Traditional design of the Lublin region – wood carving

Traditional design of the Lublin region – wood carving

WOOD CARVING

Rural households could remain self-sufficient thanks to the support of craftsmen. They were the ones who had the knowledge, well-equipped workshops, sets of proper tools and skills to use them. Woodcarving was one of the least represented of the traditional decorative arts in the Lublin region. Carved decoration was typically associated with carpentry and house construction, furniture production and wayside crosses.
Some parts of Podlasie, Powiśle and the Łuków area boast a particularily rich tradition of folk architectural decorations, the origins of which date back to the end of the 19th century. The tradition of decorating houses with carvings has probably been introduced by Russian Old Ritualists who came to Poland as traveling craftsmen. It was popularised by small-town Jewish carpenters in the interwar period. The architectural elements that were usually carved – and typically adorned with wrought iron ornaments – were mainly window frames and shutters, doors as well as roof and wall boarding.
The boarding on entrace doors was usually arranged in complicated geometrical patterns that often combined the motifs of a rhomb, herringbone, circle and semicircle. They were fastened with wrought iron nails that had wide heads with a symbol of a cross, a star or a rosette on them. The surface of boarded doors was usually ornamented with a circular or oval wood-carved rosette. Doorframes and transom frames were carved independently. They were decorated with simple patterns of small, circular or semicircular holes, abstract and geometric forms (rhombs), letters and numbers (the date of the building’s construction), meandring twigs, animal forms (birds) or six-pointed stars with a cross in the middle (an echo of ancient apotropaic symbols). Door decorations were crowned with shaped boards, triangular tympanums or symmetrical compositions of stylized floral elements. Openwork cross patterns that were carved in cornices were inspired by furniture decorations.
Window heads were also lavishly decorated with carved ornaments. They were adorned with simple or complicated scrollwork, hear-shaped forms, floral ornaments (with a cross carved in the middle) with figures such as birds, squirrels, dogs or dragons. Window shutters were painted rather than carved, for example in geometrized floral motifs.
The boarding on quoins and rooftops was usually formed to resemble bossages. Some houses had columns on the corners, which were built with vertical slats, rested on a flat plinth, crowned with a geometrical capital and ornamented with a rosette in the middle. The ends of intersecting windfeders were usually carved in the forms of animal or bird heads and horns. Roof finials and frames of attic windows were also decorated. Carved ornaments were additionally painted in different colours to highlight the patterns. Wood carvings from the Podlaskie region often resembled intricate lace.
Inside wooden houses, crossbeams were decorated with carved rosettes (six-pointed stars), crosses or fragments of prayers, as it was believed that they would protect the inhabitants from evil. Other inscriptions and foundation texts (such as the name of the owner) were also used. The beams were also utilized to store documents, money and prayer books.
Folk furniture was typically functional but could also be quite ornamental. Its shapes and decorations were usually inspired by the furniture that could be observed in the houses of the upper classes. Forms and esthetic features that were typical of Gothic, Baroque, Renaissanse, Biedermeier and eclectic styles were brought to the rural regions by craft guilds and incorporated (in a more or less harmonic manner) into traditional folk ornaments. The phenomenon took place thoughout the entire Europe.
Chests were used to store the best clothes, cloths and bedlinen. In the Lublin region there were several centers of chest production: in the district of Zamość – towns such as Frampol, Tarnogród, Szczebrzeszyn, Krasnobród; in Chełm District – Pawłów; in Lubartów District – Firlej, in Łuków District – Wojcieszków; and in Lublin. The chests which were produced in the region were not usually carved, but painted – with floral ornaments on a yellow background. The ornaments were typically red or brown, outlined with a black or a dark blue line. In the southern parts of the region one could find chest with older-style decorations – yellow with white patterns and black outlines. Chests produced in Krosnobród were also decorated with a colourful, swirling tree on a white backgroud. In the district of Biała Podlaska there were two types of chests: the northern regional style, with symbols painted on 2 fields, and the kujawski style, with three fields shaped like an arcade. The latter ones were sold by carpenters from the Kujawy region.
Floral ornaments constitute the majority of chest decorations: most often these are flowers – bouquets in ornate vases or pots, less frequently – garlands or other central plant arrangements. Floral elements were usually painted in a decorative, abstract manner. The flowers did not resemble any botanical species. Instead, they were heavily stylized or borrowed, in an altered form, from period decorations. Tulips, carnations and roses are examples of such motifs. It is possible that the way they were used in decorations was inspired by patterns printed on colourful postcards. Fine floral elements were used next to the main decorative motifs to fill in the blank spaces in corners, legs and sides of chests. Animal motifs, such as birds, were sometimes incorporated into the floral patterns. It is said that chests produced in the Lubartów area used to have roosters painted on them. The paintings were typically flat, lacked shading details, the motifs were presented from head-on or side view with no perspective applied.
