6 July 2012
Artist Andrei Arapov chose folklore and imperial authority as themes for this lacquered box.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Some of the most striking works of art aren’t found hanging on a wall, but on the lid of a box — like the image above, from a story by Sean Sprague on the remarkable works being restored in one Russian village:
For centuries icon painting in Palekh was passed down by apprenticeship from father to son. In the 19th century the state supported Palekh artists, whose importance the monarchy recognized in reaffirming Russia’s spiritual and artistic symbols, and as a bastion against encroaching Western influences.
In 1814 there were said to be about 600 artists in Palekh, the same number as today. Icon ateliers dotted the village, with the most famous belonging to Nikita Safonov, who along with his son Mikhail undertook commissions across Russia. The reputation of Palekh grew so that by the end of the 19th century Palekh masters had established studios in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Nizny-Novgorod and Perm.
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, however, interrupted the tradition, with the Bolsheviks banning icon painting in their attempt to rid Russia of its religious heritage.
Palekh adjusted to the times. Rather than becoming unemployed, its artists switched to other forms of expression. They began decorating porcelain, glass, eggs and wooden toys with nonreligious themes.
The painting of black-lacquered boxes made from papier-mâché was the most successful alternative. Local artist Ivan Golikov is credited with introducing Palekh to the boxes, whose origins lay in the Far East, but which had gained popularity in the village of Fedoskino, near Moscow.
Read more about New Reality, Same Artistry in the March-April 2004 issue of ONE.
Tags: Village life Russia Art Frescoes