borders. Most likely an imitation or possibly recent work. Size: 2" x 4.25" x 1.375" high or 105mm x 52mm x 35mm high. Excellent condition, but with very light lacquer cracking on top.
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buy it
$50.00
#380302 Small Palekh hexagonal black lacquer box with bombe chest style sides, depicting a young man catching a firebird, signed: "Palekh, Firebird, P.O.M" with decorated borders. Most likely an imitation or possibly recent work. Size: 3.25" x 4" x 1.5" high or 95mm x 80mm x 35mm high. Lightly crackled lacquer on top, otherwise excellent condition.
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buy it
$40.00
#280111 Medium Palekh black lacquer box with elaborately decorated bottom border, depicting a horseman with a spear at a crossroad by the tree. Signed: "#13033, Palekh, Lapina F. 1974" . Size: 5" x 5" x 2" high or 125mm x 125mm x 43mm high, near mint condition.
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buy it
$250.00
#340423 Small Palekh "Persian Casket" style black lacquer box with bombe chest style sides, and elaborately decorated borders and details, depicting 5 scenes of Pushkin’s Fairy Tales. Signed: "Palekh, "Pushkin’s Fairy Tales", Zheglev" Size: 2.5" x 1.5" x 3" high or 60 mm x 40 mm and 75 mm high. Very rare and unusual form of boxes. Light Opera Gallery in San Francisco in late 80-ies used to sell them for $2,500 to $4,500. Mint condition.
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buy it
$1,000.00
#340424 Small Palekh "Persian Casket" style black lacquer box with elaborately decorated borders and details on 4 small legs, depicting 5 scenes of various Russian Fairy Tales, signed "Palekh, art(ist) Zuov". Size: 1.75" x 1.75" 2.25" high, or 47 mm x 47 mm and 65 mm high. Very rare and unusual form of boxes. Light Opera Gallery in San Francisco in late 80-ies used to sell them for $2,500 to $4,500. Light crackling of the glaze.
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buy it
$500.00
#340425 Small Palekh red lacquer box with bowed top and elaborately decorated sides, depicting a scene from the "The Stone Flower" fairy tale, signed "Palekh, Borisova". Size: 2" x 1.625" x 1.375" high or 50 mm x 40 mm and 35 mm high. Mint condition.
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buy it
$350.00
#430178 PALEKH papier-mache hinged double lacquer jewelry box, hand painted by A.B. titled and depicting a scene from Russian folk tale “The Little Humpbacked Foal”. Elaborately pained with gold decoration on all sides of both boxes, on 4 short legs, 70 mm x 70 mm, 60 mm tall, excellent condition
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buy it
$195.00

LIPETSK
#280113 Small black lacquer box with elaborately decorated sides, depicting a young man on a jumping horse trying to reach the Princess, Signed: "Sivka-Burka" Lipetsk, Klokov V. Size: 3.75" x 3" x 1.5" high or 95mm x 78mm x 37mm high. Few very small chips on the bottom and under the cover, otherwise very good condition. Beautiful box from a scarce manufacturer.
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buy it
$250.00

MSTERA
#250361 Large Mstera black lacquer box, depicting a very elaborate and detailed scene from a fairytale titled "Mermaid". Signed: "Mstera, "Mermaid", N.P." Size: 5.625" x 6.875" x 1.5" high or 175mm x 145mm x 40mm high, very minor wear and small chips, but not on the painting.
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buy it
$295.00
#290570 Medium Mstera black lacquer box depicting hunter saving a swan from a hawk. Signed: "Mstera, "Czar Sultan’s Fable" K. A." with original 1980 sale tag from the manufacturer. Size: 4" x 4.875" x 1.625" high or 125 mm x 105 mm x 43mm high. Excellent condition.
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buy it
$195.00
#290571 Small round Mstera black lacquer box, depicting a couple enjoying winter Troyka ride. Signed: "Mstera, "Troyka", M. T." Size: 3.5" in diameter x 1.25" high or 88mm in diameter x 34mm high, few minor chips on the bottom part, otherwise very good condition.
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buy it
$150.00
#380303 Small Mstera round black lacquer box, depicting young man approaching maiden carrying buckets with water, signed "Mstera, "Down the paved road", Yu. C., with elaborately decorated border on top. Size: 3.375" diameter x 1" high or 88mm diameter x 25mm high. Excellent condition with one tiny scrape on the bottom of the cover.
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buy it
$150.00
#250362 Mstera black lacquer miniature small telephone book, elaborately painted, titled "Combat" signed I SP Malysheva, "Mstera", with 1987, 88 and 1989 calendars and views of cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, 110mm x 80mm, mint condition.
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buy it
$100.00
#250363 Mstera black lacquer miniature small telephone book, depicting a young man catching fish, with 1989, 90 and 1991 calendars and color views of cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, 110mm x 80mm, mint condition.
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buy it
$50.00
#250364 Mstera black lacquer miniature small telephone book, depicting a scene from "Golden Cock" tale, with 1991, 92 and 1993 calendars and color views of cities of Vladimir and Suzdal, 110mm x 80mm, mint condition.
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buy it
$50.00

