Home » Wood Art in Neamț County

Wood Art in Neamț County

 The Neamț County was an area with large forests, which determined the development of a rich civilisation of wood. Owing to the qualities of wood, people have used this raw material since the dim past to make most of the things they needed for their living – ranging from the dwelling and household objects – to tools and installations, from means of transport to weaponry.

At another level, trees have been idolised, turned into a cult object or used in churches; they supported people’s material as well as spiritual life.
Wood has many properties: density and hardness (soft wood: spruce fir, fir-tree, poplar, willow; semi-hard wood: yew, beech, nut tree, pear tree; hard wood: corn, oak, hornbeam, acacia); durability (high: oak, elm, yew; medium: spruce fir, brad, ash tree; /ow birch, beech, hombeam); elasticity (high: fir-tree, spruce fir, ash tree; medium:  oak, beech; /ow: pine, chestnut tree, poplar…); acoustics (spruce fir, white fir, sycamore); fuel bun (resinous, deciduous), etc.

Wood processing has undergone a continuous development – from individual activity to craft and industry. In all areas covered by forests, the exploitation, transport, and the numerous wood-related crafts, have been the locals’ main occupation and pastimes. In time, craftsmen specialised, thus becoming: carpenters, cabinet makers, shinglers, coopers, wheelers, trough makers, spoon makers, etc. All these crafts were highly developed in the Neamț County until mod-twentieth century, when industrialisation turned the handmade processing of wood  into an  artisan’s art rather oriented towards making decorative objects. Still museum and private collections contain a large number of items dating back to the last two centuries, which allows wood processing craft be highlighted; tools, folk technical  installations, household  objects, ceremonial or religious pieces, musical instruments, and mostly furniture stand proof of the performance of wood artisans.

The simplest tools, household objects or pieces of furniture have acquired aesthetic value owing to the natural beauty of wood, to the harmony of shapes and proportions, to the print left by long use and by time. Nevertheless, the genuine artistic transformation occurred with cutting, notching, sculpting, fretworking or pokerwork of the pieces that were primarily designed for their usefulness. The decorations applied can be geometrical, astral, symbolic, phytomorphic, anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, skeuomorphic etc. As a rule, the motifs – mainly covering the visible parts of the pieces – are realised freely and observe the general principles of folk art (repetition, symmetry, and alternance).

The least and the simplest decorations are the tools use in field work: on the hoe and scythe handles, on the wooden saddle there are incisions of lines, dots, stylised trees, and other motifs. The tools used to process textile fibres, especially the distaffs the men used to make for the women in the family, are far more richly decorated with geometrical motifs. On some tools specific to men, such as the shepherds clubs, genuine scenes of pastoral life are sculpted, to which one could add the name of the owner and the year the club was made, whereas the ceremonial items, such as the maces of wedding masters of ceremony, have their head with anthropomorphic motifs and inlay beads.

Examples of the combination of utility and beauty, of the artisans’ skill, and of  keeping old folk beliefs are the folk technical installations; the wooden mills and wine presses have column-shaped pegs and are protected by beautifully sculpted horse-heads.

The art of the wood artisans is best seen in the pieces of furniture, which are remarkable both in terms of number and in their artistic value. There are very few benches that differ in only one element, namely their tall arms called “fruntare”, whereas the beds are rarely decorated. The stools and low tables owe their beauty mainly to their shape and proportions. Characteristic for the Neamț area is the table-chest, not very deep, decorated with rosettes. Similarly, the most beautiful nineteen-century corner-cabinets have chiselled solar motifs on their doors.

In terms of decorations, the dowry chests represent the richest and most varied pieces of peasant furniture. This book contains a large number of dowry chests  made according to a carpenter’s craft, i.e., they are joined in a carpenter’s  manner, i.e., “groove  and  tongue” joint and wood  pegs, the decorations making these techniques visible. The chests are not painted, the use of mordant having the role to highlight the chiselled motifs. Thus, many hope chests on the Bistrița Valley were decorated with flowers (tulips), cypress trees, whereas in the Neamț area one can also encounter schematic representation of people and their homes. The cross and the tree of life are quite frequent in these areas. In the Roman area, geometrical decorations prevail.

The abundance of wood as raw material and the easiness of processing it favoured both the increased number of wood artisans, that each village had their own local ones. Still, at the beginning of the twentieth century, specialised wood processing centres were set up, where entire families used to make extremely beautiful objects in their own shops. Such centres mostly developed in market towns such as Târgu-Neamț, Piatra Neamț, and Roman, but in the large villages as well, e.g., Bicaz, Ceahlău, Tarcău, Bozieni, Roznov, Vânători-Neamț, Petricani, Bălțătești, and others.

Thus, the traditional art of wood has developed through the centuries by combining the artisan’s craft with the virtues of wood. This art was prevailing everywhere where people cherished the forest and the wood that stimulated the creation of genuine artistic jewellery made of this noble and warm material to the great satisfaction of the artisans and the great enjoyment of people in the past, nowadays, and tomorrow.

Comments are closed.