lacquers use the many-layered technique of tempera painting on drawings done with a tempera whitener. The color patches are put down first, followed by the scenes and then the application of gold and the highlighting of special areas — so-called probela. This is a carryover from medieval Russian painting in which colors were, as they still are, applied in repeated stages, with the basic color having a greater proportion of whitener. Socalled plavi painting is characteristic of Palekh (plavi refers to the application of translucent layers of color over still damp color surfaces). Palekh boxes are distinctive for their black backgrounds. White or red backgrounds do occur, but rarely.

The artists worked in tempera as had the ancient Russian icon-painters. The colors are applied to the lacquered surface in order: first, the basic composition is applied with whitener. On places that are to be bright, the whitener is applied more thickly. Next comes the application of relatively lighter colors in the stage known as "roskrysh." Only thereafter comes the detailed painting. The result of "roskrysh" is that all the lighter and darker areas and contours of the final composition are visible — what Palekh masters call "priplavka." Next come further applications of color and, finally, the outlining of details in gold ("probelka").

As a rule, Palekh artists use the complex painting technique of scumbling or "plav painting," in which the color of the lower layers comes through and blends with the many translucent layers applied over them.

This article was published on 14 November 2010.
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