The Russian Lacquer Fine Art Catalog site has a good summary of the historical background of this art form. We reprint it here by special permission from catalog.instaplanet.com and with our thanks to the author.
"The art of Russian lacquer box miniature painting is a unique aspect of decorative and applied art and one that is closely linked with national history and tradition. In Russia the first lacquer work dates to the early 18th century when (in 1716) a chamber in Montplaisir Palace at Peterhof was richly decorated with lacquered panels, the work of early Russian masters. The practice of applying detailed painting skills to objects made from papier-mâché started in the late 18th century in the village of Danilkovo, which later became Fedoskino(Федоскино). After the Revolution the three former icon-painting villages of Palekh (Palech - Палех), Kholui (Kholuy - Холуй) and Mstera (Mstiora - Мстера) also adopted this practice as a means of survival for their resident artists. All four villages, while easily distinguished in style, soon excelled in miniature painting technique and creative execution and achieved world-wide recognition. Formal art schools were established in each village to give bright young talent the proper training, tools and discipline. Throughout the political and social turbulence in 20th century Russia (from monarchy, to socialism, to capitalism) the art of miniature painting has not only survived but has flourished. Fine Art enthusiasts are taking notice and have begun to assemble important Russian Lacquer Art Collections of their own. As the demand for exquisite Russian Miniatures increases, the artists are continually encouraged in the inspired process of free and individual creation, which lends each finished work its unique quality."
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