Trunks became popular at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. They had rounded lids, were narrower at the bottom and had iron fittings. They were usually painted with one colour – typically with shades of green or brown. Floral decorations (characteristic of a specific region) were sometimes painted on their lids or front walls.
Grain painted trunks were popular in the southeast Podlasie region (near Międzyrzec Podlaski and Biała Podlaska). They had geometric ornaments composed of wavy lines which were usually crossed in a vertical or diagonal checkered pattern. The surface of trunks was covered with yellow or light-ochre glue paint, and when it was dry, it was painted over with a darker colour, e.g. brown, and then wiped with a sharp tool (a bird’s feather, a brush or a stick) to reveal parts of the underlying layer. Due to the many techniques of grain paining, it was possible to create many different effects – starting with linear, contrasting patterns and ending with rich, toned textures. Trunks produced later, during the first half of the 20th century, had elaborate floral decorations. These were multi-petal flowers with slender stems and heart-shaped leaves similar to those on a lilac bush, which were painted on a green or yellowish-brown background. They were covered with varnish mixed with turpentine, colophony or translucent lacquer. Sometimes metal fittings were also used. The idea behind grain painting was to imitate the patterns of expensive wood on cheap furniture that was created using low-grade materials. The technique was also used with other types of folk furniture: beds, wardrobes, cupboards, chests, sometimes tables and benches. In the Lublin region, the technique was also used in the Puławy and Łuków areas.
The kitchen dresser was the most decorative piece of furniture in a rural house – its form and decorations often suggested the social and economic status of its owners. It was crowned with a triangular crest which had straight or wavy edges and sometimes resembled window head decorations. Dressers were also decorated with carved figures of birds and flowers, as well as turned small columns at the front. The open shelves sometimes had profiled sides, the edges of glazed doors and drawer fronts were also decoratively cut. Dressers were painted to emphasize the ornaments.
The different techniques and motifs used to paint furniture were influenced by period furniture – craftsmen took certain designs and transformed them. However, the vast majority of furniture was decorated according to artistic tradition stemming from the work of generations of folk creators. They created drawer beds with ornamental legs and headboards, benches with drawers and ornamental side and back rests, ornamental frame chairs, different types of shelves.
Local carpenters could also create furniture that was decorated differently than other pieces manufactured in a given region. Dressers made by Józef Gibuła from Słotwiny (Opole Lubelskie District) and Andrzej Wieleba from Godziszów (Janów Lubelski District) are examples of such furniture. Gibuła created a set of furniture (a dresser, bed, table and chairs) for himself and decorated it with floral motifs (flowers and trees) as well as animals (birds and roosters) and human figures. The carvings were emphasized by just a couple of colours – bright ochre background with white, black and carmine patterns. Wieleba, who was a sculptor and a carpenter, created dressers in his own, distinctive style. He decorated his pieces with carvings and paintings, e.g., with fanciful crests with a sculpture of a bird in the middle and paintings of large flowers with heart-shaped leaves.
Over objects that were also carved were yokes for exen in the northern Lubelszczyzna region, and distaffs in the southwest part of the region (Janów, Zamość and Biłgoraj regions). Various techniques were used (straight and wedge cuts, stamping, burning, painting and intarsia) to decorate them with geometrical motifs, (straight and broken lines, checked patterns, rhombs, squares, triangles, circles, 4-, 6- and 8-pointed stars, rosettes, hearts and crosses), floral motifs (twigs, stems with leaves and flowers, flowers in vases, trees, flower heads), zoomorphic motifs (geese, eagles, hares, cats, dogs) and anthropomorphic motifs (human or mermaid figures). Similar ornaments, however simpler and more geometric, were used on other weaving equipment and small kitchen objects (salt cellars, jugs, butter and cheese forms) and on canes.
Wayside crosses – made of wood, stone or metal – were a constant element of Polish landscapes and often marked the borders of “little homelands.” They were erected to celebrate special occasions: moments of happiness or grief, to commemorate the dead or to hope and pray. There were many forms of wooden crosses in the Lubelszczyzna region – from the simple and unhewn to the rich and ornamental. Crosses from the Lublin-Łęczna area were characteristically adorned with a number of trusses circling the center of the crossing arms and creating a halo with their wavy curves. Those created in the Biłgoraj and Janów areas had a narrow, gable roof with shaped edges. The surface of crosses was often carved or adorned with small, iron crosses, crescent moons or roosters at the top. These elements (sometimes in the form of the sun, moon or stars) most probably had a magical function of granting protection against evil. Rooster was portrayed realistically or in simplified manner. Some crosses were decorated with the instruments of the passion of Christ.

