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Russian Lacquer Boxes

The beautiful Russian lacquer boxes come from four villages not far from Moscow. Each village produces lacquer boxes with unique styles and features. Palekh is known for vivid colors with fairy tale themes. In Kholui, beautiful landscapes are found in the paintings. The boxes from Mystera have similar themes, but the colors may be softer and beautiful skies are often seen. The Fedoskino boxes are more apt to have a realistic theme with folk dancers and village scenes often with segments of mother of pearl inlaid onto the box before it is painted.

The boxes are made of papier-mâché and go through a seven-step process to produce the finely crafted boxes for the artists to paint upon. They are traditionally finished with a coat of black lacquer on the outside and red on the inside. The artist draws the design on the box and coats it with lead paint. He uses very fine brushes made of squirrel hair to paint the fine details with a paint made of egg-based tempera. This paint is made in small quantities and very vivid colors. The final step is highlighting and painting a filigree design around the box with paint made of gold leaf. The final coat of lacquer is applied and the box is signed with the artist’s name, theme and the name of the village.

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