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Many Hungarian folk arts use flower motifs in some way. One of my favourites is the style called “matyó”. The word refers to a group of people living in a small geographical area of Hungary, the Matyóland. There is more than one theory about the origin of this name. One popular belief is that the name "matyó" comes from King Matthias who was a great benefactor of the city called Mezokovesd, the heart of Matyóland. Another theory is that “matyó” is a nickname given by the mostly Calvinist people of the neighbouring villages to this strongly Catholic ethnic group.

According to legend, during the Turkish occupation of Hungary (in the 16th and 17th centuries), the enemy carried off a young lad who was in love with a Matyó girl. The girl wanted him back, but the Sultan refused, unless she paid a special ransom. In the depth of winter she was to gather all the flowers in the forest and field into her apron. The girl solved the problem by embroidering her linen apron with all the flowers of spring and summer. The Sultan was impressed and, being a man of his word, set the young man free. This is the origin of one of the most ornate traditional Hungarian costumes.

The inspiration for this carving was the Matyó's embroidery. While I was carving it and thinking deeply about these people, the wood was playing tricks on me. As it can be seen, while I was “carving out” one side of the wood, the same pattern was “pulling in” on the other side.

To learn more about the “matyós” please visit www.mezokovesd.hu.


Matyo embroidery from Mezőkövesd