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2011 | 14 | 10-19

Article title

KURZEME DOWRY-CHESTS: CONSTRUCTION, METALWORK AND PAINTING (Kurzemes puralazu uzbuve, apkalumi un otejumi)


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The article deals with the painted dowry-chests of Kurzeme in Western Latvia (their forms, metalwork and painting) recorded in drawings, descriptions and photographs by the Monument Board from the 1920s to the early 1940s. There are drawings, descriptions and occasionally photographs of 213 dowry-chests, 119 of them with painted decorations. The assumption that dowry-chests are the subject of ethnographers has created a situation where their artistic qualities have not been thoroughly analysed and assessed. The origins of dowry-chests can be traced back to the cassone developed in Italy from the 14th to the late 16th century, meaning 'chest' in Italian. In Kurzeme there is a wide variety of dowry-chests (they have been spotted unevenly in Kurzeme), yet there are general regularities concerning types, tones and artistic solutions. Forms of chests: 80 % are rectangular structures joined at the corners with straight lids (chest); 18 % are rectangular structures joined at the corners with curved lids (coffer). Chest colours: 45 % are brown, 37 % are green, and 12 % are blue and 5% blue-green. Chests are painted evenly in one tone on top of which there are groups of painted decoration. Painted decoration is created as a free-had drawing to achieve a magnificent result. The richest decoration is found on the front plane or fa├žade of the chest. There is an opinion that Jewish-painted chests are more plastic and painterly but Latvians have created more graphic-style decorations. The uniqueness of dowry-chests found in Latvia consists in the compositional fusion of metalwork and painting, with their predominant vertical symmetry.


  • Inese Kundzina, Latvian Ethnographic Open Air Museum, Brivibas gatve 440, Riga LV-1024, Latvia


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