September 9, 2012

Traditional Pirot: Ponisavlje Museum

The birth-house of Hristic Family was earlier called Konak malog Riste and represents the best preserved cultural monument of Pirot's traditional architecture from the middle of 19th century. Since 1968 it's used as National Museum (Address: Nikole Pasica 49, Pirot) and desplays ethnografic items.
The building was built in 1848 by Pirot trader Hristo Jovanovic, as the most prestigous building in town. The edifice itself by its architecture and details has all characteristics of Balkan-oriental style.

This style was was typical for the period of Turkish domination throughout 19th century and usually buildings were made of a half-timbered construction, the so called bondruka construction (see here) and had typical outlets: verandas, porches, gazebos and wooden bow windows.
The interior were layed out with rugs (pirot cilims) covering the floors, walls and seats.
It's basically a type of symmetrical buildings almost a square floor plan with a cross hall. It consists of a basement, ground floor and first floor.  

On the bright white facades there are main decorative elements: wooden window frames and enhanced angles of the walls, covered with boards decorated with molded bars.

The museum shows oriental Balkan interiors and old hand-crafts of the region. Pirot is known for its artsy rugs the Cilim.
The beginning of Pirot rug weaving tradition dates back to the 16th century, followed by the sheep-breeding expansion and farming development. Ornaments, their shape and colors make Pirot's rug recognizable everywhere in the world. They are full of symbolism and have Byzantine, Greek, Chinese and Turkish elements modified by Pirot's spinners' imagination and skills. On Pirot's rug geometric motifs are dominating and one of the most often is a rhombus - ornament with pre-historic tradition that also appears on ceramics, metal and bronze. Stylized form of branched tree in many varieties could be found on all oriental rugs and it is familiar to all Eastern nations.

The most important thing when it comes to the rug quality is the wool. For Pirot Cilim the wool of the Stara Planina Mountain's sheep is used in the manufactures of Pirot.

Spinning is done by a spindle and a distaff. Thicker fibers are used for rug base and they are not colored, unlike the thinner ones which are used for woof. Spun wool from the spindle is rewound on winder for straightening and after that it is winded into spools, which are later painted and whitened. Women from villages used to paint wool by themselves in nut's and ash's barks, as well as in onion scales. It's been painted with natural colors for a long time, but recently aniline colors appeared. Old herbal colors were bright red (cinnabar), livid (indigo), bright blue and dark green, green, black, coffee-brown and yellow.(exerpts quoted from

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