Pop Culture Fragment: My 1920s Hungarian Wall Hangings

I've just spent some time getting my apartment in order for a big party (therefore the seldom-posting), which has given me time to put up what's one of my most-treasured pop culture artifacts: my small collection of circa 1920 Hungarian wall hangings. Unlike the communist-era poster art I've also got tons of around the house, no-one comments on how "cool" these are, and indeed they can be got almost for free on flea markets in Hungary, down-valued like all traditionally female crafts.

Still, I think they're extremely interesting and (since they're made by the women themselves) they reveal a lot about the attitudes and lives in the villages of Hungary ninety years ago.

"My husband, my good sir, don't wander about in the kitchen, wait for lunch in the sitting room"

This one is a favourite of mine, despite the extremely gendered and sexist message which is typical of a lot of these. Part of the reason is the details of the "dream" home most peasants wouldn't have afforded at this time - running water, metal pestles, fashionable clothes - which seem humble and naive in retrospect. The details of that upward aspiration are fascinating and revealing. I also love the cartoonish expressiveness of the needlework.

But the message also has an undertone of, well, sass. The woman is asserting the limited power she's got in her home, and doing it in an underhanded way with a jocularly dismissive, mock formal tone. The third-person tense used is either over-respectful or talking down, and it's definitely from the woman's point of view.

"I've driven my geese onto the pasture, that's where I'm expecting my darling tonight"

This one is considerably less challenging and indeed bears the hallmark of a professionally-designed pattern with its composition and carefully measured size. Still, it's also got a bunch of interesting details, not least the wading and the considerably more everyday dress than in the first one. The at once romantic and highly mundane message is typical of these.

"My rose is beautiful, has no flaw, her kitchen is excellent"

A very common theme on these hangings is boasting. Usually, it's boasting about how good a housekeeper you are (again, gendered, sexist, I know) and here it's unusually enough the male who gets to be the voice. Otherwise it's almost always the woman speaking.

Lots of marvellous details here, too, like the Trangia stove and the teapot-patterned border. Based on the hairstyles and clothing styles I'd place this one somewhat later, maybe in the forties, and the text and image are almost certainly not designed to be together since they're made with different thread and rather clumsily spaced.

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