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The sashes worn with the kontusz by the nobility of the Republic of Poland are of Eastern origin. In Poland they became popular by the agency of Armenians, who first brought them from Persia and Turkey, and later initiated their production in the workshops set up in Poland. The best-known manufacturing factory was located in Słuck.

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The sashes worn with the kontusz by the nobility of the Republic of Poland are of Eastern origin. In Poland they became popular by the agency of Armenians, who first brought them from Persia and Turkey, and later initiated their production in the workshops set up in Poland. The best-known manufacturing factory was located in Słuck. Other Persian workshops operated in Lipków, Gdańsk, Kraków, Grodno, Kobyłka, Korzec and Nieśwież. In order to meet the huge demand for kontusz sashes in the 2nd half of the 18th century, they were also woven in Lyon, France.
The kontusz sash was composed of a long middle part and a decorative finish known as heads and narrow hems, the so-called bands. The whole middle field was divided into narrow, transverse stripes known as little fields. The heads were most frequently decorated with two motifs of flower twigs. The workshop signatures were often placed in the head corners.

Elaborated by Joanna R. Kowalska (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Kontusz sash and opasek

Kontusz sash was considered to be the most colourful piece of gentry dress. The sash was popular since the mid-16th century, but it gained particular significance in the 18th century (it was also then that the tying of the sash changed in a way to highlight its ends).

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Kontusz sash was considered to be the most colourful piece of gentry dress. The sash was popular since the mid-16th century, but it gained particular significance in the 18th century (it was also then that the tying of the sash changed in a way to highlight its ends).
Initially, the gentry used imported Persian and Turkish sashes, obviously priced very high (the equivalent of today’s PLN 250).
Over time, the sashes came to be produced in Poland, initially with imported looms and materials, the Eastern sashes serving as models. The first workshops were set up in the 1740s in estate manors – in Brody and in Stanisławów, where Armenian weavers were settling in.
The Słuck-based workshop in the Radziwiłłowski estate (managed by Jan Madżarski) quickly became the most famous Polish workshop producing fabrics woven with Persian and Turkish methods. Soon, products from Słuck weavers became so popular that the Słuck sash became a synonym for the Polish sash in general. The brand was well identifiable thanks to its original patterns and compositions (the collection of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums includes a Słuck Kontusz sash from the collection of the National Museum in Kraków).

One sash has two heads.

The ends of the sash shown off were referred to as heads. Thus each sash has two heads…
Sashes were usually 3 metres long, their width reaching 40 cm.
Two ends featured identical embroidery, though with different colouring (just as in the case of the Słuck sash, sash ends were like the negative and the positive).
Additionally, colours applied on one half were used on the other half in an opposite order, which resulted in a four-sided system. Folded lengthwise, the sash turned into four different sashes. Edges of the fabric were adorned with a decorative border, which encircled both the heads and the middle part of the sash.

Where did this sash idea come from?

A sash on a nobleman’s żupan played the role of a gem: a special technique was developed to press golden and silver threads to give the gold-laced sash a mirror-like look, such fabrics were most sought-after.
Although the wide variety of patterns evidenced Persian masters’ creativity, sash heads usually only had a karumfil (Turkish: two branched carnations). Interestingly enough, even though the patterns were of Persian-Turkish-Armenian origin, they quickly became regarded as typically Polish, representative of the national style.
As a result, the nobility dress stood out among the European styles of the time. This distinctness was evident during foreign visits: one of such events being recorded in drawings by Stefano Della Bella, who reproduced a trip of Polish MPs in the 17th century with great detail.
The history of fashion follows traces of interpenetrating influences. The kontusz sashes were a typical piece of a nobleman’s attire, just as the broad opasek shepherd belts in the peasantry (opaska bacowska).

See the sculpture of a highlander with an opasek from the collection of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums.
Find out more about the opasek in the Bronowice costume.

Activity:
Name the elements of the Słuck sash by using the words included in the phrase below.
A sash encircled with a decorative board still has two heads.

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

 

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Brocading

Brocading (from the French word brocher) is a technique involving the introduction of an additional metal thread (gold or silver) or silk thread into the fabric. This thread passed through the width of the fabric only at the spot where the ornament appeared, thus creating a pattern.

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Brocading (from the French word brocher) is a technique involving the introduction of an additional metal thread (gold or silver) or silk thread into the fabric. This thread passed through the width of the fabric only at the spot where the ornament appeared, thus creating a pattern.

The results of such intricate work may be seen in the collections of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums: a taffeta skirt from Podhale, a kontusz sash and a set of late Renaissance liturgical vestments (a chasuble, cope, dalmatic, stole).

Elaborated by: Editorial Team of Malopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Kontusz sash

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