Wood, Furniture and Ironmongery
The collection of wood, furniture and ironmongery includes about 8500 objects, selected according to the criteria of representativeness, age, uniqueness and artistic value. The founding director of the museum, Alexandru Țigara Samurcaș, collected about 3700 objects in the period 1906-1953; during the second director, Tancred Bănățeanu, 2000 objects were collected, and after 1991, the collection was completed with another 2800 objects. The collection of this considerable number of valuable pieces was also due to important donations made by personalities and institutions: members of the Brătianu family, Kalinderu, the Ministry of Domains, the Romanian Post Office, etc. Another female personality of the time, Gheorghe Tătărescu’s wife, donated several objects, including a zălar: a thick iron chain with elongated and flat links, fitted with hooks, used to hang the kettle on the fire. Important donations came from the “Domnița Maria” and “Furnica” associations, whose aim was to promote tradition. The intellectuals of the villages made significant contributions to the enrichment of the collections: the teachers Simeon Albu from Petrila (Hunedoara) and Ion Bota from Cetea (Alba) or priests like D. Popovici from Fărcașa (Bacău). The Saint Georges Museum has donated about 20 traditional objects, mostly boxes. Panait Panaitescu donated the reed pipe of Badea Cârțan, which he played at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900. Undoubtedly the most important acquisition are the house and gate made by Antonie Mogoș from Ceauru (Oltenia), brought to the museum in 1907 to be exhibited as proof of the Romanian peasant’s craftsmanship and ingenuity.
The traditional furniture is relatively uniform in form, the decoration being the element that makes it noticeably different from one region to another. In the north of Oltenia, the more sober decoration is based on alternating smooth surfaces with geometrically delimited spaces highlighted by notched hatching. In Wallachia, the rosette, the curved lines merge, springing from one another without strict symmetry, revealing the spontaneity of the craftsman. In Banat, the predominant motif is the rosette, bordered by concentric circles covering the entire decorated surface.
Tools related to various occupations and crafts, as well as vessels and household objects, are the most important in the collection. Made from the most varied types of wood (fir, cork, cork oak, hazel, walnut, cherry and plum), they come in a wide range of shapes, uses, sizes and capacities.
Agricultural implements, although they have fewer decorative elements, are attractive because of their balanced proportions, beautiful shape and finish. Given the importance of draught animals (horse and ox), the museum preserves numerous yokes or harnesses: saddle, bridle tail, plough harness, hemp headgear with iron bits. There are also carriages for transport (a gypsy cart), wooden or iron ploughs or only parts of them (threshing tools, wheel, loom, axle, headboard, etc.). The holsters for holding scythe sharpening stones are the most harmonious combination of form and decoration of the objects used in agriculture.
The pastoral instruments are of great artistic value because of their shape, proportions and decoration. The most successful are the “căucele” or “căpcelele” (spoons used for preparing the cheese) from the Hunedoara region, made from a piece of wood and decorated with geometric, vegetal, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic motifs, also in relief. Related to shepherding are also the cheese types or “puppets”, mainly acquired from Vrancea. Round or rectangular, they are decorated with deep indentations in geometric and vegetal shapes. The lid of the rectangular ones has an anthropomorphic shape, hence the name. The shepherd’s sticks from the areas of Sibiu and Hunedoara and the shepherd’s vessels are well made from an artistic point of view: buckets, milking cups, beards, curds for draining whey, etc. To these can be added: sheep shearing shears, shepherd’s hooks and pegs.
Well represented are the tools used in the domestic textile industry, the loom or its component parts: scroll, loom, sole, frames, pulleys, skewers, threads, the skein for fastening the skeins, etc. In the same industry the following were also used: scissors, spinning shears, rakes, reeds, darts, hemp warping shears. The object of greatest artistic value is the spinning fork. The collection of spinning forks illustrates the variety and artistic achievements, also due to their social role. Generally made by shepherds, they were given to the mothers, sisters and especially to girls as a sign of love. Shapes and ornaments differ from one ethnographic area to another. Most come from Transylvania, especially from pastoral areas: Sibiu, Hunedoara.
