Many of you might’ve already heard about Zalipie, a small village in southern Poland where an old custom still survives nowadays: houses are decorated in rich flowery patterns both on the inside and outside. Today I want to describe a short history of that custom for you, and also to show a few examples of similar decorative folk art in the other regions of Poland from the past. Painting the interiors of cottages – and in rarer cases the exteriors as well – is an old tradition known from many rural regions of the Eastern and Central European countries, including Poland. In a lot of documented historical cases from around 100 years ago the painted patterns were rather simple in form and their meaning was connected to the forgotten protective rites.
With the growth of the interest by the Polish people themselves in learning more about our pre-Christian Slavic mythology and faith, we can also observe a growing trend in exploration of the Slavic themes in various forms of art.
In Poland that trend is persistent but remains quite subtle. It’s entering mostly the personal spaces but more and more often also the ‘commercial’ spheres. Take the success of ‘The Witcher’ franchise as an example, the game that is drawing so much from the rich Slavic folklore and mythology, or the ongoing short film project ‘Legendy Polskie’ with modern interpretations of Polish legends by Allegro (the biggest Polish online auction website) that featured the name of Perun and vivid Rodnovery symbolism in one of their most recent videos dedicated to Jaga (Baba Yaga – you can watch the video here, and don’t forget to turn on English subtitles).
What I want to show you today is connected to the personal spaces – more precisely the human bodies. It’s the revival of the almost-forgotten traditions meeting the modern ways of self-expression.
In the recent years many more of Polish tattoo artists are getting requests to create an artwork inspired by the Slavic faith or mythology. We can also see such fascinations across the other Slavic countries where popular Rodnovery symbols are being tattooed. In Poland what’s been popular recently is beautiful and unique portraits of the Slavic gods or demons – unique personal intepretations of their appearance by the tattoo artists.
Below you can see only some examples that recently caught my eye (the artists’ pages are sourced respectfully under each picture):
What’s a better inlook inside the past world than the art? Today I want to take you back to the 19th-century Polish countryside (mostly the 2nd half of that century) and therefore I prepared a short selection of old Polish pantings created at that time. They are showing a range of scenes: the rural people at work and during their free time, their houses and travels, the agriculture, the inns, taverns or road houses, the beautiful nature. This gallery of paintings comes without my further description: you can just scroll down and look at the world the artists immortalized in that form. It can be amazingly inspirational to have such an inlook into the past, and many of the artworks provide a great range of references: the countryside’s daily fashion, the rural architecture against the landscape, the means of transport, the ways of interactions, activities and plays, and many other details.
The paintings are sorted only by the names of the artists, and you will see various artworks painted from around the mid- to the late 19th century so pay a closer attention to the captions under each picture for more details. Enjoy!
[pictures after the cut]
I’ve been collecting various images depicting the Polish celebrations of Midsummer – called in Polish Noc Świętojańska (St. John’s Night), Kupalnocka / Noc Kupały (Kupala Night), Sobótki or Wianki – for quite a long time now. Here’s a little gallery with some of my favourite pieces: old paintings, woodcuts, litographs and sketches in various art styles from around late-19th and early-20th centuries. Enjoy!