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Palekh, along with the other tempera villages, was part of the old Vladimir-Suzdal principality, the very birthplace of Russian icon painting. The village itself seems to date back to the Fourteenth Century, when monks fleeing the Mongol invaders set up a community. It is known that the serfs of the Buturlin estate took up icon painting in the 17th century. In the middle of the same century a letter addressed to the Moscow artist Semion Ushakov mentions the villagers of Palekh, who bartered the icons they had painted for onions and eggs.

The 18th century saw the development of iconography as a cottage industry, with the strict division of labor. By the mid 19th - when the artists still ran small peasant farms and grew rye - it was run on business lines by the Safonovs, who sent painters out to various parts of Russia on commission work.

After the decline of the industry, the period of international and civil war, followed by the discovery of the possibilities of painting on lacquered papier-mache, the revival came first with the Museum of Handicrafts commissioning miniatures from I.Golikov, I.Vakurov, I.Bakanov, I.Markichev and A.Kotukhin.

The unbelievably colorful art of Palekh is known in all countries of the world. The elegant black-lacquered art pieces on which the heroes of Russian folklore come to life - the amazing fire-birds and the gold-manned troikas subjugate us with fairy tale-like world of beauty, movement and harmony of their color chords. They worked out a style all of their own which can be distinguished by the fine line tempera drawing saturated with gold. Their work was valued for the depth of its images and for their fairy-tale-like ornamental design.




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