Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

NatMusUkrFolkArt13Perhaps my favourite museum I visited in Kiev, the National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art is situated within the grounds of Pechersk Lavra, a huge monastery complex founded in the 11th century on the banks of the Dnieper.


Entrance to Pechersk Lavra

This post is simply an overview of the museum and its contents, but I hope at a later date to research Ukrainian costume and its making and history in more detail, probably by picking one of the pieces below to start my research. Please comment if you are interested in any particular costumes or elements.

The incredibly informative and well-illustrated folkcostume.blogspot has a number of posts about Ukrainian dress and embroidery, so I recommend having a look to find out more about the items featured here.


The Folk Museum (as I’ll refer to it from now on) has a huge display of embroidered rushnyk (pronounced ‘rooshnik’). As I mentioned in my last post on the Ivan Gonchar Museum, these strips of cloth have traditionally played an important role in rituals throughout life, being used in baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Rushnyk were traditionally made by individuals for use within families, but their organised production also developed into a sophisticated textile industry during the 20th century, enjoying considerable growth in the 1960s and 70s. State-run factories were set up, which later became part of the “Ukrhudozhprom” (Ukrainian Art Industry), under the Ministry of Local Industry. The rushnyk displayed here largely come from these factories. I’d love to know more about how their production and design differs from family-made rushnyk.


NatMusUkrFolkArt04Hand-embroidered linen rushnyks (рушники) made in the “Red beam” factory (фабрика “червоний проминь”), New Sanzhary, Poltava region, 1951 – 67.

This chest was displayed in the rushnyk room, so I assume it could have been used to store textiles.


Carved and painted wooden chest, early 20th century, Ivano-Frankivsk region


The museum displays 28 sets of Ukrainian folk costumes from the 19th to 20th century. Organised by geographical region, they are displayed as full outfits, with all the jewelry and accessories to go with the clothes. I’d be interested to know whether they came to the museum as full outfits, and if not, how it was decided to put items together. Most are women’s outfits, which were generally less likely to be made from factory-produced textiles than men’s clothing.


NatMusUkrFolkArt06Women’s outfits, late 19th – early 20th century, Vlasivka village, Zinkivsky District, Poltava region. Detail: Wrap-skirt, or ‘plakhta’ (плахта)


NatMusUkrFolkArt08Late 19th- early 20th century costumes, Sumy region.


NatMusUkrFolkArt10 Early 20th century, Chernigiv region.


NatMusUkrFolkArt12 Late 19th – early 20th century, Volyn region


Svyta (overcoat), 1917.


Svyta (overcoat), 1930s, Vydrychi village, Kamin-Kashyra district, Volyn region.


NatMusUkrFolkArt17 NatMusUkrFolkArt18 Late 19th – early 20th century, Yavoriv district, Lviv region


Mans costume, early 20th century, Kosiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region


NatMusUkrFolkArt21 NatMusUkrFolkArt22 NatMusUkrFolkArt24NatMusUkrFolkArt23 Two early 20th century costumes from Torgovytsia village, Gorodenkiv district, Ivano-Frankivsk region


late 19th – early 20th century, Nyzhni Kryvchi village, Borshchiv district, Ternopil region


NatMusUkrFolkArt27Late 19th – early 20th century, Chernivtsi region


There’s an impressive array of handwoven rugs at the museum, most with colourful floral designs.


NatMusUkrFolkArt3018th century, Poltava province. Wool, handwoven.


19th century, Kyiv province. Wool, handwoven.

Carved tools

I think more museums should display the tools used to make and maintain the objects on display – after all, they determine an object’s appearance and present state. At the Folk Museum I found a printing block and these beautifully-carved ironing implements. If anyone can guess/knows how these ‘rubels’ are used please let me know!


Printing block, 19th century, Poltava province. Wood, handcarved.


Implements for ironing – ‘rubel’ (рубель), Kyiv province. Wood, handcarved.


In descending order: back of a cart, 19th century, Poltava province; back of a cart, 19th century, Kyiv province; back of a sleigh, 1870s, Poltava province.


During the 20th century, many Ukrainian artists made drawings and paintings inspired by folk art. They drew upon motifs and subject matter in textiles and ceramics to make a genre of art which also fed into and was influenced by trends in the international art scene. Many chose to re-imagine and keep alive folk tales by depicting them in paint.



“Bird on Guelder Rose”, T. Pata (1884-1976), 1951. Gouache on paper.


Y. Mironova (1929-2010), “проводжала дівчинонька” (The Girl’s Farewell), 1970. Gouache on paper.


M. Prymachenko (1909-97), “Wedding”, 1959. Gouache on paper.


N. Bilokin (1894-1981), “Wedding Procession”, 1938. Gouache on paper


Ceramics and glass

As with textiles, Ukrainian ceramics have a long tradition; pottery from as early the Neolithic era has been discovered here. The Folk Museum houses a whole range of plates and vessels and sculptures, but my camera was most attracted to the animal-shaped ceramics on display.


‘Two-faced lion’ vessel, late 18th- early 19th century, Kyin province.


Ceramic goat, 1967, Kyiv


Late 18th-early 19th century plate, Sunki and Dybyntsi villages, Kyiv region.


O. Hriadunova (1898-1974), Kyiv, 1940s-50s.


O. Zhelezniak (1909-63), ceramic sculptures, 1960s, Hrybovaya Rudnia village, Chernihiv region.


Glass containers, 15th -18th centuries

One thought on “Kiev: National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

  1. Oh Hannah…… about eye candy! where does one start??? I loved it all but the tartan skirt and the ceramic goat really caught me. Thank you SOOOO much.
    I have sent this post off the several people and although they might not make a comment, they too are totally blown away by the work on those pieces of clothing.
    Thank you again, looking for MORE 🙂

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