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History of Russian lacquer miniature      Print Version

The art of Russian lacquer miniature is a unique aspect of folk decorative and applied art and one that is closely linked with national tradition.
China and Japan are regarded as the cradles of artistic lacquer work. From the 16th century this art found its way into Western Europe leading to the emergence of several lacquer industries vying with one another in the European market. Among the best known were the French lacquers, the Scottish lacquers that earned a name for Britain, and from the mid-18th centurythe work of the Braunschweig factory of Johann Stobwasser in Germany.
In Russia the first lacquer work dates to the early 18th century. In Peterhof the Chinese Study (17161722) in Monplaisir Palace was decorated with lacquer panels, the work of Russian masters.
Russian lacquers were essentially different from their Eastern counterparts, and the painting was done in oils. The production process was long and required great professional skill. The material and the work itself were costly. The development of the lacquer-painting industry enjoyed privileges from the state customs policytheir export was exempted from taxation.
The growing demand for lacquer work along with the acquired experience and artistic skill created favourable conditions for setting up the country's first lacquer enterprises. In Moscow, Petersburg and their Governorships, lacquer snuff-boxes, trays, goblets and caskets were made from papier-mache (paper pulped with glue, chalk and plaster of Paris) in large quantities.
In the second half of the 18th century lacquer on metal emerged on a wide scale. Metal objects with lacquer ornaments were manufactured in the villages of Ostashkovo, Zhostovo and Novo-seltsevo near Moscow, and in Nizhny Tagil in the Urals.
Lacquer miniature painting brings one into the world of images, the product of the artist's imagination. It is distinguished for its delicate form, subtle brushwork, sophisticated colour combinations and poetic character of images