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Pysanka at The Ukrainian Museum
(Permanent collection)

Pysanka, the Ukrainian Easter egg is the first herald of spring at The Ukrainian Museum. Traces of snow may still be on the ground and winter winds may fiercely whip around the corners in our city, but at the Museum the glorious colors of spring emerge with the unpacking of pysanky, in preparation for this eagerly awaited annual exhibition.

Featured in the Pysanka exhibition are hundreds of beautifully decorated, traditional pysanky, representing various regions of Ukraine.

The story of the Ukrainian pysanka is one that had its beginning in antiquity. The egg, because of its life-giving capacity, was a mystery to the ancients and the source of their many myths. It was used in worship and considered a symbol of the sun and the universe.

The ancient people believed that the egg itself possessed great mystical power. They also believed that when they decorated it with symbolic designs and colors, in a specific, prescribed manner, it assumed additional power as a talisman and a protector against evil. With the advent of Christianity in Ukraine in the tenth century, the decorated egg, pysanka, became a part of the Easter tradition.

The ornamentation on the pysanka consists mainly of geometric motifs, with some plant and animal elements. An important motif is the stylized symbol of the sun, seen as a triangle, a star, or an eight-point rosette. Other popular motifs are endless lines. Similar motifs that transcend regional boundaries are believed to be the oldest. Elements such as the cross, church and fish were introduced with the Christian influence.

Pysanky are traditionally decorated with the wax resist method. Symbols are drawn on the egg with melted wax using a kistka - a special writing instrument. The egg is then dipped in the desired dye, from the lightest to the darkest. After a succession of dyes, the wax is melted off on the flame of a candle.

Due to the egg's fragility, there are no surviving examples of the earliest pysanky. But the strong tradition of decorating eggs has remained with the Ukrainian people to this day. Most of the symbolic meaning of the designs have been lost through time, but nevertheless Ukrainian artisans today continue to practice this beautiful craft, employing the symbols, colors, tools and methods as were prescribed long, long ago. Today, the pysanka remains the quintessential representative of the unique and rich Ukrainian folk art culture.

In conjunction with the Pysanka exhibition the Museum Gift Shop features beautifully decorated eggs for sale, as well as kits to decorate the eggs.

 


 

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