November 01, 2001

Russian Lacquer Miniatures: A Mythic Art



The road to Kholui

passes through stretches of open meadowland, brushing the edge of the forest and traversing marshy tracts until it swings around the last sharp bend and meets the broad River Teza. This is the end of the road. The silver sign of the Firebird welcomes the occasional visitor. The fine, but crumbling, church singles the town out as a place of historical importance. Substantial brick houses along the riverbank indicate that once rich merchants lived and traded here. The other houses in the village are traditional, brightly-painted wooden izbas, with carved fretwork around the windows and eaves.

But this is no typical Russian village: of its 1800 inhabitants, 300 are artists. Kholui’s roots as an artistic community stretch back to the thirteenth century. For hundreds of years, it was also an important trading centre. And, along with three other villages–Palekh, Mstiora and Fedoskino, it is now home to a unique art form, the Russian Lacquer Miniature.


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