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This Easter egg might illustrate the roads by which the objects  (including Easter eggs) arrived there in the first years of existence of the Ethnographic Museum of Seweryn Udziela in Kraków . Sometimes, entire collections gathered over the years, and sometimes only individual items were donated here—the result of social sacrifice, fascination and exploration of folklore, and sometimes accidental encounters. 

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The Easter egg presented here is made with a chicken egg (a whole one). After almost 100 years, only a dried, hard ball remained from the egg yolk, which may cause the shell to crack if it strikes against it. The protein has turned into hydrogen sulphide; therefore, such Easter eggs should be treated with extreme caution, because keeping them in the heat of the palm for too long may cause an 'explosion.' This Easter egg is decorated with an engraving technique, consisting of etching a pattern onto a coloured eggshell, hence their local names: 'etchings' or 'drawings.' Usually, the pattern was etched using a sharp tool — most often with a slanted cutter, bound in a wooden handle, a razor, a piece of broken ax or scythe, half a pair of scissors, a thick needle or an awl. In the case of this Easter egg, the museum records do not provide such detailed information. There are also no details on the method of colouring this egg and the type of dye used. However, we know from the information available to us that 'now [in 1913] more and more aniline dyes are being used, as they give better colours'. It can therefore be assumed that this Easter egg is covered with a chemical dye, probably aniline. The scratched pattern is a spiral — as we can read in the description at the time in the museum records — in the form of a 'rich belt with a slanted grid motif, running in the shape of a snail between the two ends of the egg'. The motif of the spiral (here entangling the entire surface of the egg), next to other patterns — sun, swastika, triquetra, eight-armed star — related to solar symbolism, belongs to the oldest and most widespread decorative motifs on Easter eggs in different regions.
This Easter egg might illustrate the roads by which the objects  (including Easter eggs) arrived there in the first years of existence of the Ethnographic Museum of Seweryn Udziela in Kraków . Sometimes, entire collections gathered over the years, and sometimes only individual items were donated here — the result of social sacrifice, fascination and exploration of folklore, and sometimes accidental encounters. The circumstances of such a meeting in Kowno, towards the end of the 1st decade of the 20th century, with the donor of the Easter egg, painter, recognized stained glass artist from Kowno — Władysław Przybytniowski (1873-1937) — describes in his memoirs a certain Julian Talko-Hryncewicz (1850-1936), a professor at the Jagiellonian University, co-founder of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, opened in 1911:
 'I did not give up on finding someone in Kowno to talk to about our national affairs. I learned from Dowgird that a sculptor from Kraków, Władysław Przybytniowski, had been working in the neighbourhood for several years. He was a young man, an alumnus of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. He was able to achieve considerable success among the priests and received a lot of work renovating churches in Lithuania. Ideological, with broader views, interested in the local Polish community, he made a very nice impression. Our acquaintance survived until the Great War. When we established the Society of the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków, thanks to Przybytniowski's generosity, we received some Lithuanian ethnographic objects. '
It was thanks to the generosity of Władysław Przybytniowski and the 'group of citizens in Kowno’, it was possible to buy several dozen 'Lithuanian ethnographic objects' for 100 rubles and hand them over to the museum in 1913. They also included Easter eggs from the areas of Kowno and Marijampole. Mentioned earlier in one of Tadeusz Dowgird’s memoirs (1852–1919)—an artist painter, but also an avid collector of Easter eggs and author of articles about them—in 1890, he wrote: 'Drawings are seen mostly in the southern parts of Żmujdz, and the most beautiful — i.e. the most richly decorated—we have from the vicinity of Marijampole.' Observing our Easter egg, we can see for ourselves whether it deserves to be called one of the most 'beautiful'. Lithuanian Easter eggs were decorated using two techniques: batik, using molten wax applied with the head of a pin, and engraving, where the pattern was etched on the previously coloured egg surface. These first Easter eggs are two-tone with a dark background colour, while the latter usually feature a red, green and purple, or a blue and dark orange background, or have combined colours (one half of the egg is green, the other one is red) or permeating, giving the impression of a mottled background. The multi-coloured ones, decorated with a finely etched, intricate pattern, with geometrical elements, could therefore be regarded as unique.

Elaborated by Grażyna Pyla (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Painted eggs in Lithuanian tradition

The custom of blessing food and eggs, belonging to the Easter tradition, has always been its main component. They were eaten, given as gifts, and used for magical treatments to ensure a good harvest and the success in husbandry as well as in games. In Lithuania, apart from the Easter period, a common custom was making Easter eggs on  St. George’s Day (April 23), the traditionally adopted date of the first cattle grazing in spring.

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The custom of blessing food and eggs, belonging to the Easter tradition, has always been its main component. They were eaten, given as gifts, and used for magical treatments to ensure a good harvest and the success in husbandry as well as in games. In Lithuania, apart from the Easter period, a common custom was making Easter eggs on  St. George’s Day (April 23), the traditionally adopted date of the first cattle grazing in spring. The eggs were then brought to church and placed at the altar as well as in the chapels, with his image as an offering. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was also a common tradition of housewives giving several unpainted eggs to farmers grazing their cattle for the first time. Similarly, in the period preceding Green Week, shepherds took raw eggs to a pasture, made scrambled eggs from them and ate them together, while making Easter eggs for the main shepherd from some of the eggs.
The games with Easter eggs in Lithuania — also commonly found in other areas — were described extensively in 1913 by Wandalin Szukiewicz (1852–1919), an eminent researcher of the history of the Vilnius Region:
Strictly connected to the Easter celebrations, there is a custom of “eggs kaczanie” (rolling eggs) among the local people. (…) Usually the village youth, and sometimes older people as well, gather together, set up a wooden trough, open at both ends and slightly inclined, on a freshly swept, even square and roll boiled and dyed eggs down the trough, sticking tightly to the queue. Whichever egg hits the other one on the run, makes its owner the winner who takes the bumped egg. They sometimes play the so-called “bank”. During the game, every participant of the game puts their egg in the line with the others at some distance from the mouth of the trough (...), and then sequentially rolls the eggs down the trough. If someone hits whichever egg is standing in the line with their egg, they collect all the eggs on the square; if they do not hit any, they pay every participant one egg. (…) They also play “fights” with the eggs; they check the strength of the eggs by softly striking their teeth with them first. Whose egg — checked this fashion — breaks more eggs, wins.

Although we can read in this material from 1913, concerning the tradition of decorating eggs in Lithuania that — “Easter eggs vanished in this area completely” — in Lithuanian publications, however, we find photographs of Easter eggs decorated with such techniques in the 1930su and in the archival collection of our museum, there are drawings of similar Easter eggs from the areas of Kaunas and Mariampol from the 1920s.

Elaborated by Grażyna Pyla (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

See also Easter egg from Kaunas.

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Easter egg from Kaunas

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