Folk Art and Beekeeping
by Andreja Kriz
In the 18th and 19th centuries, apiculture was one of the most
important economic branches in Slovenia. Acknowledged apiarists
and apiculture teachers operated during that period, among which
Anton Janša from Breznica in Upper Carniola (1734 - 1773), a
painter and the first apiculture teacher in Vienna, has a special
place in the history of Slovenian apiculture.
Painting on frontage panels of the "kranji?" beehives (Carniolan
beehives) used to be a distinctive feature of the Slovenian
alpine region. The practice emerged in the 18th century during
the heyday of baroque arts in Slovenia. The painting of frontages
was done for the protection of the apiarist as well as for the
bees as it indicated the financial standing of the apiarist
and helped the apiarist to remember, with the help of their
images, what was happening with each individual beehive. Natural
pigments and linseed oil, which made the colours more durable,
were used for the painting of panels on beehive frontages.
Beehive panels were painted in such a manner that they gave
the impression of a multicoloured rectangle when viewed from
a distance while, when seen from close up, each told a story
of its own. Older motifs feature a religious content; before
the end of the 19th century, secular motifs appear. Numerous
older ones have motifs featuring pious content which most often
depicted saints and patrons. Among those most often depicted
is Mary as the universal protector, who is painted on the oldest
known beehive panel (1758); the patron saint of firefighters,
Saint Florian; and Jobe, who was hailed as the protector of
apiarists in Slovenian lands. The secular group of motifs is
made up of fantastic scenes such as animals playing human roles,
making fun of craftsmen and human errors and a group of motifs
that draw on the real world: military, pub and hunting scenes,
apiculture and historical themes. There are around 600 different
motifs that are known today. Beehive panels were painted by
late baroque painters, semiskilled farmer painters, entirely
selftaught people and occasional painters, among which we can
include the odd apiarists, who painted their own beehives.
The painting of beehive panels, which reached its peak in the
decades between 1820 and 1880, began dying out at the turn of
the 19th century together with the "kranji?" beehives. Beehive
panels represent an indispensable part of Slovenian folk art.
Today, it is difficult to get hold of an original beehive panel,
but it is possible to buy replicas, which are attractive nonetheless,
and with which we can decorate our homes and thus make them
more cosy and warm.
Collecting a bee swarm
A fox shaving a hunter
The suffering of Joab
Article abstracted from Sinfo.