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The Ethnographic Collections

In our days the ethnographic collections of the Székely National Museum count more than 14 000 items. The expanding and collecting activities of the first decades were adjusted to contemporary tendencies, so the collection of furniture, ceramics, textiles and costumes present even today overlaps with the thematic of the historical collections (guild seats, pieces of furniture and costumes of the aristocracy, embroidery, Saxon bourgeois decorative vessels are also present in our collection).

The Székely National Museum has outstanding ecclesiastic art objects. The 17th century altar from the chapel of the Mikes family from Zabola represents a transition between the Transylvanian Renaissance and Early Baroque altars. It presents a lot of similarities with the Salvator Chapel from Csíksomlyó, being an outstanding masterpiece of the Székelyföld.

Another important item is the painted ceiling of the Reformed church from Barátos, made in 1760 and partially repainted in 1802. This monumental ceiling composed of 136 panels was brought into our museum in 1912, probably with the material support of the Bibó family from Barátos, as we conclude from the shield applied on it. The researches and restorations of the last one hundred years named several presupposed makers (János Kovács, Pál Lajos, László Nagy), and with the new comparative research a specific painting style of Háromszék was outlined. Contrary to painted ceilings from other museums, the ceiling from Barátos can be admired by everyone.

The singing chair from Olasztelek, the table from the church of Páké, the fragments of sculpture from the organ of the church of Maksa, and some embroidery of the aristocracy shows that our museum has always been focusing on the saving of endangered ecclesiastical art works.

The collecting of object groups started in the decade following the millennial exhibition (1896). The other collections (craftsmanship, folk customs, objects related to the turning points in a man’s life) belong unambiguously to the topics of ethnography.

1. The collection of ceramics

The collection of ceramics is one of the most important ethnographic collections of the Székely National Museum, from the viewpoint of both numbers and value. It consists of 1350 decorative vessels, 1200 vessels of everyday use and more than 700 glazed tiles, offering an overview of the pottery of the Székelyföld and the Saxon land.

Thanks to the early collecting, we have pottery from Bodok, Kálnok, Bereck, Székelyudvarhely, Barcaújfalu, Magyarhermány and Kézdivásárhely, and this helps identifying the products from these centres. For example in 1940 we got a whole pottery from Magyarhermány. The most valuable items of our collection are some 17th century jugs from Arad, a 1747 decorative vessel from Szeben, respectively the engraved cheerful jugs made in the guild-centre of Háromszék, in Kézdivásárhely at the end of the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century.

Among the glazed tiles stand out the 100 pieces of 17th and 18th century Saxon and Hutterite tiles from the collection of antiquary Adolf Resch from Brassó. We present the pottery of the Székelyföld through pieces from Kézdivásárhely, Magyarhermány, Küsmöd, Csíkmadaras, and Barcaújfalu. The sculpted glaze props from Barcaújfalu and Magyarhermány are extremely valuable.

2. The collection of textiles and costumes

The embroideries and weavings, respectively the folk costumes were the most affected parts in the failed rescuing actions from 1944, therefore the later collecting actions were mostly concerned with completing this hiatus. In our days the Székely National Museum owns 1500 textiles and more than 1000 pieces of costumes.

The most important part of this collection must be the collection of the embroideries of the aristocracy. A few dozens of these 17th and 18th century embroideries made of silk, silver and golden threads have survived to our days. Most of these embroideries with Renaissance and Baroque models, fine floral and faunal decoration, and showing a rich variety of techniques come from Székelyföld (Imecsfalva, Farcád, Dálnok, Illyefalva, Alsócsernáton, Nagyborosnyó), but the collection was expanded with the donations of aristocratic families from Szilágyság, Saxon land or Hungary. We have a larger collection of embroideries made by the numbering of threads from Árapatak and Hidvég, two settlements that had become famous for their products at the beginning of the 20th century. The weavings of Székelyföld do not form a huge collection, but the painted carpets are outstanding. These products of wool were made in several locations of Székelyföld, and were used as coverings for table, seat or bed. At the beginning of the 20th century less and less of these carpets were made, but thanks to the revival attempts of the 1930s and 1940s they are still made in some villages of Csík region. In those years our collection was expanded by painted carpets from Lower Csík region donated by painting artist Imre Nagy (from Csíkzsögöd) and from the Kászon Basin, donated by the great researcher of the Csángós, Pál Péter Domokos and ethnographer Lajos Roediger.

Another specific form of the weavings of Székelyföld is the thread-numbering weaving. The popularity of these weavings was due – among others – to the painting manufactories of Háromszék. Although it was a general product of Székelyföld, it showed a greater popularity in the villages of Udvarhely region and Barcaság, thus we were able to collect some outstanding pieces from these locations. A relic that our museum is proud of is the weaving with the date 1770, made in Csíkszentimre.

