Lacquer miniature is a type of traditional arts and crafts which differs in execution of complex tiny painting on a product made of paper-mache. Painting is called lacquer one because the boxes (usually used for keeping jewelry or important papers) are decorated with a complex lacquer miniature.
The history of the Russian lacquer miniature started in 1795 when in the village of Danilkovo (part of Fedoskino village) the merchant Ivan Korobov created production of lacquer visors for military visor-caps of the Russian army. Soon production of snuffboxes and lacquer boxes began.
The first lacquer miniature boxes were very expensive therefore only members of the imperial family were able to afford them. The production technology of lacquer miniatures represents a very difficult and labor-intensive process demanding special skills and high professionalism. The caskets and the boxes are still made on technology created by Mr Korobov more than 200 years ago. Creation of a paper-mache base takes about 6 weeks. Paper-mache is a mixture made of cardboard and starch glue. Products turn out to be very light, strong and unlike wood are not subject to cracks. But certainly, the main value is lacquer miniatures. Artists usually use magnifying glass and the thinnest brushes made of a squirrel tail for creation of the works. Creation of one casket can take up to one year! In Russia there are only four schools – centers of lacquer miniature paintings: Palekh, Fedoskino, Mstera and Holui schools.
Each school possesses its own equipment and style. Fedoskino is known for its realistic images, multilayered painting technology, oil dyes. The main plots of Fedoskino’s lacquer miniatures are landscapes and portraits (some of which are copies of world famous pictures). Artists of Holui, Mstera and Palekh schools tend to national themes. The main subjects of their lacquer miniatures are fairytale scenes, rural life images, and of course, symbol of Russia – well-known “Troika” (Three horse carriage). Holui, Mstera and Palekh Schools use egg tempera as technique.
During creation of a lacquer miniature only high-quality expensive materials such as gold leaf, mother of pearl and aluminum powder are used. The lacquer boxes created by Russian artists are outstanding pieces of art.