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Fedoskino


L ying on a sofa in a grey house suit, nestled in German pillows.... he used to fiddle with some small object, his old black snuffbox, its lacquer gone tarnished...." That was how Russkie Vedomosti (The Russian Gazette) described russian writer Ivan Turgenev in 1884. History has, surprisingly, preserved for us Turgenev's favorite plaything. When leaving, for the last time, Russia for Paris, where he was not allowed to smoke or snuff tobacco, Turgenev left his snuffbox as a souvenir with his friend, writer Yakov Polonsky. The Polonsky family carefully stored that relic, which was then transferred to the Pushkin House, that is, the Museum of the Russian Literature Institute. Turgenev's snuffbox is still on display at that museum. It is a small oblong black lacquer box, the size of two matchboxes. Its lid is decorated with a picture of a sledge driven by three horses, flying along the snow-laden field. Smartly dressed rosy-cheeked young ladies are riding in the sledge, with a spirited coachman whipping the healed horses. Inside the purple-lacquer coaled lid bears a semi-obliterated picture of a gold double-headed eagle with the letters "F. A. L." (Alexander Lukutin's factory trademark) underneath.

Cigare-case "Messenger"

Cigare-case "Messenger"
Pyotr Lukutin factory. 1825-1828



     The village of Fedoskino, situated 40km north of Moscow on the picturesque banks of the Ucha River, is Russia's oldest centre of lacquer miniature painting. At least half of the inhabitants of this village and the neighboring ones are in one way or another connected with the traditional craft. The secrets of making and painting papier-mache lacquers have for 200 years now been passed from one generation to another. The French word "papier-mache" (literally "chewed paper") is well-rooted in the Russian language. Several layers of pasted cardboard, boiled in linseed oil and then repeatedly dried in a hot oven, form an original material - hard as wood, light and waterproof - that can be sawed, polished, primed and lacquered. In the 18lh through the 19lh century papier-mache was widely used to make sundry items from peaks for the Russian army headdress to trays, tables and even chandeliers. Needless to say, all sorts of papier-mache caskets and boxes used to store matches, stamps, cards, glasses and above all snuff were immensely popular.
     The best jewelers were commissioned to make snuffboxes, which at limes cost a fortune. By the end of the 18th century snuffing had become widespread - every shop-assistant thought it a matter of self-esteem to have a snuffbox near at hand. Demand for inexpensive mass-produced snuffboxes was on the rise, and papier-mache proved a suitable material. A host of small factories engaged in making snuffboxes in Russia at that time. Among others, Moscow merchant Pyotr Korobov also founded one such factory

 N.Leonova "Troika"

N.Leonova  "Troika". Casket. 1992

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     Pyotr Korobov's factory was the first in the Moscow region. According to legend, Korobov went to Germany to visit Johann Stobwasser's factory in Braunschweig and brought back round painted snuffboxes to serve as models. The first trademark appeared on the factory products under Pyotr Lukutin, Korobov's son-in-law who inherited the factory in 1824. His trademark consisted of the letters "F. P. L." which stood for "Factory Pyor Lukutin." From that time and throughout the 19th century until the factory was closed in 1904, the Lukutin family owned the factory. In 1828, Pyotr Lukutin was conferred the right to stamp his products with the state emblem. The double-headed Russian eagle thus appeared next to the "F. P. L." initials.
     Alongside plain, mass-produced items intended for the public at large and supplied to trade rows or shops, the Lukutin factory also made things to order intended for wealthy merchants and the aristocracy. Executed with rare craftsmanship and delicacy, those products brought fame to Lukutin's artisans in the first half of the 19th century.Miniature painting was also on the rise in the applied arts, especially porcelain painting (Gardner's porcelain factory, which was located comparatively not far from Fedoskino, is worth mentioning in this connection), in which genre scenes and pictures of peasant and round dances were in vogue, together with portraits and landscapes. Lukutin's papier-mache lacquer miniatures were well-attuned to their time. Their conventional black background, small size, planar composition, romantic and allegorical scenes or sentimental portraits met perfectly well the aesthetic criteria of the age.

N.Ivanova. "The masters of Zostovo"

N.Ivanova   "The masters of Zostovo".  Casket. 2004

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     Rivals to the Korobov - Lukutin factory appeared early in the 19th century. Count Sheremetev's serfs, Yegor and Taras Vishnyakov, opened their workshops in neighboring Zhostovo and Ostashkovo, respectively, in 1815 and 1816. By the early 1850s, twelve lacquer workshops were operating in Zhostovo and nearby villages. The workshop of Osip Filippovich Vishnyakov soon captured the leading position in the trade. His earlier known works dale to the 1830s through the 1850s. They bear the trademark "Master O. F. Vishnyakov" inscribed in a circle.The history of two outstanding lacquer productions in the Moscow region - the Lukutin and Vishnyakov workshops - closely intertwined throughout the 19th century. They competed with and influenced each other, exchanging craftsmen and production techniques.
     Lacquer miniatures of the Moscow region were made with the help of multi-layer oil painting on the primed papier-mache surface with special linin. Most of the Fedoskino papier-mache wares have a black background on Ihe outside and are covered inside with scarlet, bright-red or cherry-colored lacquer. Papier-mache lacquers of the Moscow region were closely linked to Russia's graphic art of that period. Miniature artists mastered and copied drawings, engravings, cheap folk prints and lithographs which were sold in separate sheets and albums. Quite a few works have now been identified as prototypes of miniature compositions used in lacquers of the Moscow region. The theme of troika-riding was most widespread in 19th century miniatures. A troika rushing through the snow-laden forest and sledge riders are to this day a popular theme that has become an emblem of the craft.

