The Spoons of Cecylia Chrzanowska

The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was a period of increased travel around the world for various purposes: exploration, research, and pure tourism. Various objects were brought back from these journeys, among which were both works of art of a specific culture, nation, or social group, as well as various utilitarian objects and souvenirs. A hand-made and decorated spoon, which was easy and not troublesome to transport, and, at the same time, constituted a perfect souvenir from the trip, which could be hung on the wall as a kind of memento, and could also be given to someone, was such an object.
In the collection of Krakow Ethnographic Museum there is a collection of 900 spoons from around the world, collected at the end of the 19th century by a general's wife, Cecylia Chrzanowska, (family name Gilewicz), the wife of the general-lieutenant of the Russian army, Paweł Chrzanowski from Łaniów. She was the daughter of a Polish woman and Georgian man, whom Paweł Chrzanowski had met during his stay in Tiflis in the Caucasus, where he worked in the military judiciary. Chrzanowski was not only a general, but also a traveler and collector, and his collecting acumen was also shared by his wife. The general’s professional work, and his journeys deep into Asia to the ends of the Russian Empire in the Far East related to it, enabled him to collect items; however, this wouldn’t have been possible without his love of art and collecting acumen. After ending his professional career, his curiosity towards other cultures led Paweł Chrzanowski to go on a trip around the world, from which he brought back many works of oriental art. The fruit of all these trips are, among others, the spoons from various parts of the world, collected by the general’s wife.
Over 600 spoons from Cecylia Chrzanowska’s collection, made of various materials (wood, animal bones, tortoiseshell, shells, gourds, bamboo, metal, and porcelain) and used for various purposes, are a product of non-European cultures and nations. The most valuable ones, in terms of ethnography, are the spoons of Siberian nations, and also a unique collection of over a dozen spoons of the Ainu: a small group of indigenous inhabitants of Hokkaido, formerly inhabiting some areas of Honshu, the Kuriles islands, and Sakhalin, who differ significantly in appearance and customs from the rest of the inhabitants of Japan. Their lineage is not entirely clear. The word Ainu itself, in the language of this people, simply means “man”, and the Ainu themselves believe that they came from heaven. The basis of their belief system is: kamujramatinau, where kamuy are ghost-gods; ramat—the soul; and inauspecific intermediaries between gods and people, in the form of sticks adorned with a dangling swarf.
The spoons of the Ainu, held in the Museum, obtained from the collection of Cecylia Chrzanowska, are a small but important contribution to the study by Poles of the material culture of this people, a study which brought fame primarily for Bronisław Piłsudski, but also other Poles, such as, B. Dybowski, I. Kopernicki, I. Radliński, and W. Sieroszewski.


Elaborated by Eleonora Tenerowicz (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved
See also:
Spoons of the Ainu people