The early items of our collection of costumes were almost completely destroyed in 1945, therefore we have only one surviving piece, a bodice of the lower nobility, with silk embroidery, from the turn of the 17th–18th centuries.

The specific folk costumes as we know them today can be explained with the former social status and geographic dispersion of the Székelys. The striped skirts differed from village to village thanks to the weaving revival campaigns of the 1930s; their stripes had the function of signalling age, material status or the following of calendar customs. On the contrary, the colour and frogging of men’s tights was following the social status (free, serf, urbanite) or the military ranking before 1848. Thanks to the works and research of Klára Gazda, the collection of costumes follows this signalling, exposing the variation rules of the change of 30 villages’ women’s costumes. Although we have only a few items from the 19th century, this variety is a compensation to all those interested in the Székely folk costumes. Unfortunately our collection is poor in men’s costumes and in the garments of the bourgeoisie, so that part needs to be completed in the near future. The furs, few in number but highly decorated, were not really present in the Székelyföld, thus our collection has items from the Saxon land, Barcaság, Homoród Valley, Csík region and from the Csángós of Gyimes and Moldavia.

3. The collection of furniture

According to the ethnographic literature, the carpentered furniture was the element of older house interiors, so these chiselled, puritan pieces of furniture had their fashion up to the 1860s. In Székelyföld they had taken almost exclusively the form of chests for depositing grain or trousseau, but starting with the 1780s they were gradually replaced by the painted, more easily manufactured colourful closets. At a first stage we can observe the coexistence of these two styles, but with the 1840s there is an evident domination of the painted furniture.

Among our carpentered furniture the triangle tulip-decorated chest from the Barót Basin is the most represented one, with an outstanding piece from Szárazajta with anthropomorphic decoration. Besides the carpenter centre from Magyarhermány only a few pieces from Upper Csík, Upper Háromszék, and from Kalotaszeg show the spreading of this type.

The outstanding piece of our carved furniture collection is a 1716 chair with the symbols of the joiners’ guild.

Because of its longevity, the collection of painted furniture is far richer. The twisted tulip-decorated chests from Kézdi region, the red ones with wreath and tulip buds from Orbai region, the fine pieces of furniture from Vargyas and Udvarhely region, and the blue chests from Csík region offer a wide image of the quite unknown furniture culture of the Székelyföld. A piece of great beauty is a Csángó painted interior from Hétfalu, with a covering of painted birds and flowers, being one of the most important and beautiful items of the folk art of our region, showing some Saxon influences as well.

4. Objects for collecting, fishing, hunting and shepherding

Starting with the 1940s, the trained ethnographers working in our museum (Iván Balassa, László Vajda, Károly Gaál) were gradually charmed by the specific collecting–fishing–hunting–shepherding lifestyle from Székelyföld. As at the time of World War II this material world was preserving lots of archaic elements, they were able to expand our collection with many valuable objects.

The birch-bark vessels and baskets were used for collecting wild fruits, and their museological value is increased by the fact that these items are very difficult to keep, as they are very fragile. Our collection of hunting and fishing objects, which was damaged during the rescue attempt, has become a depository of technical history curiosities by the traps and nets used for capturing animals, and by the harpoon forms that could be found exclusively in the Székelyföld. However, the number of our decorated powder-keeping horns is not relevant in the Transylvanian context. Among the decorative shepherd carvings the most important one is the collection of shepherds’ crooks. A part of these splendidly ornamented thin crooks are adorned with animal or human heads, others show geometrical carved ornaments. Another specific object of the shepherds’ culture of the Székelyföld was the salt-cellar made of birch-bark and with scratched decorations, of which our colleagues collected a whole series in the 1940s with the intention of furnishing a mountain sheepfold from the Barót Basin.

Of the undecorated, everyday objects of the shepherds we have to mention the grooved crooks used for the inventory of the animals, the specific vessels use for the processing of sheep milk, and the wood scales used for weighing.

5. Objects of craftsmanship

The early collecting actions were oriented first of all towards saving the decorated objects. Later on the ethnographers of the museum realized the importance of documenting the everyday life of the handicrafts, as certain occupations (rope-maker, blacksmith, sieve-making etc.) were thrust to the background. As a result, during the 1970s new complete or almost complete workshops were included in our collection, purchasing both the tools used in the production process and the products that were made.

Therefore the ethnographic collection was expanded with the blacksmith workshops from Kökös and Bibarcfalva, with the tools of sieve-making from Csomakőrös, with the equipment for shingle-chopping from Gelence, with the wheelwright workshop from Oltszem, the copper’s from Haraly, the violin builder’s from Árkos. The tools and objects related to weaving and spinning have many-many variants in our museum. Not long ago our museum bought a pottery from Gorzafalva. Thanks to this museologist system of viewpoints we can follow the realization of a conscious collecting concept: our scholars tried not only to discover and present the surface of the life forms in the Székelyföld, but also to understand and expose them in their depth.

