On them are painted scenes from fairy tales,legends,history and great work of art.Often these scenes are so finely detailed that thy are painted with a brush of only a few hairs and requie a magnifying glass for their execution.The scenes are ones one would expect to find only on large canvases,yet they are rendered on box surfaces of only a few square inches.For this reason,lacquer boxes are often called miniatures.
Fedoskino,the oldest,traces its roots to the late 18h century when lacquer snuff boxes were made in the village for grandees.It often takes its inspiration from classical Russian paintings,folk scenes,troika races and great persons.Its colors are usually subdued,its paints are oil and its representations are realistic.Artists in the Fedoskino school often adopt the striking technique f painting on gold and silver foil,mother-of-pearl and malachite with translucent paints which allow the effect of these materials to show through.
Palekh was an ancient center for painting icons which to this day adorn the churches and great cathedrals of Russia.But when thecommunists came after the revolutin in 1917 they prohibited the painting of religious motifs.Thus becoming unemployed,Palekh artists turned to painting lacquer miniatures adopting themes from poetry,legends,fairy tales and contemporary life.Instead of oils,Palekh artists paint with egg tempera.Their colors are bright and vibrant rather than subdued.Their human figures are somewhat elongated and their paintings are bordered with gold filigree.
Mstera artists also paint with tempera.And,like Palekh artists,they also paint scenes from poetry and fairy tales and adorn their boxes with gold filigree.Their colors are lighter and less contrasting than those of Palekh.
Kholui,like Palekh,was an old center for painting icons.As in Palekh,its artists ceased to paint icons after revolution.And ike Palekh and Mstera artists,Kholui artists paint with egg tempera.Unlike them,however,they are less bound by convention and exercise more freedom of expression.