Simply the chest! Delightful collection of rare folk chests highlight rural traditions
An eye-catching and colourful collection of over 50 rare wooden folk ‘wedding and dowry chests’ showcasing the unique traditions of the Kashubian region and its social history have gone on display for the first time at the Western-Kaszubian Museum in Bytów.
All of the stunning wooden storage chests are connected with the Kashubian region and the earliest date from the turn of the 16th century.
Many have been hand-painted with traditional regional motifs including multi-coloured floral folk patterns, most commonly featuring roses, tulips and lilacs, whilst those from the end of the 19th century often feature vases of flowers on the front panel.
The decorative floral chests were wedding presents or ‘dowry chests’, most popular in the mid 19th century and were prepared by parents for their daughter’s wedding.
Each one was unique in form, style and decorative pattern.
They later served as pieces of furniture and were used to store precious possessions, often folk dress, money and important documents and sometimes even grain.
Some were made by local carpenters, whilst others arrived with individuals forced to resettle to Pomerania from the South- East of Poland in 1947 as part of the country’s post-war resettlement programme.
As well as traditional chests, which are older, the collection includes several younger trunks which are smaller and comparable in size to suitcases.
They were often painted in brown, but “the layer of original of decorative paintwork below can sometimes be uncovered,” said Maciej Kwaśkiewicz from the Western-Kaszubian Museum.
The collection also includes an example of a rare, carved ornamental chest which differs from the traditional decorative traditions of Kaszuby.
Kwaskiewicz said that the carved element was unique to the museum’s collection as it rarely appeared on chests made in the Pomeranian region, being more common in other parts of Poland.
The collection will be part of a temporary exhibition until March next year and can also be viewed on the Museum’s Youtube channel here.