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PALEKH

TECHNICAL ASPECTS OF LACQUER MINIATURES

FEDOSKINO

Fedoskino, a village dedicated to the lacquer miniature, is situated about 30 kilometers from Moscow on the shore of the Ucha River. It dates from the end of the 18th century, when a small factory was founded there, in the Moscow area, by merchant Pyotr Korobov at Danilovko, an estate that adjoined Fedoskino and later merged with it.

Korobov, a descendant of Khlynov merchants, was the founder of a small soap-making business in Moscow in 1759. While traveling in Europe in 1795, he became interested in certain painted objects produced in the lacquer factory of Johann Heinrich Stobwasser in the German city of Braunschweig. Factory output included furniture — tables, chests, desks — and trays, decorative plates and a variety of boxes. Even a lacquered carriage might be ordered for a special occasion. In the scenes painted on the small lacquer pieces by German craftsmen, landscapes, portraits, erotic scenes and non-figurative decorations predominated. Korobov acquired a quantity of lacquer and paint from Stobwasser and invited several craftsmen to join him in Russia. That year, 1795, the merchant founded his own "lakir" factory in a wooden building in tiny Danilovkovo and began production.

At first, it produced visors for Russian army helmets and round snuff boxes. The early boxes were unpainted but decorated with paste-on prints — lacquered portraits of political leaders and military scenes. In 1818 Korobov turned the factory over to his son-in-law, Pyotr Lukutin (1784 — 1863). A new stage in the development of the craft in Fedoskino had begun. Lukutin's first step was to move the production facilities across the Ucha to Fedoskino into a log building created specially for the purpose. The new, bigger factory meant that more staff could be added and the output further developed. In addition to snuff boxes, the factory now produced boxes for cigarets, cigars, matches, powder, keepsakes and jewelry. It also made chess tables. In time, Lukutin's products outstripped their foreign rivals in quality and began to drive them from the Russian market. Also early in his tenure, Lukutin opened a drawing school at the factory. In 1828 Lukutin was granted the right to use the royal seal on his products. Thereafter, all Lukutin products bore the sign of the factory, the state seal and the initials of the owner.

The factory's products in those days ranged from unique pieces selling for high prices to things that sold for much less (prices ranged from 300 rubles down to 2 rubles 80 kopecks per dozen). Customers included landed gentry, aristocrats, wellto- do merchants, prosperous peasants and shopkeepers. The subjects of the paintings varied, but allegorical, mythological, historical and domestic scenes along with portraits and still-lifes predominated. The great influence on the Lukutin artists was the outstanding Russian painter Venetsianov1. Peasants and shopkeepers were particularly fond of sentimental scenes of folk holiday-making, peasant girls in the fields, kindly old people, tender mothers, dashing youths driving troikas and scenes of tea drinking. The factory reached its high point during the period of joint management by Pyotr Lukutin and his son Alexander (1841 — 1863). Fedoskino's lacquer miniatures were then considered Russia's best. The firm's method of preparing papiermâché was adopted by English craftsmen.

After the death of his father, Alexander Lukutin (1819 — 1888) was sole proprietor of the enormous enterprise. Talented himself as an artist, Alexander Lukutin not only chose the paintings and engravings used as models but sometimes created the sketches himself. Meanwhile, the lacquering process improved. Yearly output totaled as many as 6,000 individual pieces valued at more than 23,000 rubles. As late as the last quarter of the 19th century, the Lukutin plant stood head and shoulders above its competitors. It also continued to maintain an art school and to send its most talented staff to the Stroganov Art School in Moscow for further training. But the factory did not have a store.

About 1876, Alexander Lukutin turned the business over to his son Nikolai (1853 — 1902), the third generation of the merchant dynasty. A physician and director of the Moscow Philharmonic Society and the Alexandrinsky Orphanage as well as owner of one of the finest collections of Russian porcelain, Nikolai Lukutin was no businessman. He kept the Fedoskino factory alive less for commercial reasons (his wife was rich) than out of respect for the memory of his father and grandfather. But he felt the family enterprise as an archaic and, for him, a socially demeaning encumbrance. He seldom visited the factory, leaving management entirely in the hands of subordinates. Yet a new building was erected for the workshops, and a store was finally opened. After Nikolai's death, his widow headed the business for two years but was unable to (or did not wish to) stay with it beyond that.

