March 27, 2013

Russian Lacquer Fairy Tales

Hello lovelies! So, I've been wanting to do some Ukranian egg decorating, which one of Andrew's aunties knows how to do! But it's pretty complex, and we're going to hold off on getting into that activity until Julia is a couple years older.

I've always admired the art form though, as well as the art found on Russian lacquer boxes. (want to see some crazy expensive ones? sure you do! you can find some though at really great prices if you search around.)

My mom got one as a gift when I was about 8, and I begged her for it every year until she gave it me. At some point my parents also gave me 'Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales' by Lucy Maxym, as well as 'Russian Lacquer, Legends and Fairy Tales, Vol II'. There aren't too many reasonably priced used or new options on Amazon. (it's an out of print book.) 

 ('Vasilisa the Beautiful' is a Baba-Yaga story! Love Baba-Yaga.)

I think it sounds kind of ridiculous to tell you how beautiful these books are. BECAUSE IT'S TOTALLY OBVIOUS HOW DROP DEAD GORGEOUS THEY ARE. Sorry for the extra shouty today, but CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW AMAZING, THIS ART? Each story has accompanying pictures of and from Russian lacquer boxes.

Amazing. Maybe Russian art doesn't float your boat, but it does mine! I think the reason I liked it so much was because the first time I saw a Russian lacquer box, I thought, 'Oh, it looks just like a fairy tale!' And I lived and breathed fairy tales when I was young.

Here's how Lucy Maxym, the author, describes her own fascination with Russian lacquer:

"...my eye was caught by a gleaming little black lacquer box on the coffee table. I had never seen anything like it, and found it utterly charming. This is how my love affair with Russian lacquer miniatures started."


The reason that the boxes look like fairy tales images is because they are.

Lucy writes:

"It is of course impossible to include all the Russian fairy tales, songs, legends, operas and ballets. Therefore, the stories in this book consist of those which are the inspiration for a great majority of the paintings done by lacquer miniaturists."

See?

As you can tell from the text density, this is not reading for your 4 or 5 year old. But I would say, 6 and up, have at it. On average, most of the stories are about six pages long.

There are Spirits of the Lake! There are evil warlocks disguised as birds! Guards in drunken stupors! There are bad witches! Girls with golden hair that turns water to gold! Magical daughters who appear from the snow! ('The Snowmaiden', which is one of my favorite fairy tales, and I also talked about it in my Cold Books post.)

Also included on Vol 1 is one of the most famous of Russian fairy tales, 'The Tale of the Firebird'. This version looks gorgeous as well!

(my Russian box. please ignore the weird shadow in the top corner that now you won't ignore since I pointed it out.)

Oh friends! Are you enchanted? These books have been collecting dust in my bookshelf for over 20 years (I got them when I was a teen). And now they are OUT and dusted off, and I just showed Julia my Russian box for the very first time (I collect all kinds of small trinket boxes and they were all packed away, ever since we moved to our current home, because I didn't know where to put a bunch of random little ceramic boxes), and she LOVED it! So I told her we could share the Russian box. (after a few minutes of 'oooh', she was back playing with her My Little Ponies.) But we're going to start reading some of these fairy tales now, and I'm so so excited.

(UPDATE: OMG. EBAY HAS THE FIRST VOLUME FOR $15. Says there are 14 available. And there are other used copies for even less! Some are $5! Go go go!!!!!!!)

ALSO: Snowmaiden and Rabbit fairy tale box for $22!!! Ebay is too fabulous sometimes.

15 comments:

  1. The art is simply gorgeous! I can't wait to collect books like this for Baby Whimsy when she's older.

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    1. Isn't it fun to think of the books the kids get to read as they get older? i love that.

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  2. I totally dig Russian Art! Too beautiful for caps even!

    Don't tempt me! I am trying to stay away from Ebay but those books are a steal at that price!!! (Ok, off to Ebay I go!)

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  3. I just bought myself a copy! So happy!!!!!

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  4. Oh, my! I love Russian everything - art, folklore - but these are simply too gorgeous! Want, want, want! I can't justify buying anything right now (Easter has sneaked up on me), but I'm definitely going to check back on eBay after a while.

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    1. vintage books are always out there, waiting for us...all in good time. xoxoxo!

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  5. WANNNNNNTTTTT!!!
    Do you feel me shaking your shoulders and shrieking? Because I LOVE me some Russian lacquer box art AND Russian fairytales. I remember my 4th grade teacher reading us a Russian fairytale and it had gorgeous pictures. I've always loved the lacquer boxes too (I've got tons of them on my pinterest ;) ) I NEED a real one.
    Sigh. I need this book. Sending eBay link to my husband as a hint (what better for easter than a Russian art book!?!)

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    1. Hot damn! He bought me a copy! High five russian fairytale art! It will soon be mine (que strange Gollum look on my face)

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    2. YEAH! HOT DAMN!!! Now that's a swell husband. You say 'go get' and he gets!!! Love that! That approach has served me very well over the yrs when it comes to gift giving. :)

      You, L'Artiste, you will love this. Looooooooooove it. xo

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    3. Hehe, yeah. He's my eBay buyer. I dont have an account now because years ago someone hacked my account and tried to "sell" a car on it...what the heck? I totally broke up with eBay after that ;) But I will go back for russian lacquered box books ;)

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  6. Ohhh....I love these....how fun that you can share them with Julia! I have a few treasure boxes that my girls have stolen from me already--at least she is letting you share the box with her! :)

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    1. Actually it turns out I have been misinformed. The box is "hers". Okey dokey artichokey!

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  7. Somehow I must have been under a rock all of these years because I had never heard of Russian lacquer boxes before you shared them here, and I am so glad that you did! I can't believe how gorgeous they are, they look like the magical sort of thing you'd be given IN a fairy tale, filled with magical Turkish Delight taffy a la Narnia. Drop dead gorgeous. I NEED one.

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