6. Objects related to the turning points in life

The European society realized only at the middle of the 20th century that children are an important segment of society itself. Therefore the objects related to children are quite rare in the museums. However, in the 1970s a new collection with several thousand items was added to the collections of the Székely National Museum: the collection of toys. This collection was a result of the request published in the magazine Jóbarát, a children’s magazine from Romania addressing to the 8–15 years old. The tiny toys arrived from all parts of Transylvania, and taking into consideration the fact that they came to us together with the complementary descriptions of the games; through them we can follow the whole process of playing.

Our collection offers a great panorama of the objects used at choosing one’s pair, at giving love gifts or at weddings. Similarly, the objects related to death were used to make an exhibition of our museum.

7. The objects of folk customs

The folk art- and lifestyle-centric concept of collecting brought to our ethnographic collection only a few objects related to the world of folk customs. Among the objects related to the calendar customs stands out our collection of written Easter eggs, as we are proud to present numerous 19th century pieces first of all from Kézdi region and Árapatak. Our rare and precious items include Christmas masks from Csíkcsobotfalva, small toy churches also used at Christmas from Háromszék and Gyimes, the carnival costume from Bölön and the wooden mask and accessories used at the “borica” dance in Hétfalu.

8. The outdoor unit

The Csíki House built in 1767–1768, considered the eldest outdoor museum of the Hungarian language area besides the one from Balassagyarmat (Hungary), is a house with three compartments and lateral, covered eaves. The importance of this house lies not only in its age, as it is a typical cavalry-man house from the Lower Csík region, with extremely steepened, shingle-covered roof and a carved door-case. This house with Marian monograph on its door-case and inscription on its timber entered our collection together with an open-fireplace glazed tile stove, a bench from 1743, a chest for depositing grains from 1766, and table, closet, rack also from the 18th century. In the 1950s the bourgeois-like glazed tile stove of potter Zsigmond Bereczki from Küsmöd was installed in the inner room. The 1761 gate in front of the house comes from the immediate neighbourhood of the original site of the house.

Beyond the Csíki House we can see a great collection of wooden headboards and an early oil press with hammer from Bölön.

Special values of our museum represent the 18th and 19th century big gates, the so-called Székely gates. Our 1733 gate from Dálnok is a very special item, as it is the eldest example of the renowned Székely gate carving, still standing. The carved calendar of the gate from 1751, respectively the anthropomorphic illustrations of the 1778 gates from Kézdimartonfalva share the same historic-cultural value.

On 1 April 2015 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe celebrated its 5 years anniversary. During these five years we have collaborated with around 250 artists, art theorists, philosophers, etc. and together we contributed to what MAGMA is today.[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the group exhibition Examples for Non-universal Chair on March 18, 2015 at 18:00. [ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sf. Gheorghe kindly invites you to the opening of the exhibition 'DREAMHUNTING' by Igor BUHAROV (Kornél SZILÁGYI), Ivan BUHAROV (Nándor HEVESI) and Vasile CROAT (László HORVÁTH). [ details ]
On January 15, 2015 at 19:00 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled The geometry of water by Hungarian artist Ágnes PÉTER winner of the first prize at the second edition of the International Graphic Art Biennial in Szeklerland.[ details ]
SALON VIDEO and MAGMA Contemporary Art Space cordially invite you to the opening of the archive-exhibition salonvideo_SUBmissions.[ details ]
Magda CSUTAK // Solo Exhibition[ details ]
Ivan Ladislav GALETA solo exhibition[ details ]
Opening: 14. February, 2014., 19:00[ details ]
Group exhibition[ details ]
Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák & Márton Fernezelyi [ details ]
The 35-year anniversary exhibition of MAMŰ[ details ]
Prints, Drawings and Photos from the Ethnological Archives[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled Master and disciple 4 of the artists Ilona NÉMETH and Jaro VARGA [ details ]
Joint temporary exhibition of the Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism, the Hungarian Museum for Science, Technology and Transport and the Fazakas & Kimmel Collection [ details ]
The commune Árkos and the Covasna County Capital, Sepsiszentgyörgy will host an extraordinary event: the ‘Spiral’ International Contemporary Art Symposium takes place here at the Training Center and the garden of the Szentkereszty Castle. [ details ]
Our exhibition attempts to give an overview of the main events, effects and consequences of the greatest plague epidemic of European history, the Black Death, which first devastated Europe in 1347-1349. [ details ]
Holidays and Encounters II. – Ethnographic exhibition and Europe in Miniature cultural program in the Székely National Museum[ details ]
Executive editor: Vargha Mihály.
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