This exhibition, the first of its kind, highlighted the exquisite artistry of painted wood furniture and textiles created in preparation for marriage. It included Hungarian painted furniture from the Bill and Margaret Pearson Collection, and textiles and dress from the Helene Baine Cincebeaux and Helen Zemek Baine Collection. The Evelyn A. Domjan Collection of 20th century Hungarian tapestries, created by her late husband, Joseph, using designs based on folk images, were also on view.
Painted furniture is an important aspect of the Eastern European dowry tradition. In rural areas, marriage was considered the birth of a new family. The groom brought the farm stock and tools; the bride brought the household needs, including bedding and furniture, to the union. All of the furniture was painted with designs indigenous to the area as well as designs that represented family history. Many pieces were personalized with the owners’ names and wedding date. Besides bedsteads, chairs, wardrobe cabinets and tables, the exhibition included a typical cottage room.
The Baine/Cincebeaux Collection included wedding textiles and dress from Slovakia, Moravia and Bohemia. Wedding shawls, bed hangings, dress for bride and groom and numerous stunning headdresses were on display. An appliqued and embroidered sheepskin coat — traditionally produced by men — was also on view. Of particular interest were the rare ceremonial cloths made by young girls to be worn at their weddings and others intended to segregate the mother and her newborn from the rest of the household. The names of these cloths and their designs vary from village to village, but the symbols used always denote fertility and protection. They constitute an unwritten language of women that has been passed down for centuries.
An honored guest at the Members’ Reception was The Honorable Ivana Hlavsová, Consul General of the Czech Republic, Los Angeles.
A symposium on Eastern European Folk Art was held at Mingei International Museum on January 15-16, 1999 in conjunction with the DOWRY exhibition and consisted of papers, illustrated lectures and demonstrations by noted scholars, authorities and collectors. Czech and Slovak traditional dances and a costume parade were performed.
The Mingei International documentary publication, DOWRY: Eastern European Painted Furniture, Textiles and Related Folk Art was funded by The Gerald T. and Inez Grant Parker Foundation and the revolving publication funds of Seymour E. Clonick and Sydney Martin Roth. The documentary publication includes a foreward by Martha W. Longenecker, and commentaries by Joyce Corbett and Helene Baine Cincebeaux. A Mingei International exhibition documentary video was made possible by an anonymous foundation.
DOWRY was funded in part by Deborah Szekely and Andy Williams and by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Program.