We remind our readers that Den (No.50 of September 3, 2013) published the impressions of Doctor of Art Criticism Mykhailo Selivachov on the two-volume work by the Kyiv-based researcher Oksana Kosmina Traditional Ukrainian Outfits (2008-11). This series is likely to be continued with the art review of the monographic album by Halyna Stelmashchuk called Ukrainian Folk Headwear, issued by the Lviv publishing house Apriori (2013).
“I have something in my heart that does not die…” these lines from Lesia Ukrainka’s poem can be completely attributed to the creative work of her compatriot from Volyn, Doctor of Art Criticism, professor of the Lviv National Academy of Arts, associate member of the National Ukrainian Academy of Arts Halyna Stelmashchuk, author of the monographic albums Traditional Ukrainian Headwear (1993), Ukrainian Outerwear (2000), Ancient Outfits of Volyn Region (2006), Ukrainian Popular Outfits (2013), connected with deep studies of Ukrainian clothes, that “give in hands that unknown magic tangle which unwinds and rolls, leading by a faultless way of memory resurrection…” – from “a person to an outfit.”
The last in the series is the gorgeous large-format edition Ukrainian Folk Headwear, dedicated to substantive examination of the process of the development of headwear and hairdos found on the Ukrainian territory from the ancient times till the beginning of the 20th century that reflected, according to the author, “peculiarities of ethno-cultural processes of separate historical and ethnographic zones and the whole Ukrainian ethno-social community and Slavonic community in general.”
Relying on the archeological researches of Paleolithic times, findings from Neolithic burial grounds and artifacts form Scythian burial mounds, the author describes and reconstructs headwear in the context of its historical development till pliant figures of Martynivsky Treasure and Cherniakhivska culture.
The headwear of the prince age can be encountered on the pages of Byzantine and Old Russian manuscripts and in iconographic sources such as frescos and mosaics that “thoroughly depicted princes and their closest environment” – feudal lords and soldiers. Archeological rests, found in Slavonic burial mounds in Kyiv region give the idea about citizens and peasants’ headwear and hairdos.
The story about the Ukrainians of 16th-18th centuries comprehensively analyzes headwear of different social layers of the time: princes and Polish nobles, midcults – merchants, artisans and urban poor, Cossacks community and peasants, emphasizing that “headwear witnessed people’s class position.” Basing on the descriptions of travelers of the 16th-18th centuries (in particular, Erich Lassota’s journal and travel essays of Guillaume Levasseur de Beauplan) as well as fundamental searches of the Ukrainian historians Mykhailo Hrushevsky, Mykola Kostomarov, Dmytro Antonovych and others, professor Stelmashchuk substantively studied the peculiarities of the development of headwear of different layers of the Ukrainian society (it was also the topic of her doctoral thesis). The rich background for the analysis of men’s and women’s headwear and hairdos were ktitor’s and donator’s icons, Cossacks’ “Pokrovy” and “Cossacks Mamais,” painted portraits of the Ukrainian nobles of the 16th-17th centuries and water paintings by Yurii Hlohovsky, drawings by Tymofii Kalynsky and illustrations of an unknown artist for Mykola Arkas’ work The History of Ukrainian Rus’ and Serhii Vasylkivsky and Mykola Samokysh’s illustrations for the album From Ukrainian Antiquities by Dmytro Yavornytsky. At the end of the chapter the author concludes that “the headwear from the prince age till the end of the 18th century, as well as the Ukrainian clothes in general, reached their high noon in shaping and usage of materials that created national color…”
The next chapter – “Traditional Ukrainian headwear of the 19th century” – is dedicated to a comprehensive analysis of regional specific of men’s headwear – from traditional astrakhan hats, kuchmas, malakhais (fur caps), and klepnas (ear-flaps hats) to hats, caps, and mazepynkas (headwear of Ukrainian soldiers of the beginning of the 20th century); to young girls’ hairdos and headwear, paying a special attention to plaiting and usage of bands and kerchiefs; to women’s hairdos and headwear that covered hair of married young women, ways of their construction and decoration “which led to the creation of an extremely complicated ensemble – headwear with the development of all functions and shaping,” the author summed up.
The largest and most significant chapter is the one called “Traditional Ukrainian headwear in customs and ceremonies.” Before writing this chapter (as well as the whole monograph) Stelmashchuk and Bilan (author of the foreword) thoroughly worked as a part of scientific expeditions (1976-86) in different ethnic regions of Ukraine: they worked with archive materials and fund collectors of folk art museums of Ukraine, the US, Canada, and Italy. Analyzing symbols and attributes of ceremonies the author examines children, young girls, and women’s hair in popular customs and ceremonies (where “a plait is the main symbol of a young girl’s beauty and honor”) she accentuates the meaning of a wreath as a headwear, symbol and charm of a Ukrainian young girl; decrypts the code of wedding headwear and headwear significs in wedding, funeral, religious, and festive formalism.
The finale of the book is the chapter called “The role of functions in the development process of the texture of traditional Ukrainian headwear,” in which relying on the rich visual material the author comes up with a conclusion that “ceremonial headwear of the late 19th – early 20th century combined all the functions, but along with symbolic and amulet value, which gradually lost their original pagan semantic meaning, the aesthetic aspect becomes dominant.”
In general, the reviewed monographic album can be characterized as a substantive scientific research whose text is easy and interesting to read, the sources presented at the end of each chapter are deep and professional, the glossary offered at the end of the book significantly widens our knowledge of this topic. The rich illustrative material containing archive photographs from all over Ukraine, photo replicas of works of art from numerous Ukrainian and foreign museums, drawings reconstructing headwear and portrait photographs of modern models wearing folk headwear significantly widens the possibilities of perception and understanding of the topic.
Finally, I would like to hope that the monographic album Ukrainian Folk Headwear as a result of Halyna Stelmaschuk’s work of more than 20 years will be appreciated by the readers who value the Ukrainian antiquities and will become another author’s valuable contribution into the history of the Ukrainian study of art.