Real Deal Lacquer Boxes
When you travel to Russia, you will no doubt encounter low-quality, quickly produced boxes that are fashioned from wood or metal. These types of boxes may make good gifts; they are less expensive than the high-quality lacquer boxes produced by Russia's artisans. However, if you are in the market for a real Russian lacquer box, expect to pay well for it. While these boxes might have been gotten for a song 10 or so years ago, now those who sell them know that travelers are willing to pay top dollar for these miniature works of art. The size of the box, the complexity of its decoration, and the experience of the artist may influence the price. Russian lacquer boxes can easily become treasured heirlooms if they are well taken care of.
Production of Russian Lacquer Boxes
Russian lacquer boxes are labor intensive to produce. The boxes are actually made with paper mache - this becomes solid and durable during the production process. After shaping and sanding, the inside of the boxes are coated with red lacquer and the outside of the boxes are coated with black lacquer. Clear lacquer creates a base for the artist's decoration.
The painting that decorates the box may take months to finish. Tiny details require the artist use brushes of only a few hairs to apply oil or tempura paints to the box. Application of gold leaf decoration to the boxes is one of the last steps in the decoration process before the final layers of lacquer are applied.
Lacque Box Variations
Russian lacquer boxes may depict scenes from Russian fairy tales, religious scenes, landscapes, stories from Russian literature, architectural structures like palaces and monasteries, or scenes from Russian traditional life. While most scenes are painted onto black backgrounds, light backgrounds, red backgrounds, backgrounds of mother-of-pearl, or even silver- and gold-leaf backgrounds may be used. Most boxes will be painted only on their lids and exhibit border designs on the other surfaces. Lacquer boxes that are painted with scenes on all four sides are less typical and highly collectible, as well as more expensive.
Purchasing Russian Lacquer Boxes
It's possible to find lacquer boxes in Russian souvenir shops or markets. Izmailovo Market is one place where lacquer boxes can be found. High-end shops selling Russian folk art will offer more intricately decorated boxes. If you can't travel to Russia to purchase your lacquer box, make sure that you use a reputable online seller or purchase the box in person in a shop whose owners are knowledgeable about the workmanship that goes into each lacquer box.