Bibliography
Czerwiński T., Budownictwo ludowe w Polsce [Folk buildings in Poland], Warszawa 2006.
Fryś-Pietraszkowa E., Ludowe kufry okuwane [Folk trunks with metal fittings], „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1959, no. 1/2, p. 46-53.
Fryś-Pietraszkowa E., Mazerowane kufry podlaskie [Wood painted trunks from the Podlasie region], „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1961, no. 3, p. 165-170.
Fryś-Pietraszkowa E., Meble Józefa Gibuły [Furniture made by Józef Gibuła], „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1961, no. 2, p. 97-100.
Garbacz K., Na szlaku biłgorajskich kapliczek i krzyży przydrożnych [The shrines and wayside crosses of the Biłgoraj area], Zielona Góra 2009.
Gauda A., Sprzęty ludowe na Lubelszczyźnie [Traditional tools in the Lubelszczyzna region], Lublin 1972.
Ławicka A., Krzyże drewniane z insygniami Męki Pańskiej na Lubelszczyźnie[Wooden crosses decorated with the instruments of the Passion of Christ], „Twórczość Ludowa” 2000, no. 4, p. 7-10.
Optołowicz J., Ozdoby architektoniczne w budownictwie wiejskim w pow. łukowskim [Architectural ornaments in folk buildings from the Łuków District], „Studia i Materiały Lubelskie” 1967, Etnografia 2, p. 63-102.
Petera J., Kapliczki i krzyże przydrożne [Shrines and wayside crosses], in: Dziedzictwo kulturowe Lubelszczyzny. Kultura ludowa, Lublin 2001, p. 21-28.
Petera J., Zdobione przęślice lubelskie [Ornamental distaffs from the Lublin region], „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1967, no. 3, p. 147-167.
Pękalski M., Kapliczki i krzyże w Urzędowie Shrines and crosses in Urzędów], „Z bliska i z daleka” 1938, no. 9.
Przeździecka P., Zdobione „duhy” podlaskie, „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1953, no. 6, p. 377-378.
Reinfuss R., Ludowe skrzynie malowane [Traditional painted wooden chests], Warszawa 1954.
Reinfuss R., Meblarstwo ludowe w Polsce [Traditional painting in Poland], Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1977.
Seweryn T., Krzyże i kapliczki przydrożne w Polsce [Wayside shrines and crosses in Poland], Warszawa 1958.
Wiktor J., Kapliczki i krzyże przydrożne [Wayside shrines and crosses], Kraków 1922.
Zasada M., Kapliczki i krzyże przydrożne [Wayside shrines and crosses], „Głos Garbowa” 2002, no. 11, p. 10-11.
Zwolakiewicz H., Krzyże przydrożne pod Lublinem [Wayside crosses in the Lublin area], „Tęcza” 1929, vol. 39.

