“Bela” Jewellery Box
Kholui Factory of Lacquered Miniatures, 1957
This jewellery box depicts a scene from the classic Russian novel “A Hero of
Our Time” by Mikhail Lermontov, featuring one of its main characters,
beautiful Circassian princess Bela in the moment of a tragic denouement.
The piece is a fine specimen of Kholui lacquers miniatures
made by famous miniature painter Boris Tikhonravov in a
small village in the Ivanovo region in Central Russia.
Princess Bela was kidnapped by her own brother, Azamat, for Russian
officer Pechorin in exchange for a horse. Pechorin, however, choosing
to keep his own horse for himself, gave to Azamat one belonging to highlander
to Azamat one belonging to highlander Kazbich. In revenge, Kazbich kidnaps
Bela, but, finding himself trapped, kills her right in front of Pechorin' eyes.
This tragic outcome of the story became the subject matter of this
miniature. This piece, full of deep emotion and lyricism,
reflecting the thoughts of two authors, the writer and the
miniature artist, can hardly leave anyone indifferent!
Title page of the first edition of A Hero of Our time
novel, 1840. Ilya Glazunov Printing Office.
The settlement of Kholui in the Ivanovo region was one of the oldest icon
making centres in Russia, which turned into a lacquered miniature production
centre in Soviet era. After the 1917 revolution, which proclaimed religion as
“opium for people,” icon painters faced troubled times as demand for icons
declined drastically. Forced to search for new fields to apply their skills, artists
formed a cooperative craft association. It did not take them long to find their
own style in lacquer miniature painting.
In 1937, miniature artists from Kholui took part in the World Exhibition in
Paris which brought them bronze medals. Kholui lacquer miniature painting
reached its heyday in the mid 20th century and in 1959 a museum of Kholui
craft opened in the village.