The Wool Homespun

The wool homespun collection of the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant comprises more than 2,100 pieces, which constitute a real treasure worth knowing and displaying for its beauty, given by the handicraft and refinement put into their making. This fund was brought together on the one hand through Alexandru Tzigara-Samurcaş’ efforts (750 objects), on the other hand as a result of some huge research campaigns organized under Tancred Bănăţeanu’s lead, when more than 1,250 pieces were acquired. Another important stage of aqcuisitions was initiated after 1991, to complete the collection. Different from one region to another, these objects represent a specific element of the peasant interior, representative for Oltenia, Muntenia, Vrancea, Suceava, Făgăraş, Haţeg. Orăştie, Bran, Muscel and Banat are proofs of a craft turned into art.


The collection includes a large number of pieces from Moldavia and Oltenia, due to some funds donated 100 years ago by famous collectors, passionate of popular art. Two of the most well-known granters are professors Dimitrie Gusti and Elena Comşa. An interesting collection of Moldavian wool homespun was donated to the museum by the nuns from Agapia Monastery, an important centre of wool homespunning, which are now very precious.


Initially used only for practical needs, the wool homespun went, in time, beyond their utilitarian purpose and became the paramount element in the interior architecture, to which it adds beauty.


The wool homespun were considered pieces of great value, both in the boyar houses and in the peasant ones. For this reason, they were mentioned in the dowry sheets of their time and inherited from one generation to another within the same family.


The strong local fund of the Romanian wool homespun assimilated decorative elements of Oriental origin. This influence penetrated by two ways: by means of the Balcan world, in Oltenia and Banat, whose relations with the Orient were stimulated by the big road which passed through Vidin and headed South, through Valea Vardarului. On the other hand, in Moldavia and Bucovina the motifs came by means of the Armenian colonies from the old urban settlements and the monasteries around Suceava, but mostly by means of merchandise commerce along the old commercial roads which went down to Cetatea Albă and Crimeea.


In the museum’s collection all homespuning and decorating techniques are documented.


The most categories of homespun are made in two or four shafts. A special procedure is the one used to make the horse blankets spun in two shafts, of thick and very lightly twisted wool threads, taken then to the waterhole (to gain strength by felting).


The wool homespun from Olt has a curdled composition composed of a central field and one or more frames. Its has several particular features, like the preferance for the vegetal, avimorphic, zoomorphic and antropomorphic motifs, treated most naturalistically, due to the decorating procedure of the „curved picking” (alesul curb). Another feature is that the entire composition is displayed along the whole piece. The most well-known decorative motifs to be found on the wool homespun from Olt which belong to the museum’s collection are: geometrical (the rhombus), naturalist, like the avimorphic ones (stylized birds: the hoopoe, the cuckoo, the hen, the turkey, the goose – a very rare piece is the wool homespun S 835, which is decorated with parrots), antropomorphic animals or figures (female characters – S 972, a unique piece in the collection, whose decor is a woman clad in a pink dress, caught in at the waist with a green belt whose ends hang down over the large dress, and a diadem on the head). This homespun participated in the International Paris Exhibition (1900), where it received an award.


Wool homespun from Muntenia, Dobrogea, Moldova, Maramureș and Banat is also part of the collection.