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THE SLOVAK NATIONAL MUSEUM'S REGULAR SPECTATOR COLUMN

Weddings of the past

TO MARRY has never been a simple thing, particularly for women. Till the Bride said Yes, an exhibition at Bratislava castle, sets out in detail the complex preparations that women and girls had to undertake for their big day. It aims to present what defined the upbringing and education of a woman before marriage.

TO MARRY has never been a simple thing, particularly for women. Till the Bride said Yes, an exhibition at Bratislava castle, sets out in detail the complex preparations that women and girls had to undertake for their big day. It aims to present what defined the upbringing and education of a woman before marriage.

Wedding and wedding-preparation customs observed by townspeople and the aristocracy from the 16th century to the 1950s are on display. More than 500 exhibits collected from 19 Slovak museums and galleries are spread throughout the castle's second floor.

Authentic period clothing forms the project's core. There are Empire, Biedemeier, art nouveau and crinoline dresses, as well as men's suits from the 19th and 20th centuries. Visitors will find original wedding paintings, announcements, photo-portraits, period jewellery, clothing accessories, textiles, veils, garlands, crowns, gloves, shoes, underwear, and wedding chests.

Curator Mária M Zubercová has divided the exhibition into four main categories.

The first illustrates the 16th and 17th centuries with a segment of a "Frauzimmer" or woman's room.

There, girls learned to spin, embroider and make a hope chest, which was then expected of every noble and townswoman. Only a few had the chance to learn to read and write. The then sought after qualities in a future wife were good manners, piety and the ability to run a household.

The exhibition's second section, representing the 18th century, shows a visible advance. Aristocratic girls were required to learn foreign languages, dance, a musical instrument, painting, and general knowledge. The accent on how to behave in society also increased.

The third section captures the period from the 19th century to the end of the First World War in 1918, and shows what was the ideal for a town-dwelling bride, who, for instance, would have to have had a convent education.

The last part of the exhibition is dedicated to the period from the 1920s to the 1950s, when women became far more active in society. Women studied and worked in new fields, practised sports and visited cafes.

This section also shows brides' hope chests and formal dresses from the between-the-wars period, as well as examples of dinner settings.

Highlights at the exhibition include the oldest exhibit, a fragment of a bakačín (napkin) from the 15th century; a more than eight-metre-long tapestry by Flemish masters from the 16th century, and a Tahitian pearl in the betrothal ring of Ilona Kňazovičová, the future wife of Slovak poet Ivan Krasko, brought to this country by General Milan R Štefánik.

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