Alexander Nevsky Battle on the Ice. Alexander Yaroslavich Nevsky (Александр Ярославич Невский) (1221-1263) was Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Vladimir (1252–63) during some of Russia's most difficult times. The miniature depicts the Battle on the Ice he fought against the Teutonic Knights in 1242. Alexander was later canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.
The box is quite intricate by Kholui miniature standards. The painting is on a silver background and there are 11 faces and 5 horses in addition to knights in armor. The box is signed, titled and made in Kholui, with its trademark "Firebird" and "Made in Russia" written in gold on the bottom. Papier-mache, egg tempera, lacquer, gold paint. 2⅜" x 1⅞"x 1". 1 only. Condition: light wear on the bottom of the box and a hairline. Box otherwise near fine.
Kholui Miniatures (Холуйская миниатюра) was founded in the 1930's for the production of boxes by a group of artists whose descendants were these aforementioned icon painters. Kholui miniatures are stylistically less bound by tradition than miniatures from Palekh or Mstera. A Kholui artist will paint on a completely black background, as the painters of Palekh prefer, or will paint on a colored background, similar to Mstera. The themes includes traditional fairy tales (think Snowmaiden or Ruslan and Ludmila), architectural scenes of local churches and monasteries, as well as floral bouquets. All in all, the traditions have survived. There is a vocational art school in Kholui, founded in 1943, which is being reorganized, soon to become a branch of the Higher School of Folk Arts of St. Petersburg. Here many new artists are taught and have graduated , and there are even artist dynasties, going back several generations. A lacquer miniature is a handmade piece of art, very laborious to make and difficult to understand. In today's crazy world, there is nothing more satisfying than to own, hold and appreciate a genuine Russian lacquer miniature.