The Museum of Russian Art Announces “A Homespun Life: Textiles of Old Russia” Opening March 15th, 2010


Traditional Russian textiles including clothing, linens, rugs, and embroidered towels, as well as pryalki—decorated wooden spinning tools—from the homes of Russian peasants from the late 19th and early 20th centuries will be displayed through September 26, 2010.

All items are on loan from Ms. Susan Johnson, a local collector.

MINNEAPOLIS (February 23) – On Monday, March 15, 2010, The Museum of Russian Art will open “A Homespun Life: Textiles of Old Russia,” an exhibition that presents over one hundred artifacts revealing the rich peasant culture of northern and central Russia in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Featured in the exhibition are towels, bed skirts, area rugs, and pillow covers, along with garments and costumes produced by peasant spinners, weavers and dressmakers in the villages of northern and central Russia including the Vologda, Riazan and Nizhny Novgorod regions. Designs and patterns were specific to regional centers of production.

In 19th century Russia, traditional textiles were made at home. Peasant women were responsible for all stages of textile production before factory-produced clothing became widespread. From planting the flax from which thread was spun to sewing a dress, women produced most everything needed by a peasant household. Long Russian autumns and winters were spent spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing, and embroidering.

These women produced textiles of remarkable beauty. They decorated towels, bed linens, shirts and other items with intricate embroidered designs inherited from past generations. The symbolism of these traditional designs goes back even to pre-Christian times. Handed down from mother to daughter, the art of textiles demonstrates the richness of the Slavic imagination. Though the ancient language of embroidery is often difficult to decipher, individual symbols on these richly decorated objects of peasant art continue to resonate.

Soviet modernization largely destroyed traditional Russian culture in the 20th century, but the remarkable 19th and early 20th century objects on display in “A Homespun Life: Textiles of Old Russia” bring to life a peasant lifestyle long gone.

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