What is the authentique Russian Lacquered Miniature?
long time of its history Art of Russian lacquer miniatures
has passed different periods: success, golden age and misfortune,
stagnation that are natural for any art. Though in the last
decades there was a distorted idea of lacquer miniature.
There are several reasons for it.
Firstly, the majority
of works of the current period is not available for public,
all the best and significant works go to private collections
escaping not only museums, but also exhibitions. Secondly,
several new workshops have appeared and they couldn't become
worthy successors of united workshop which existed in Soviet
period and guaranteed high quality of it's articles. Earlier
a clear distinction was made between the mass production
and the unique works, appropriate control was made on the
state level.In conditions of the market economy nobody controls
it, today different artists come into the art market, artists
with different talent, professional education and skill.
And rather frequently not the best of them make an image
of contemporary lacquer miniatures.
Thirdly, and this is most important, many mass imitations
and falsifications appeared in the market and it was also
negative for the image of Russian lacquer miniatures.
Fakes - is for the sure
the biggest and most serious problems of nowadays on the
market of Russian lacquered boxes. They are absolutely everywhere
- in the many galleries and gift shops all over the world,
in many Internet sites, in many tourist places of Moscow.
There are gift stalls in the airports and large railway
stations too, with many inexpensive boxes. The salespeople
assure that all of them are real Fedoskino, Palekh, Mstera
or Holui boxes. How can an original box be recognized?
The task of this site
is to introduce the real Art of Russian lacquer miniatures
to public, to show the authentic items, which can be recognized
real high class works and process of painter's creative.
We are going to help the customer to understand what is
a mass copy production and what is original.
There are four schools
of Russian lacquered miniatures art: Fedoskino, Palekh,
Kholui and Mstera. Actually, Fedoskino was the first Russian
art school that adopted the style of oriental «lakwear».
Artists of Fedoskino use oil-painting. This is the most
sufficient distinction. The Fedoskino miniature is realistic.
The three-layer painting technique used in Fedoskino provides
depth and volume of the works. The painting look real and
alive and you can almost breathe the air of landscapes and
subject stages. Fedoskino lacquer miniature painting is
a longstanding trade. It is more than 250 years old. The
traditional technology of the papier-mache lacquer box making
is maintained carefully. It is based upon the classical
multilayer oil painting techniques used by the old masters.
Centuries on experience have proven that Fedoskino boxes
remain in pristine condition for many, many decades. They
can become heirlooms passed from generation to generation.
Palekh, Mstera and Kholui use egg tempera technique of painting.
The point is that these villages have initially been icon-painting
authentiques Russian lacquered items are expensive, but
why? Making a box requires a lot of time and labor. The
process before painting takes several months. Only the natural
materials are used and all of them are rather expensive.
The box painted by a master is not a souvenir but a work
WHAT THE BOX IS MADE OF
of contents and esthetics of Russian lacquer miniatures
one should mention technical sides of art, because it greatly
determines it's quality. Authentiques Russian lacquer miniatures are painted only on
papier-mache. It's not an accidental choice. This material
has been used for many centuries and proved itself to be
a good advantage. In contrast to wood, it is "stable" and
is a solid base for lacquer painting.
sellers offer boxes of "independent artists" who use newer "less
traditional" materials, like orgalite (a fine-grain particle
board, similar to masonite), and in most cases, these boxes
will be sound for many decades..". Do not trust them ! Such
"works of art" don't live for long. In the long run these
boxes warp, painting "buckles" or cracks. Such "gift" won't
give you pleasure.
So it's good to check "the
sound" of the box you examine. The cover should be half-opened
and slightly clapped opening and closing the box. The sound
produced must be soft and muffled. If the sound is clear
and woody this box is most likely to be made not of papier-mache
but of hardboard (pressed cardboard used in construction)
or of some kind of plastic.
For making different
forms, on take porous card-board of conifer wood cut into
stripes of different size and width and wind them up on
blanks of different forms, each stripe is glued with a paste
and then the form is dried under press, soaked with drying
oil, and is dried again. The case, bottom and covers are
made separately, and then joined. The finished item is primed,
painted and covered with lacquer. It takes from one up to
two or three months to «create» one item, depending
on complexity of the form. Acceleration is impossible because
the item must «ripen».