KHOLUY
#340422 Special "premium" "Author’s Edition" middle size Kholuy hinged black lacquer box with bombe chest style sides, depicting young couple embracing in a hay stack, surrounded by animals, sides heavily decorated with scenes of animals in natural surrounding and ornaments. Signed on the bottom: "Author's Work / "Summer Night" / art(ist) Kurnikova T. / papier-mache, egg / tempera, gold, etc. / Kholuy / 1999" in six lines. It is packed in specially made silk sack in original wooden box. A very rare and unusual piece in mint condition.
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buy it
$500.00
#340427 Small Kholuy red lacquer box, depicting a hero of fairytale "Konyok-Gorbunok" picking up firebird's feather, with elaborately decorated sides. Signed: "Feather of the Firebird", Kholuy, Gordienko T.N." on the top and "Made in USSR" on the bottom. Size: 2.75" x 1.375 x 1.75" high or 70 mm x 35 mm and 45 mm high. Was bought at Light Opera Gallery in San Francisco in late 80ies for $310. Tiny chip on the top.
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buy it
$195.00
#380304 Small Kholuy square black lacquer box, with decorated sides and borders, depicting fairytale hero Sadko meeting Sea Princess, signed "Kholuy, "Sadko", Ch. N." Size: 1.75" x 1.75" x 1.25" high or 45 mm x 45 mm x 35 mm high. In original box, mint condition.
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buy it
$95.00
#340428 Small Kholuy black lacquer hinged box, with very elaborately decorated sides on four small legs, depicting a city view of St. Petersburg, signed: "St. Petersburg" Kholuy, Vladimirov." Size: 3.375" x 2.5" x 2"high or 85 mm x 65 mm and 50 mm high. Mint condition.
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buy it
$200.00
#430174 KHOLUY Papier-mache lacquer box, hand painted by G. Burlakov, titled “Magical Squirrel” from Alexander Pushkin “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”, 150 mm x 82 mm, 35 mm tall. In excellent condition.
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buy it
$195.00
#430175 KHOLUY 1990 papier-mache hinged lacquer box, hand painted by S. Turanova depicting city of Suzdal, 115 mm x 98 mm, 50 mm tall, purchased in USSR in closed store for Foreign Tourists “Beriozka” with enclosed description with it. In excellent condition.
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buy it
$195.00
#430176 KHOLUY Papier-mache hinged lacquer box, hand painted by A. Makarychev depicting Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia 80 mm x 45 mm, 35 mm tall, painted with gold and white decoration all around side panels and has “Holuy with logo” make on the bottom. Small legs, in excellent condition.
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buy it
$95.00

FEDOSKINO
#380305 Small round black lacquer box, with bombe chest style bottom, depicting still life of fruit and exotic bird in excellent classical style, signed: "Karpova" Size: 1.625" diameter x 1.125" high, or 42 mm diameter x 27mm high, Mint condition.
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buy it
$75.00
#430177 FEDOSKINO Papier-mache hinged lacquer box, hand painted by A.V. Solovyev depicting Saint Vasily the Blessed Cathedral in Moscow, Russia. Description on the box reads s. Fedoskino / g. Moscva / Solovyev A.V., 80 mm x 55 mm, 30 mm tall, painted with elaborate gold border around top panel and center of front panel. In excellent condition.
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buy it
$95.00
#290572 Mstera black lacquer flower shaped brooch, titled "Konyok Gorbunok" and dated 1998, Ø 50 mm
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buy it
$30.00

Last updated 12/08/17
(C) 2000 Sema