Although the village of Palekh is only 250 miles from Moscow, it takes as long to drive there from the capital as it would to fly to Beijing: about 9 or 10 hours.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
With a population of 6,000, Palekh boasts some 600 artists, and the secrets of their art have been passed down from generation to generation.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
The village appeared in the 15th century. Gradually, along the banks of the picturesque Paleshka River, grew a settlement inhabited by icon painters well known to the tsar’s court. They painted beautiful icons with countless details — “all the little things.”Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
Their work can be found in the churches in the Moscow Kremlin and in the Trinity Monastery of St. Sergius. In 1882, the Belousovs, a Palekh family of icon painters, decorated the Faceted Palace in the Kremlin.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 icon painters were forced to find other applications for their talents. They decorated wooden spoons, nested dolls (“matryoshkas”), boxes, dishes…Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
In 1928, they began training new young artists to replace the old masters. In 1935, the Palekh Museum was created: a priceless collection of icons, lacquer miniatures, drawings, and paintings.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
The motifs for these miniatures were typically taken from everyday life, classic works of literature, fairy tales, folk poems and songs. The work is usually done on a black background with decorations in gold.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
The work is all done by hand. Each box must be oiled, primed, caulked and painted with black lacquer on the outside, red enamel on the inside — then dried and decorated. In Palekh we do not make copies; every box is unique. The final polishing is done with the palm of the hand, which makes the work truly unique. A miniature cannot be enlarged; therefore the artists use magnifying glasses.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
Palekh fakes comprise 80-90 percent of the market. The law against piracy doesn’t work. Souvenir shops buy things from artists that have not passed muster with the experts.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
Today, every tenth resident of Palekh is a graduate of the Palekh Art School. There are only two schools of this kind in all of Russia. Every year 16 students graduate.Evgeniy Ptushka / Strana.ru
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