At least one work of embroidery, “infused with patience”, has passed on to each one of us as a family heirloom. Today, in our homes, tucked away, are living memories of our ancestors that we do not part with, yet rarely use.
Embroidery and weaving, the most humble and lesser-known folk applied arts, had a gender dimension for centuries. Homer’s image of Penelope working away the years on her loom remains unchanged for centuries, until the industrialization of the textile arts takes the core household item, the loom, from the most airy and sunny room of the house into a museum.
Weaving, in the context of the Greek traditional community, is mainly the work of women. Primarily for the production of dowries, women labour for endless hours on the painstaking work of embroidery, to the cost of their eyes and bodies. "Embroidery is a feast and spindle is a stroll, but the loom is great slavery" as the saying goes. A good weaver was a sought-after bride, either she is a noblewoman, specialized in silk weaving, or a country girl, who weaves thicker materials, such as wool.
The weaving techniques, colors and patterns of the embroidery, offer a strong "biographical discourse".The girl infuses the canvas of her embroidery with her dreams and hopes for the future: partridges, eagles, peacocks, flowers and pots, elements of the family style in which she wants to live, but also geometric shapes, Byzantine and western motifs that testify to a continuous tradition. When it comes to items of clothing, some symbols are primeval, inherited symbols for fertility: the garments come in contact with her body transferring the “blessings” to it.
In the following thematic exhibition, explore works of folk applied arts "that lead to that old Greece that encloses all versions of Greece", as the great ethnologist Angeliki Hatzimichali aptly said. Also have a look at the philhellenic embroidery, a genre of craft used in the 19th century to keep the public opition’s interest focused on the “Greek Case”.