The museum has a large collection of wooden vessels for household use. The most important are the coffeepots with pyrographed decoration from Vrancea, the wooden barrels for keeping drinks (balercă) from Bucovina, the trugs, bota bags, keeves, as well as those made of pumpkin shell: tiugi and tigve for drawing wine. To these are added the trough, the mill machine, the saltcellar, the pepperbox. Among these, a saltcellar from Mehedinți, made by Manea Dumitru in 1811, stands out. There is also a rich collection of baskets made by weaving hazel or wicker, rush and even birch bark.
The dough-kneading baskets, washing baskets, flour stools, bread oven shovels and grain measures (bannisters and doubles) are undecorated. Large wooden spoons (ladles) have little decoration, with rosettes on the surface of the handle. Spoons and forks, on the other hand, are decorated with a variety of geometric and zoomorphic motifs because many of them have lost their functional role and have become mere decorative objects. For educational purposes, Tancred Bănățeanu acquired four spoons in various stages of production from Flămânda (Muntenia).
Most of the non-ferrous metal tableware comes from Dobrogea, from Medgidia and Tulcea: large vessel (Guguon), kettle (ibrâc), brass plate (Sahan), teapot, brass tableware. Most of these were made by Muslims (Turks and Tatars).
Traditional crafts are represented not only by the products of their activity, but also by the tools or complete workshops.
Victor Obancea’s blacksmith’s workshop, pottery and wheel-working workshops are exhibited in the “Water, Fire, Wind” exhibition hall. In the same exhibition is a windmill brought from Dărmănești (Bacău county).
Milcana Pauncev enriched the collection in 1961 with a complete gilding workshop, purchased from the commune of Vidra (Alba). Among the specific pieces we mention: tool for cleaning the inside of the vases, pliers for stretching the hoops, tool for making a groove at the hoops, doorknob for pulling the butts, florist (embroidery tool) for pyrography. The objects used for picking are the blueberry rake or the hazelnut cracker, beautifully decorated by notching. Beekeeping is represented by a tree trunk hive and a bee hive. For hunting there is a bone horn for storing gunpowder, decorated with geometric (wolf’s tooth) and zoomorphic (depicting game) motifs. A few retain the ornate belt on which they were hung from the waist.
The objects in the collection used in architecture and construction are: house posts from Oltenia, ciocârlanii – rectangular planks placed on the ridge of the roof -, door frames from civil or religious buildings. Many of these were made of iron: lattice or window bars, hinged doorknobs, padlocks. The following household utensils were also made of the same metal: chain, skewers, spikes and the pole on which wooden logs were supported to ensure draught. Other iron objects are: lamps, lighters, candlesticks, scales.
A wide variety of ornamental compositions were made by incising, notching, carving, piercing and pyrography, although the decoration and motifs are generally simple and unified. One of the specific, very old decorative motifs used to decorate wooden objects is the wolf’s tooth, with an infinite number of compositional forms. As proof of their value, many of the objects in the collection have been exhibited at numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, where they have successfully represented the museum and the country. The first of these were the “Paris International Exhibition” of 1900 and the “Romanian General Exhibition” of 1906, organised in Bucharest on the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of King Carol’s accession to the throne.
Musical instruments play an important role in the collection. Of these, the most numerous and valuable are those for wind (flute, bagpipe, nai, mouthpiece) and stringed instruments (guitar, mandolin, cobza, gusla, lyre or lute). Whistles and bagpipes are best represented because they were instruments used very frequently in the sheepfold or at end-of-year celebrations. The museum has a varied collection of whistles: cavale (long whistles with five holes: finger holes), purchased at the Moșilor Fair, Moldovan whistles with six holes from Basarabia and northern Bucovina or from the Romanians of Transcarpathian Ukraine. The smallest whistles in the collection are called piculine, with seven holes – six near the vrana (blow hole) and one at the other end. The “whistle”, brought from Moravia, has the vrana on the front in the same plane as the holes and not at one end. From the Hunedoara area there is a blowing instrument called torogoată, like a straight saxophone, made of wood and pewter keyboards, consisting of four removable parts.
The toy collection has a wide variety of pieces: sizzlers, rattles, and ratchets.