Traditional design of the Lublin region – Multicultural Lubelszczyzna

Traditional design of the Lublin region – Multicultural Lubelszczyzna

Multicultural Lubelszczyzna

The Lublin Region (Lubelszczyzna) is a varied land – physiographically, geographically and ethnographically. Lubelszczyzna’s folk culture has been shaped by the region’s ethnic subregions (such as the Lublin Powiśle, the Lublin Upland, southern Podlasie, Chełmszczyzna, Zamojszczyzna) with their distinct traditions as well as migration processes and shifting national borders. As a macroregion, it has neither a historic lineage, nor a distinctive geographic location – contrary to Wielkopolska, Pomorze or Mazowsze. Historically, it has been perceived as one of the country’s provinces and a part of the greater Małopolska region. Two rivers – the Vistula (Wisła) and Bug – have always outlined the natural western and eastern boundaries of the region. Today’s Lubelskie province is bordered by the Świętokrzystkie and Mazowieckie provinces to the west and northwest. To the east, it borders with Ukrainian Volhynia and Belarusian Polesie, to the north – with Mazowsze and Podlasie. The river San and the Solska Forest (Puszcza Solska) constitute a natural border and separate the Lubelskie province from the Rzeszów region (or the modern Podkarpackie province) to the south. Its main geographical regions are: the Lublin Upland, the Południowopodlaska (South Podlasian) Lowland, West Polesie, the Volhynian Upland, the Volhynian Polesie, the Roztocze Hills and a part of the Sandomierz Basin.
The Lublin region has shared the country’s history. Until the end of the 16th century, it was one of the border areas. After 1569, in the aftermath of a political union with Lithuania, it has become the centre of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Third Partition of Poland has caused the region to become a border area again in 1795, this time as a part of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1912 the Russian authorities sectioned the Zamość region from the Lubelskie province and incorporated it into the Empire. During the Second Polish Republic period the Lublin region became central again. However, it became a border area once more after World War II.
The modern-day Lubelskie province encompasses several of major historical regions. It contains the Lublin area and the Łuków area, as well as parts of the Stężyca and Radom areas. It also covers the southern region of Podlasie, a part of the Chełm area that used to belong to Red Ruthenia, and a section of Polesie. The province was created in 1999 as a result of an administrative reform and combines the former Lubelskie, Chełmskie and Zamojskie provinces together with elements of the Białopodlaskie, Siedleckie and Tarnobrzeskie provinces.
The emergence of a local identity in the region was influenced by shifting political borders and by the internal multiethnic structures of Poland. Some of Polish territories have been incorporated into different countries and subjected to foreign cultural influences as early as in the Middle Ages. Newcomers such as Germans, the Dutch and Vlachs settled in Poland and created tightly-knit communities that, even after assimilation, retained some of their culture and languages. The left bank of the Vistula river was inhabited by Polish ethnic groups such as Małopolanie, Krakowiacy, Wiślanie, Sandomierzanie and Lędzianie; the mouths of the rivers Pilica and Wieprz – by Mazowszanie; and the terrains along the Bug river – by Wołynianie, Bużanie and Dulębowie. The region between Wieprz and Bug belonged to the Rus tribes. As time passed, the Wiślanie and Sandomierzanie peoples started settling further into the east and, starting from the 10th century, the Rus pushed further into the west. In the next centuries this arrangement was overlaid with additional ethnic layers. In the 14th and 15th century, Vlach settlers entered the region from the east. Between the 15th and 18th century, Polish people settled on Lithuanian and Russian lands. In the 17th and 18th century, there was an influx of Dutch and German settlers to the area between Wieprz and Bug rivers. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the lands inhabited by the Rus people have been largely polonized. German settlers have also assimilated into the Polish culture. The population of Lubelszczyzna was divided into two main groups: the Polish and the Rus. However, the Jewish people, who constituted a significant part of the urban and rural populations, also managed to maintain a relatively separate identity.
All these processes have influenced the ethnical and cultural diversity of the region. Political divisions were also significant, especially in the times of the partitions. Changes such as the process of industrialization, granting of property rights to peasants and introducing equal rights for the residents of towns and cities took place unevenly in the divided country. Distinct legal, administrative and educational systems basing on several languages have created cultural differences that survived even into the interwar period. Lubelszczyzna, mainly due to its peripheral location, has retained some of its traditional forms of folk culture up until World War II, as changes were introduced much slower here than in other regions of the country.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, many researchers have studied the ethnographic groups and divisions in Poland. These were, among others, Jan Stanisław Bystroń (around the year 1925), Adam Fischer (1926), Stanisław Poniatowski (1932), Jan Natanson-Leski (1953), Janusz Kamocki (1965). In a summary of these works, Stanisław Węglarz described the „tribe roots” of the population of Lubelszczyzna:

