Based On Three Articles from
the "Folk Art" Magazine
No 2, 1997, No 1-2, and 3-4, 1999
The National Union Of Folk Art Masters Of Ukraine
PYSANKY ART -- From Ukraine "Folk Art"
The egg was considered by many ancient
cultures to be the starting point for the creation of life.
The Greeks, Egyptians, Hindus, Persians, Phoenicians and others
considered the egg to be very important. The word for egg
in Latin was ABOVA.
Experts have shown that there have existed
many transcultural relations and interactions between among
peoples throughout history. The same or very similar customs
and symbols have been found in the cultures of quite different
One of the members of
the Titiniuk family at work.
The pysanka from Slobazhany
Slavonic pagans treated the egg as a
symbol of Spring-Land- Water-Sun. The mystery of preserving
life and the creation of new life has always fascinated people.
The egg is a very unique product of nature, as it contains
the embryo of a new bird. Symbolic rituals and ceremonials
were created around the egg. Among pagans it was a custom
to present an egg--passing the egg from one hand to another's
hand, one man to another man, as if gave the other a new life.
The custom of painting eggs comes from
ancient times. Pagans threw eggs into the fire to please the
gods. To make the gods temper justice with mercy people painted
eggs in different colors. With the introduction of Christianity
colored eggs became the symbol of forgiveness and Easter,
faith in Christ's resurrection.
In Ukraine such colored eggs with a variety
of design and ornament are called Pysanky. Vadym Shcherbakivskyi,
a Ukrainian expert in folk art, writes: ".... Pysanky are the eggs
that are decorated with different ornaments. They are painted during
Holly Week and are a symbol of Easter."
Pysankarstvo--painting on eggs--is treated
as a unique type of folk art. The first official recognition
of this type of folk art, according to some sources, dates
back to 1874. That year in Kyiv the Third Congress of Archeology
was held. Ukrainian scientist Fedor Vovk initiated the official
recognition of pysankarstvo at this Congress.
During the period from 1876 until 1904
the pysanky works by Olena Pchilka, Pelaheya Lytvynova, Mykola
Sumtsov, Serhiy Kulzhynskyi, Myron Kolduba, and Volodymyr
Shukhevych appeared from different regions around Ukraine.
The famous Ukrainian professor Mykola
Sumtsov, who lived and worked in Kharkiv, initiated in 1888
the Kharkiv collection of Ukrainian traditional pysanka. His
call for eggs and program to collect pysanka was announced
in the press. He soon received 250 different painted eggs
from 8 regions. In 1891 Mykola Sumtsov published his work
"Pysanky" ("Kyivska Starovyna", Kyiv) based on his research
of the eggs he collected.
Six years later Professor M. Sumtsov
gave his collection of 378 egg samples from different regions
to the Kharkiv University Museum. During 1900-1902 M. Sumtsov
initiated another program for the collection of pysanky. At
the Twelfth Congress of Archeology he exhibited 337 examples
of pysanky. In the Museum in Slobozhany, where M. Sumtsov
was a director, a collection of 1,050 samples of pysanky has
The Historical Museum in Kharkiv, is
one of the few Ukrainian museums, who also has a unique collection
of Ukrainian pysanky from the end of nineteenth and the beginning
of the twentieth century.
The various designs on the eggs are
made in different ways. For example, in the South Podillia,
Bukovyna region painting with the help of wax is used. In
some of the regions of Volyn and the Carpathians the technique
of scraping away the dye from the painted egg is used. The
painting of eggs in only one color-- red, blue, green, yellow--
without any ornament is used widely in all the regions of
Ukraine. The eggs are put into the boiled broth of onion peels,
different plants, rinds, and aniline (a chemical). Eggs painted
in such a way are called "krashenky".
According to the design it is normally
possible to divide Ukraine into the following areas: Dnieper,
Podillia, Polissia, Volyn, and the Carpathians. For example,
in the Western Carpathians designs are geometrical with thin
white and yellow lines. The basis of the compositions are
stars, crosses, triangles, and rhombus (diamond shapes). Very
often the eggs are decorated with the images of animals such
as horses, deer and birds. White, yellow, red, and black colors
Pysanky from Slobozhany
In Podillia violet and purple colors are most
widely used. Designs are based on painting different flowers, and
leaves. In all regions one can find in egg ornaments the depiction
of rakes, mills, and combs (hair-brush). But it is possible to say,
that every village in Ukraine has some of its own original designs
and ornaments which show local customs, ideas, and flavor.
Pysanky from Slobozhany
Every color has its own meaning. Thus, the
color red means joy, love, and for young people--hope for marriage.
Red is also the symbol for the sun. The color yellow is close to
red by its meaning. Yellow is the symbol of warmth, and high spirited
energy. When four or five colors are mixed together that means family
happiness, peace, and love. Green is a symbol of spring, the revival
of nature. Red with white eggs, and black with white eggs represent
respect for ghosts, and gratitude for protection against evil.
the collection of the State Museum of Decorative Folk Art
of Ukraine. Prepared specially for the Folk Art Magazine by
of the Kyiv Art College under the supervision of O. I. Vladymyrova.
Pysanky from different
With the gaining of Ukrainian independence
in 1991 and the renewed interest in Ukrainian national culture
the interest in pysanka art has begun to increase. Nowadays
pysanka art is being called a phenomenon of Ukrainian culture,
the grand-grandmother of folk decorative art, and the masterpiece
of miniature painting.
Congresses of the masters of egg painting,
egg exhibitions, seminars, and conferences about pysanky are
not rare anymore. This kind of folk art is now being added
to school and college programs.
The State Museum of Ukrainian Folk And
Decorative Art at the Lavra has one of the largest collections
of pysanky that were made at the end of the nineteenth and
the beginning of the twentieth centuries. This collection
was gathered thanks mainly to Mykola Biliashivskyi and the
Shcherbakivskyi brothers. The collection now has 3,300 examples
of pysanka art. Almost all the regions of Ukraine are represented.
The oldest pysanky in the collection are from the nineteenth
century. This collection, alongside the other folk art held
in the museum, is part of the spiritual and material culture
of the Ukrainian people.
The article above is a summary of three articles
found in the magazine "Folk Art",
(1) Magazine No. 1-2, 1999, pages 48-49, article by Viktoriya Titiniuk,
a specialist in art,
(2) Magazine No. 3-4, 1999, pages 54-55, article by the late Mykola
Shutak, the Bukovyna regional office of the Union of Folk Artists,
(3) Magazine No. 2, 1977, pages 6-8, article by Liudmyla Atlantova,
academic secretary of the State Museum of National Decorative Arts