The first lacquer boxes appeared in Japan and China. Starting from the 16th century, the art of making such boxes spread in Western Europe. First Russian lacquer boxes appeared at the beginning of the 18th century. They were different from oriental ones. Making Russian lacquer boxes was challenging and laborious: it demanded specific skills and high professionalism of artisans. First lacquer boxes were costly: only members of the Royal family and the wealthiest representatives of nobility could afford them.
The art of lacquer painting in the village of Mstera in the Vladimir region originated from the traditions of icon painting in the 17th century. But the artists found their new way in the creation of distinctive art in miniature. Mstera miniature has a subtle color scheme. Characteristic pale tones on a typically ivory-colored background are the main features of Mstera painting. Blue, silver, yellow and red paints prevail in the Mstera color spectrum. Mstera imagery is often drawn from songs, legends, and Russian fairy tales.
Employing a palette of strikingly brilliant colors, painters here do not use oil paints but mix tempera pigments with egg yoke, following the tradition of old masters. Graceful lines, multi-figured composition, and detailed painting on black background distinguish Palekh style. Each box is polished with transparent lacquer; that's why the surface is smooth. Each item is unique and signed by the artist. The main themes of Palekh lacquer miniature are fairy tales and genre scenes. Creating their masterpieces, the Palekh artists preserve the best stylistic features of old Russian painting. Exquisite hand-painted boxes show the elegant charm of the Russian lacquered miniature.
Perfect execution, exquisite color schemes, original line, and composition are the main features of Fedoskino miniature painting. The decorative element ties the shape in with the painting. The Fedoskino miniature is more art than craft, with a universe of imagery and various genres. Subjects range from folklore and fairy tales to everyday events of simple village life, from beautiful Russian landscapes and distinctive architecture to the rich history of Russian people. These lacquer boxes are full of expression and decorative beauty.