Folk kilims from Romania by Naïry Vrouyr and Stefano Ionescu

Category: Fairs and conferences,Lectures

Naïry Vrouyr (Jozan archive photo).
Naïry Vrouyr (Jozan archive photo).

The ICOC Stockholm lecture program included a lecture “Scoartze: Folk kilims from Romania” by Naïry Vrouyr as presenting author and Stefano Ionescu as co-author.

This presentation discussed the folk kilims produced in the area between the Danube and Ukraine, a region that was divided, at the beginning of the 19th century, in different countries: Walachia, Transylvania, Moldavia and Bessarabia. Because of their utilitarian value and artistic merit, these flat weaves called scoartze, are widely considered to be the pinnacle of local folk art.

Much remains to be learned about these textiles. Publications on the topic in English have been quite limited. Despite a number of local publications, there is no authoritative text book on the topic. Therefore, it is not unusual to find incorrect attributions or unrealistic dating in the auction catalogues or in the specialised magazines. To make things more confusing, some Romanian scoartze show similarities to Serbian or Bulgarian kilims, while those often described as ‘Bessarabian’ were probably manufactured in Ukraine.

Folk kilim (scoartza) from Vâlcea, Muntenia, 2nd half 19th century. Museum of the Romanian Peasant

The research is based on folk kilims, dating from late the 18th to the late 19th century, from museums or private collections in Romania, together with a few other found in the West. Liana and Dan Nasta, who assembled the best private collection of this kind in the world, the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, the Village Museum in Bucharest and other museums in the area have supported the research.

Oltenian folk kilim First half 19th cent. MRP.
Tree of Life, Moldavian kilim, dated 1851, Dan Nasta Collection

These folk kilims were produced by Romanian orthodox women and are a fusion of local tradition and influences from Anatolia and later from Europe. For almost three centuries, from the early 16th until the late 19th century, the Balkans and the area north of the Danube were part of the Ottoman Empire. Huge amounts of Turkish goods like textiles, pottery and metalwork were imported to this area as a final market or as a transit leg on the trade routes to Central and Northern Europe. The Ottoman carpets which survived in the Lutheran churches of Transylvania, together with many other Turkish items in the museums of the area, are a proof of this flourishing trade.

Bessarabia, mid 19th century, Dan Nasta Collection

The lecture presented some of the best examples from the Romanian collections and from abroad, in an attempt to elucidate three key points:

  • Technique and typical patterns of the main production areas Oltenia, Valachia, Transylvania, Moldavia and Bessarabia; similarities with neighbouring areas (Serbia and Bulgaria at the South and Ukraine at the north)
  • Dating elements
  • The main collections

Typical patterns and symbolic messages associated with, as well as local tradition versus foreign influences were also mentioned in the talk.

Books by Stefano Ionescu: The Lutheran Churches of Transylvania and their Rugs: Black Church and the Brasov Area

Find books by Stefano Ionescu, Nairy Vrouyr,

Find antique rugs in Vendors gallery

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