HOW THE MINIATURE IS PAINTED
applying aluminium power to the lacquer layer, the paint
applied over such a base will not grow dull. If transparent
paint is applied, the metal powder will shine through; thereby
producing an impressive effect.
Sometimes metal foil or mother of pearl pieces are used
as a base to paint on. They create a glow through the thin
layers of paint applied over them. Artist start a work by
using tracing paper to transfer the lines drawing onto the
is a start a work which carried by appling the first layer
of paint to build up the basic colors and shades. The work
is then dried in an oven at 60 deg C. This is neccessary
because oil paint requires a long time to dry at room temperature
and paints such as lamp black will not dry at all. After
this first layer is dry, master apply a thin layer of lacquer
and then the work is again dried in an oven.
"Overpainting". In this step
the details are carefully painted, the shades are deepened,
and the light is enhanced. The work is again dried, relacquered,
and redried. After each relacquering, the work is polished
with pumice power. This removes all the small surface bubbles
and roughness as well as prepares the work for the next
layer of painting.
is the last step or layer and the name speaks for itself.
It is the time to put in accents, highlights, and the finest
of details. Again the work is dried in an oven. We now come
to the final step, appling 10 layers of lacquer which are
dried in an oven after each layer is applied.
The last step is to
make the box itself look splendid. I use a small steel pen
to paint an ornamental pattern on the sides of the box.
After being relacquered no less than 10 times, the box must
now be polished with the same oil paint named "green
rouge". A slow turning polishing wheel is used untill
a glassy even surface is obtained. The final polishing is
done by hand. The box is now ready for display.
An original box by Fedoskino
artist is usually signed by the author in the following
order: Fedoskino. Year of release. Subject name. The
author: signature. A copy is signed in the following order:
Fedoskino. Year of release. Subject name (optional). Performer
(optional). Signature. The original box issued by the Fedoskino
factory has a serial number in this line. This number is
included in the protocol of the art council. Sometimes the
artist uses a semi-finished product (the box itself). These
boxes are made by special request, not in the semi-finished
product workshop of the Fedoskino factory. The manufacturing
quality of such semi-finished products is often much higher.
They may have original shape and have no trademark on the
inner side of cover. In this case, the artist can put their
signature, year of manufacturing and subject name here.
BE WATHFUL !
lacquer painting technique is a durable and hard work which
permits to create painting corresponding to a high image
of Russian lacquer art. Learning at the art schools for
5 years, future artists get to know elements of the craft
and only later, after many years of work together with experienced
teachers, step by step, they master the essence of the image
structure of the lacquer miniature, certainly mastering
the painting technique. Future artist starts his training
from copying the works that lets him to bring the painting
skill to perfection. At the same time, he tries to create
his own composition, developing the image-bearing way of
thinking. Without it a painter is condemned to make merely
copies, only changing and modifying them a little.
When you are choosing
a box it's not bad to have a magnifying glass. With this
simple tool it is easy to tell painting from a card or a
photo pasted on the box cover. The magnifying glass also
lets you have a good look at the details. Rough and clumsy,
"childish" painting means that this is not a work
performed by the master of miniature painting. The case
must be ornamented carefully, ornament details are to be
Here we are not talking
about other more sophisticated attributes, which differ
original box from fake. But we can mention them: a special
technique in painting the naked places of people body (legs,
arms, faces), special proportions of figures, special rules
of painting mounts, trees, other floral objects. Every professional
expert knows nearly each painter in Fedoskino and knows
the unrepeatable style of all their works - so he can see
the masterpiece and compare the signature of the painter
with the style of current work and if it is certain difference
- he tell for sure - This is fake! After having some experience
of collecting and looking at the real ones, if you have
a good eye for the beauty – you’ll got it yourself,
before that - trust the respectful sources not the street
vendors. Therefore, if a box costs less than $ 80 you'd
better watch out.
So be watchful. By the
way: if you see a street dealer selling a Rolex watch for
50$ you won't even fancy that it is original. Quite the
same is with the original Russian lacquer miniatures