Inspired by the past – object reconstructions

The contemporary handicraft movement draws inspiration from the designs and motifs of peasant folk art, which was greatly enriched during the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as from the cultural heritage of the nobility and the common folk of earlier historical periods. Artists make faithful copies following the techniques, designs and colours of the original objects with the precision of conservators; moreover, having mastered the old stylistic features and techniques to the highest degree and using the ‘language’ of applied arts with the utmost familiarity, the finest masters are able to develop these further and implement their own creative ideas.

The larger part of the exhibits in this hall evoke the material culture of the period spanning from the late-15th to the mid-18th century. It was during this period that a style we can regard in many ways as distinctly Hungarian emerged in aristocratic and bourgeois textile art, clothing and home design. The forms, ornaments and techniques of this material heritage are indeed not far removed from the essence of folk art; what is more, in many aspects this historical antecedent provided the very soil for the peasant handicrafts that appeared later. The late Renaissance style combined with Oriental elements became especially loved and frequently used by the peoples inhabiting Transylvania and Northern Hungary; it lived on in local stylistic variations, handed down by the peasantry, in some areas all the way down to recent decades.

During the 150 years of Turkish rule (1541–1699), the Kingdom of Hungary, torn into three parts, saw an unusually long and late flourishing of the Renaissance, its impact manifest not only in the high arts but also in people’s daily life. European and Oriental influences melded in a unique way not only in the military events but also in people’s more peaceful everyday lifestyle. The aristocratic castles and manor houses with floriated facades, colonnades and porticoed inner courtyards were built in the late Renaissance style, their ceremonial halls decked out with coffered ceilings and furniture painted with Italian Renaissance motifs. The same masters who painted the stemmed flower, ‘Italian vase’ (flowers placed in a vase), bird and deer motifs onto the panels of Reformed churches made the hope chests for brides in the villages. Silver- and goldsmiths fashioned exquisite jewellery with enamel decorations and flower-shaped rosettes. Floral patterns also covered the gauze-like shawls embroidered by Hungarian and Turkish seamstresses with gold, silver and silk thread. Cloths embellished with embroidery and given as gifts by aristocratic families were laid over the mensas and Communion tables of churches. The period’s high-fired faience decorative vessels were made by the Anabaptist Hutterites who had fled here from religious persecution. The influence of tin-glazed majolicas is preserved in the motifs of rustic pottery. Stoves made from glazed or unglazed tiles enjoyed great popularity; the designs that developed at the time were carried on by rural stove-making centres up until the 20th century.