In 1904, after more than a century, the Lukutin factory closed, and the craftsmen-artists of Fedoskino were abandoned to their fate. A few (including A.A. Kruglikov and S.I. Borodkin) found employment in the workshop of M.P. Vishnyakov in the neighboring village (10 km away) of Ostashkov. Other artists made the rounds of nearby villages in search of any kind of work. Later, without Vishnyakov's knowlege, 10 of the men applied to Sergei Morozov, creator of the Handicraft Museum (Kustarny Muzei), who agreed to finance them. A local schoolteacher, Lyubov Derzhavina, helped with the application. In short order, a plot of land in the village of Semenishchevo was acquired for a workshop. The Fedoskino Labor Cooperative began work in its new building on Oct. 11, 1910. The 10 members of the artel were: S.N. Kuznetsov, A.F. Mishaninov, V.P. Mitusov, S.M. Borodkin, V.S. Borodkin, S.M. Matveyev, A.A. Kruglikov, A.A. Golovchenkov, A.S. Kainov and I.P. Lavrov. Sergei Kuznetsov was chosen as elder or starosta. The new group's purchase of materials from the now-closed Lukutin factory allowed the artel to begin producing Lukutin- quality goods within a few months. Moreover, with the backing of the Handicraft Museum, which recommended its work to merchants, orders began to arrive. The artel was also bolstered by a gift of a 1,000-ruble line of credit at the People's Bank from Sergei Timofeevich Morozov. The artel members also pooled their own funds, and the local council, or zemstvo, pitched in. A fire in 1912 destroyed the factory building, but it was insured and quickly rebuilt.

Until the revolution of 1917, the enterprise was supervised by the local council (zemstvo) and the Handicraft Museum. The revolution brought changes to the artel, which by then included V.M. Bolshakov, Z.T. Burbyshev, the brothers A. and I. Semyonov, N. Tsybin, K. Ranovsky, N. Petrov and V. Lavrov. At first, the cooperative responded with traditional troika and tea scenes. In an age of electrification, industrialization and collectivization, however, troikas and tea were not enough. Aid came from the work of easel painters. Early in the 1920s, the Handicraft Museum provided the Fedoskino artel with models to copy, including paintings by Soviet artists of various schools, from AKhR to OST.2 In 1923, at the first All-Russia Agricultural, Handicraft and Industrial Exposition, the Fedoskino cooperative won a first-degree certificate and, for managing to keep production underway during the years of revolution and civil war, a certificate of recognition.

In addition to boxes, the artists of Fedoskino also produced flat plaques of papier-mache. There were special orders for portraits, some of them very large. In the 1930s the Fedoskino artists devoted considerable effort to copying genre paintings by Russian artists — Fedotov, the Makovsky brothers, Joganson, Grekov, Gerasimov. The craft is still alive in Fedoskino, and the Fedoskino factory of miniature paintings is still active, as is its art school.

 

Evgeniya Gershkovich

   

Artist V. Samsonov. Box "Friendship of the Peoples".
1943. Fedoskino. 21 x 207 x 62 Based on a painting of the same title by the artist Stepan Karpov, 1923-1924

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Artist K. Zorin. Small box "Stalin and Voroshilov at the Kremlin".
1940. Fedoskino. 260 x 192 x 85 Based on a painting with the same title by artist Alexander Gerasimov, 1938

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Artist unknown. Box "Portrait of Marshal S.M. Budyonny".
Late 1940s. Fedoskino. 241 x 182 x 80

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Artist S. Menshov. Box "Future Railroad Builders".
1947. Fedoskino. 212 x 142 x 71

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Artist P. Davidov. Small oval box "At the Field Camp".
1948. Fedoskino. 185 x 195 x 56

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Artist N. Semyonov. Box "Red Army Dance".
1931. Fedoskino. 175 x 188 x 47

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© Natalia Semyonova.Concept & edited by. 2009 | © Yevgeniya Gershkovich. Text. 2009
© Irina Tarkhanova-Yakubson. Design. 2009 | © Denis Talygin. Web design. 2009
© Howard M. Goldfinger. Translation. 2009 | © Vladislav Karukin. Photography. 2009
© Alexander Dobrovinsky. Art collection. 2009 | © Gamma Press. 2009

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