Stylistic Peculiarities of Palekh Art

Peculiar and delicate Palekh lacquered miniature art inhaled the main features of ancient Russian painting and people's art. Nowaday Palekh miniature is a part of native decorative-applied art. It has both ancient traditions and poetic vision of surroundings like Russian folk songs and fairy-tales.

Palekh art wasn't born accidentally. It was a result of century-old traditions in new historical conditions based on the knowledge of icon-painting handicraft of many generations. Their methods were rich and varied. From the very beginning Palekh artists had been studying and keeping old Russian art traditions.

Palekh style was formed only by the middle of the 18th century. It includes some principles and elements of Novgorod, Stroganov and Povolzie second half of the 17th century. In the 17th-19th centuries Palekh masters often fulfilled the icon orders in Novgorod style and in Moscow manner of painting.

In spite of the fact that the church demanded to fulfill precisely every element of icon, Palekh painters did it in their own manner of writing faces, figures, elements of landscape, buildings, carriages and so on. On the icons you could see some domestic details such as furniture, clothes, arms, horse harness. Some of them have been kept in today's Palekh miniature art somewhat chaiged creatively.

Some icons told us the whole novels of life and miracle of the Saint (for example St.Nikholas). Such icons were called vital. In the centre of icon there was an image of the Saint with smaller pictures around which were called cleims. They amplified the main plot. Cleim was often in limits and sometimes not.

Such vital icons could be seen in 14th century but they became spread since the 16th century and especially in Stroganov icons (the Stroganovs were merchants and they owned icon-painting studious in Moscow and Solvychegorsk in the 16th-17th centuries). Stroganov style had delicate manners of writing and exact complicated plot. The icons in such  writing manners were not large but colourful with much gold on them. These manners of writing you can find in modern Palekh art too.

Palekh art was influenced by folk style of fresco and manyfigured icon painting manner of Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Rostov the Great having some developed vital elements. In Moscow at that period there appeared a new Ushakov style (after tsar icon-painter Simon Ushakov) Its representatives paid much attention to a man, to his real picture. This and the western manner of painting influenced Palekh icon-painting and it kept on in Palekh lacquered miniature.

Nikolay M. Zinovyev, a People's Artist of the USSR, has studied and summarized Palekh art traditions. He developed some methods of teaching Palekh art and wrote two books ("Palekh Art", "Stylistic Peculiarities of Palekh Art"). The latter has 104 pictures with annotation. Lower you can see some elements from this book.

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