Hungary: Married Matyó woman

Front view
Front view

General description: The doll is wearing the traditional costume of a married Matyó woman with the special pompom headdress and highly embroidered apron.

Dimensions 34.5 x 24 x 19 cm

Date when acquired October, 2016

Original Date Unknown

Source Village flea market Niedernjesa, Lower Saxony, Germany


Back view
Back view


The body is made of padded material over wire. The head appears to be ceramic with material stretched over it. Her features are painted on. She is sitting upright on a roughly hewn wooden stool made of some type of light wood.

Side view
Side view


Her blouse/jacket is made of yellow figured silk. It is high-necked, has short very puffed sleeves and has a short gathered skirt. There is white lace around the cuffs, neck line and over the skirt of the jacket. A piece of wide white braid (3 cm wide) is sewn around the body of the jacket forming a bodice. It is decorated in and red flowers with green leaves. Along the top edge of this braid is a piece of 1-cm-wide, scalloped-edged white braid which is embroidered with dark blue silk: blanket stitch along the edging and with a design of flowers and leaves. A piece of narrow dark brown braid hems the lace around the neck and the skirt of the bodice.

The basic material of her skirt is red cotton with an intricate pattern of geometric designs, hearts and flowers in green, white, light blue, black and yellow. The wide long skirt is gathered tightly around the waist and pleated to roughly half its length. It then falls bell-like to the ankles. Roughly one third down the skirt is a double circle of white braid (0.7 cm wide) embroidered with red and green flowers and leaves. Around the hem are three stripes of braid (each 0.5 cm wide) in red, white and green silk, respectively, topped by a strip of a thick yellow cotton braid. Then just above these four strips of braid is a layer of tatted cream lace (2.5 cm wide). The skirt is lined with white cotton and is held in form by a thin cord sewn in a circle inside the skirt.

Underneath the skirt are two plain white cotton petticoats: one short to above the knee and one long almost as long as the skirt. Her white cotton knickers have lace around the legs.

A typical fringed black Matyó apron covers the front of her skirt. It is tied at the back with white braid embroidered with a green fruit pattern. The front of the apron is decorated with rich embroidery consisting of flowers in reds with dark blue and yellow features, green stems and leaves with white buds and a single pink and yellow bud at he top. Above the fringe is a geometric design consisting of two lines of stem stitch in blue (top) and pink (bottom) with a yellow cross-stitch pattern lying between them.

Her ankle boots are made of black plastic with black felt soles.

Her crowning glory is the typical married woman’s headdress, the csavarintós kendo, made of a scarf in brown cotton with a floral design in light blue, orange, light grey and green. The scarf is tied tightly over her forehead. It has two round pompoms attached at the front, and two elongated pompoms attached behind these: a smaller one on the top of the head and a longer one going around the back and covering the woman’s ears. The basic colour of the woollen pompoms is bright red. The round pompoms have each an oval of yellow wool in the middle, surrounded by green and then white wool. The elongated pompoms each have three ovals of different coloured wool. The neck pompom’s ovals have a green centre and a white edge; the crown pompom’s ovals are in light blue with a yellow edge.





UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Background information

In Northeastern Hungary live the most colourfully dressed Hungarian ethnographic group, the Matyós. There are three main centres of Matyó culture: Mezökövesd the main town and the villages, Szentistván and Tard. The fame of this region is founded on the rich and fabulously patterned embroidery of their embroiderers. Apparently, these patterns were developed by a local artist, Bori Kisjankó. The sarmentose (branched) patterns, feature brilliantly coloured, harmonious mixes of various types of flowers (e.g. roses, tulips), leaves, birds, hearts and stars. It is one of the most beautiful and well-known folk arts in Hungary. It became part of the UNESCO World Heritage in December 2012.

According to legend, there is a special symbolism in the colours used in Matyó decorative work. The only colour found in the oldest embroideries and hand-woven fabrics is red, which was primarily used to express joy, passion and high spirits (decorative folk art only started to become multi-coloured in the middle of the 19th century). In the old days, red was considered to have a protective power: it was associated with life and blood, fire (which gives or takes life) and light. It was believed to protect infants from witches and their evil eye. The red bonnet or headdress worn by brides and young women as part of their folk costume expressed health and youth. Red is also considered to be the colour of summer – representing light and joy. White was generally used to express clarity and innocence. Blue and green were also often associated with ageing, and most young women did not wear these colours. In addition to old age, dark blue represented wisdom, sensibleness, love of peace and reconciliation with the world. Green is the colour of mourning and was used to embroider the sides of aprons to mourn the dead of the world wars. In contrast, black represents the soil from which life springs. Yellow stands for the sun.

Close up of the apron showing the floral dessign
Close up of the apron showing the floral dessign

According to another legend, the Matyó motif world with its colourful garden originated when a young groom was kidnapped by the Devil. The young man’s fiancée begged the Devil to give her beloved back to her but the Devil said: “You will get your love back only if you bring me the most beautiful flowers of the summer in your apron”. This seemed to be impossible as it was winter. Finally, the girl figured out how to accomplish the Devil’s demand: she embroidered beautiful roses on her apron. She gave the apron to the Devil, who then gave her back her lover.

Nowadays, elderly women in the Matyó region still produce this wonderful embroidery but the area is being affected by the young people leaving for life in the cities and there is a danger of this artistic work being lost.

Source(s) of information (wonderful site full of pictures from the 1940s)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s