A.Vedernikov "Snow Maiden"

A.Vedernikov  "Snow Maiden".  Casket. 2000

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     In 1904, Lukutin's heirs (the last, N. A. Lukutin died in 1902) closed the factory. Some miniature painters transferred to the Vishnyakov workshop, but many of them were dissatisfied with the tough working conditions. The Fedoskino Artel of Former Lukutin Factory Workers was founded in 1910, initially numbering ten craftsmen, later joined by several more people. The years of the revolution and the subsequent Civil War took a heavy toll on the craftsmen and, for that matter, Russian life in general. Workshops often stood idle as a result of raw material and other shortages, and there was little demand for the finished products.
     That situation changed noticeably in 1923, when the Ail-Union Exhibition of Agricultural, Industrial and Cultural Products in Moscow, where Fedoskino wares were awarded the first degree diploma "for superb artistic skill" and another diploma "for preserving the craft and high cooperation." Artel's products were exported abroad and sent to international exhibitions. Fedoskino craftsmen were awarded the Paris Exhibition diploma in 1925 and the Milan Exhibition diploma in 1927.

D.Sedov "Forest"

D.Sedov  "Forest".  Casket. 2003

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     Important anniversaries of Soviet political and cultural life, which brought major state orders, became landmarks in the craft's history. Thus, a major exhibition held in 1937 marked the centenary of Pushkin's death. A special series of caskets centered around Pushkinian themes, with paintings by D. N. Kardovsky, G. C. Chernelsov and G. D. Myasoyedov portraying Pushkin or illustrating his works used as models. The miniatures were accomplished by gifted artists from among the early graduates of the Fedoskino school, including I. Bannov, K. Zorin, S. Slesarev and N. Smurov, who brilliantly succeeded in copying academic painting. Many of them, regrettably, were not destined lo work long: They perished during World War II.
     Throughout the 1940s and 1950s The artel focused primarily on copying works by Vassily Perov, Vassily Surikov, Ilya Repin, Ivan Shishkin and other renowned Russian artists. Some pieces, such as Vasnetsov's "Alenushka" were easily transposed onto the surface of caskets. However, as few easel paintings could be adapted lo the laws of miniature painting, the more creative artists came up with their own compositions. During that period V. D. Lipitsky, A. I. Kozlov and M. G. Pashinin emerged as original artists, who turned to Russian tales, such as "The Scarlet Flower", "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" and "The Snow Maiden", which was a new trend for the Fedoskino craft. Ever since that time Russian tales became a popular theme among Fedoskino artists, whose poetic images have lost none of their glamour.

S.Rogatov. "Buffoons". 1978

S.Rogatov
Box "Buffoons". 1978


     Landscape miniatures gained prominence in the sixties. The artists deftly transform shimmering mother-of-pearl into glimmering water, sky al sunset or sunbeams piercing clouds. The winter landscapes with silvery snow, spring landscapes with a radiant sky al sunset and autumn landscapes with golden leaves... Traditional Fedoskino ornamentation of boxes reached extraordinary heights in the 1980s and 1990s. Today's Fedoskino skan' is incomparably richer than Lukutin's artless designs. Using a limited set of figured metal spangles - tiny circles, corners, crescents and stars - latterday craftsmen create an unlimited number of ornaments inscribed on the round or oval lid of a box, girdling its prominent sides or just framing paintings.
     Fedoskino painters also continue to develop genre miniatures. They have shown far more freedom in recent years in elaborating a multitude of themes. Unrestrained in conveying their feelings and ideas, they turn out hearty works of art. Historical and ethnographic themes are being extensively added to traditional fairy tale, epic song motifs and illustrations of literary works. The immutable charm of the native land and continuity of the craft, which earns the artisans their daily bread and sense of achievement, account for the longevity of Fedoskino lacquers.

T.Levitskaya."Russian winter"

T.Levitskaya  "Russian winter".  Casket. 1998

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What is the authentique Russian Lacquered Miniature?

Kovaleva.N "The pancakes" casket 2004

N.Kovaleva  "The pancakes".  Casket. 2004

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Box  "Boyar's daughter at a wattle fence"

Box "Boyar's daughter at a wattle fence"
Alexander Lukutin, 1890










Album "Marry Making"

Album "Marry Making"
A.Lukutin factory, the 1870










Matchbox "Tea-dtinking"

Matchbox "Tea-dtinking"
A.Lukutin factory, 1870










O.Ratsigina. "Sunflowers"

O.Ratsigina  "Sunflowers".  Box. 2002

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 M.Chizhov."Fedoskino.Winter"
M.Chizhov
Casket "Fedoskino.Winter". 1968












N.Pankratov "Snowdrops"

N.Pankratov  "Snowdrops".  Casket. 2000

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A.Vedernikov. "Gossips"

A.Vedernikov  "Gossips".  Casket. 2000

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N.Strelkina. "Scarlet Flower"

N.Strelkina
Box  "Scarlet Flower" (after a tale of V.Aksakov).1990










S.Kozlov. "Winter at Sergiev Posad"


S.Kozlov
Casket  "Winter at Sergiev Posad". 1994