History of Hungarian Embroidery

Hungarian embroidery is the same age as other European embroidery traditions. The oldest embroidery that is still to be seen in Hungary is the robe of the first King of Hungary, Stephen I. You can see it in the Hungarian National Museum. The wife of the king helped embroider the rich golden silk robe. 

Foreign nuns and ladies brought the current embroidery stitches of the Western cultures to Hungary and locals enriched them with new stitches and designs. In the Middle Ages embroidery became a profession with its own skillful masters who prepared the lavish pieces worn by emperors and knights, and today still found in museums around the country. In the Middle Ages the main influences were the Byzantine and Gothic styles, and at the end of the 15 century Turkish and Italian renaissance. This meeting of the western and eastern influences and styles was the premise of the birth of unique Hungarian embroidery.

This style of Hungarian embroidery had its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. The estates of the noblemen and lords had embroidery workshops where young girls learned embroidery from their elders and decorated the textiles of the estate and their own future household textiles with delicate and scrumptious motifs and compositions. This style of embroidery used the influences of the Italian renaissance as well as the Turkish styles. From the renaissance comes the symmetry, the delicate rhythm of floral motifs between the tendrils and the exuberant floral centerpieces. From Turkish designs come the asymmetrical compositions, crossing lines, the simplistic floral drawings, and the very stylized cypress and flower bushes. Among all historical influences, this style of embroidery had the most profound effect on Hungarian embroidery traditions. 

Folk embroidery
There are almost no villages in Hungary where there is no embroidery. When compared to the above mentioned noble embroidery, folk embroidery is more unbound, lax both in its composition and in its stitches. Floral and figural motifs are not stylized, rather simplistic and naive. Colors are the rich main colors, red, blue and black. 

Embroidery Heritage in Hungary
Hungary's needlecraft heritage is more prevalent in household textiles than in clothes and apparel. A family's financial strength - or lack thereof - was demonstrated in how many embroidered household textiles it had. Young girls learned to embroider very early and didn't marry until they had their trousseau - their future textiles - ready with the help of their aunts and mothers. It was a biog honor to be mentioned as a good embroiderer. Of course clothes and accessories hold many beautiful traditional embroideries as well. 

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