The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (Сказка о золотом петушке). Alexander Pushkin's The Tale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) is based on a short story "The Legend of the Arabian Astrologer" by Washington Irving.
The materials are egg tempera paints, lacquer and papier-mache box with a hinge. Titled "Золотой петушок" (Golden Cockerel) and signed by I. Turunov and "п. Холуй" (village of Kholui) and a registration number. 5¼"x 3½"x 1¾". Near fine condition. Circa 1960-65. A rare box.
Igor Ivanovich Turunov (Игорь Иванович Турунов) (1910?-1980?) was a founding member of the first generation of Kholui village painters. Kholui was the last of the 20th century lacquer production centers, after Palekh and Mstera, to organize, which it did in 1934. Its history as a center for icon production goes back to the early 1600's. Later in his career he taught at the Kholui Art School, which had officially opened in 1943. Many important artists who were born in the 1950's studied with him. The painting on this box is a unique work of art and differs significantly in execution and style from Kholui boxes of the 1970's and 1980's. It was at that point that Kholui boxes, with the help of importers such as Lucy Maxym, became more common, far simpler in style and made for export.
The Tale of The Golden Cockerel. The story starts in the realm of Tsar Dadon, who once was a fierce warrior. But he eventually grew to desire the quiet life. Unfortunately this was not possible, as marauders continually raided his commonwealth. The Tsar believed within his heart that the country was in danger from the Queen of Shemakha (Ottoman Empire). Imploring an astrologer to help him defend his kingdom, the clever magician placed a golden cockerel atop a weathercock which crowed whenever an enemy approached. The rooster proved to be a splendid defender but the foolish Tsar decided he should strike at Shemakha first. He sent his two inept sons to battle but they only ended up getting killed. The Tsar then decided to lead his army into battle, but upon meeting the beautiful and seductive Queen in her silken tent, became infatuated with her and fell in love. The Queen quickly engineered a marriage proposal from him, but at the wedding, the magician suddenly demanded the Queen's hand in marriage. The tale ends with the death of both the astrologer and the Tsar and the reader is left to ponder the moral of heartless royal ingratitude.
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.