Vol. 4 No.2  

Forging links

Another charming and odd exhibition from those inventive wits at the Peasant’s Museum
19th Century Romanian maternity wear
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Walking into this modest exhibition of Swiss and Romanian jewellery at Romania’s Museum of the Peasant, a visitor is welcomed by brooches, belts, necklaces and crosses from the last three centuries hanging in glass cages or laid out on hand-crafted linen. There are no labels showing their names, description or date and place of provenance. If one can forget the strip-lighting, bare walls and a woman in the corner sitting on a plastic chair and filling in crosswords, gallery-goers could believe they had walked into an crackpot collector’s forgotten attic.
These works from Olten, a town in Switzerland and Oltenia, south Romania are purposely mixed-up, allowing the visitor to establish free associations between the jewellery. Although there are few connections between the Swiss town and the Romanian district except the first five letters of their names, this has not stopped the museum’s cunning anthropologists conspiring to show how different cultures can create common threads of development in their craftsmanship.
Both locations have strong traditions in skills – Olten’s formal jewellery and Oltenia’s adorned fabrics. The Swiss objects use floral or religious themes, cross-shaped pendants with images of Christ, doves, the holy lamb of God and the Virgin Mary. The Romanian pieces are more extrovert, such as a vest of money using Hungarian coins from the late 19th century, a chain of keys worn around a woman’s belly and a necklace of rings for a pregnant woman. But the contrast between the folkish and the dignified is not always so clear, with the use of red glass and silver metalwork common to both regions.
For the less intrepid visitors, there is a catalogue for sale with relevant words and pictures.

‘Olten Olt Oltenia’
Museum of the Romanian Peasant
3 Soseaua Kiseleff
Until 20 March

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