191009: National Museum Krakow: Always at Hand – Handbags from the Middle Ages to the Present

National Museum Krakow: Always at Hand – Handbags from the Middle Ages to the Present Beautiful, loyal companion The handbag – a receptacle for diverse items – has become the most important, indispensable accessory in women’s fashion. Long gone are the days when the necessary things were hidden under a skirt, something done during the Middle Ages until the Baroque. Today, bag enthusiasts seem to even oust shoe fetishists. And even these objects of desire are topics of discussion and research of today’s medicine and, in some cases, are considered just as harmful as high-heels. Since the 1980’s, every season fashion designers try to position their ever-new creations as the top-favourites among the fashionistas. Even museums have started to research the meaning of these accessories and to present them in special exhibitions. The National Museum in Krakow is currently presenting handbags from the Middle Ages to the 1970’s, mainly from Polish collections. Almost 200 pieces are shown in all their stylistic diversity and in an artful arrangement – an urban landscape with an elegant avenue, with shops and female window mannequins. Diverse forms and styles of bags, pouches, purses, and knapsacks are shown in their varying functions, adapted to the socio-political transition and social behaviour patterns and divided chronologically into numerous groups. At first, bags had an everyday-function or served travel purposes, but the situation changed in the 20th century. The bags began to reflect the personality of their owners. In the 18th century, ladies wore the pouches, which held their embroidery and needlework, around their necks as a proof of their diligence. And the so-called Réticule, named after the mistress of French King Louis XV, (who was also referred to as Pompadour), was the first modern bag. From that day on, the forms and material used for handbags changed rapidly: black ball bags, fashionable silver pouches, the first leather- and synthetic bags of the 20’s, convenient hanging bags of the 30’s, flower-power bags of the hippie movement, bags belonging to working women; among them the small leather bag belonging to the current museum director, Zofia Golubiew. In the Interwar-period, the Art Decó envelope bags took on the geometrical forms and colours of the applied arts. The splendour and opulence of the bags attest to the social status of their owners. Luxurious bags made of pearls, peacock feathers, glitter and valuable stones, even cucumber seeds, are among the most valuable consumer good objects. And it is the women and their insatiable lust for beauty, which transformed plain male “money bags” into individual pieces of art and thereby a practical object. Today, one can only dream of the former variety and remarkably elegant simplicity of handbags – and make a pilgrimage to Krakow. By Goschka Gawlik National Museum Krakow Krakow 1, 3 Maja Av., until 08.10.09 www.muzeum.krakow.pl

Nationalmuseum Krakau
Krakau, 1, 3 Maja Av.
Tel: +48 12 295 55 00
Email: dyrekcja@muz-nar.krakow.pl

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