The renaissance roots of a decorative tradition in folk culture in Slovakia
Source document: . Středověké a novověké zdroje tradiční kultury : sborník příspěvků ze semináře konaného 30. listopadu 2005 v Ústavu evropské etnologie. Editor: Křížová, Alena. Vyd. 1. Brno: Ústav evropské etnologie Masarykovy univerzity, 2006, pp. -249
This paper addresses the influence of the sentiments of Renaissance art on the decorative tradition in folk culture in Slovakia. One such impulse was the deep impression made by the Renaissance style on the artistic culture of Hungary through Hungarian aristocratic circles. A knowledge of the decorative principles of the Renaissance in terms of what was taken and what was reproduced from it also made its presence felt in other social ranks. Improvements in the living conditions of the peasantry in 18th- and 19th-century Hungary, which we observe to have been the case also in a Slovakia looking back on the Renaissance, provided fertile ground out of which it was able to blossom; this was connected with a desire to give expression to one's wealth by the manner in which one dressed and how one lived. Elements of ornamentation and the compositional principles of the Renaissance gradually became incorporated into folk expression, eventually becoming a central component whose forms would vary by region or locality, a state of affairs which would continue into the first half of the 20th century. Further the paper explores the influence on decorative folk expression of the swatchbook which was published in 16th- and 17th- century Europe. Thanks to this swatchbook - which achieved great popularity in Europe - Renaissance decorative principles established themselves to mass effect. As a result of this the process of mass production was accelerated, and Renaissance forms, styles and techniques (in terms both of art and its production) became widespread even among the lower social classes. Swatchbooks served to embed and conventionalize certain ornamental motifs and to unify the compositional principles of design, of which two in particular became well established. The first of these had its basis in meander lines, the second was of a central axial composition of tendrils in the shape of a flowering shrub. In the folk surroundings of the late 18th century and beyond both of these evolved into an original regional style on various subjects, executed in a variety of materials and using a variety of decorative techniques. Traces in ornamental folk work of certain decorative elements associated with the Renaissance are individually identifiable in the repertoire of plant (tulips, lilies, carnations, pomegranates) and zoomor-phic motifs (birds of indeterminate species, peacocks, cocks, gryphons, two-headed eagles, deer, lambs, lions, unicorns). This paper gives a summary of those compositional principles and motifs of the Renaissance which have a stable place in our cultural history, and which entered folk culture by more complicated routes in adapting the iconographic tradition. Codes of symbolism implicit to the imagery of plants and animals in their original historical senses, heraldic contexts and folk environments became unintelligible, and perhaps with the exception of certain aspects of religion, remained without influence on the thinking of the people. As time progressed the visual element became more important than the content per se. Nevertheless pictorial representation survived and was handed down as a decorative element, evolving and then transforming itself into an original regional decorative style thanks to the model provided by the iconographic tradition of the Renaissance. The author claims that this tradition was of greater significance to the folk decorative sentiment in Slovakia than the direct observing of nature. In a further development plant and zoomorphic motifs were transformed, transcribed and became fragmented. They began lives of their own, and their creators could no longer recognize the basis out of which they had grown.
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