[…] the Podlasiacy (Podlasie people), Lubliniacy (Lublin people) and Rzeszowiacy (Rzeszów people) ethnic groups were incorporated into the Eastern Borderlands groups. According to Fisher, Lubliniacy were a smaller group that was a part of the Małopolanie group, just like the even smaller Rzeszowiacy group. Podlasiacy, however, belonged to the Mazurzy group. Poniatowski claimed that Lubliniacy and Rzeszowiacy emerged as a consequence of the influx of Małopolanie to the former Rus, Belarus and Yotvingian terrains. Kamocki uses “newer research” and classifies Lubliniacy as the Sandomierz branch of Małopolanie. He is unsure whether Rzeszowiacy belong to the Kraków branch of Małopolanie, or to an independent East-Małopolska branch. Podlasiacy, who are classified as Kresowiacy (the Borderlands people), were divided into the Podlasie group (created by the migration of the Mazowsze people to the southeast and by merging with naturalized Lithuanians and Belarusians) and the Bug-Podlasie group (who were culturally closer to Mazowsze, but incorporated the Lublin region traditions as well). (Węglarz S., Tutejsi i inni, O etnograficznym zróżnicowaniu kultury polskiej [Locals and others, On ethnographic diversity of Polish culture], Łódź 1997, p. 86).
Małopolanie, Podlasiacy, Lasowiacy, Bojarzy Międzyrzeccy, Borowiacy peoples as well as Byelorussians and Ukrainians constitute the most important ethnographic groups of the Lublin region. They have always cultivated distinct traditions when it comes to their everyday lives and spiritual culture. The traditions manifested in their clothes, in arts, beliefs and folklore as well as family and annual celebrations.

Bibliography
Bartmiński J., Region lubelski i jego granice [The Lublin region and its boundaries], in: Bartmiński J. (red.), Lubelskie, Lublin 2011, p. 13-19.
Bystroń J. S., Ugrupowanie etniczne ludu polskiego [Ethnic groups in the Polish population], Kraków 1925.
Fischer A., Etnografia słowiańska. Polacy [Slavic ethnography. Poles], Lwów 1934.
Fischer A., Zarys etnograficzny województwa lubelskiego [Ethnographic outline of the Lubelskie province], Lublin 1931.
Kamocki J., Zarys grup etnograficznych w Polsce [Ethnographic groups in Poland], „Ziemia” 1965, p. 105-113.
Natanson-Leski J., Zarys granic i podziałów Polski [Boundaries and divisions in Poland], Wrocław 1953.
Poniatowski S., Etnografia Polski [Polish ethnography], in: Wiedza o Polsce, vol. 3, Warszawa 1932, p. 191-334.
Węglarz S., Tutejsi i inni, O etnograficznym zróżnicowaniu kultury polskiej [Locals and others, On ethnographic diversity of Polish culture], Łódź 1997.