When we were in Predeal for our On Arrival Training, the trainers of my group (Sonia and Carmen) brought in a bag of Romanian cultural items – weavings, patterns, fabrics, tourist guides and these beautiful painted eggs.
I’d already seen a few of these delicate delights in Bucharest – in fact there are dozens of them in a display at the Peasant Museum (Muzeul Național al Țăranului Român) in Bucharest, but because they are kept inside a glass cabinet and behind a red rope you can’t get up close and personal. So in Predeal, I felt really lucky and privileged to be able to spend some time inspecting the details of these fragile objects.
Culturally speaking, these kind of painted eggs are mostly seen at Easter time (obviously) and were traditionally painted by women and children in the villages of Romania. I’ve been told that the style of design changes from region to region and that the patterns may even include secret messages like tattoos. They are used as decorations around the house, again especially at Easter time and are sometimes given as gifts to visiting friends and family. Because they are linked with the Orthodox Christian religion, I egg-spect you could find them in other countries too (I tried to resist, I really did, no more I promise).
Artistically speaking, they are made using real chicken eggs. A small hole is made so that the yolk and gooey stuff can be drained out (this is then plugged up). The hollow shell is then dipped into natural dyes and inks to give it a base coat of the lightest colour to be used. Then the geometric patterns are ‘etched’ on using wax and teeny tiny little pieces of metal tied around a pen or brush handle. The painters work in reverse, so they apply wax to cover up areas that they want to remain the colour underneath before then dipping the egg into the next darkest dye. Most that I have seen follow the red/yellow/black colour scheme, but I’ve also seen one or two that had blues and greens. When the design is finished, the egg is put near a heat source which dries the dyes and softens the wax enough for it to be wiped away, revealing the true design of the egg.
I am genuinely speechless at the level of skill, dedication and forward planning that goes into creating patterns as intricate as these. I know I don’t have the patience or nimble fingers to do it. Every egg I’ve seen has been a masterpiece and simply calling them “cute little Easter decorations” is not doing them justice at all – these are incredible artistic sculptures and its a shame the painters are not given more praise and respect.