Folk sculpture 

Lithuanian Art Fund

The essential feature of folk sculpture is depiction ranging from primitive to realistic

St Laurence, St Agatha and St Florian, Unknown author, early 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
The vast majority of the Lithuanian Art Fund collection consists of folk sculptures and paintings of the eighteenth – early twentieth centuries. Folk art most strongly reveals the nation’s world view, customs, and lifestyle. Also it reflects the most difficult times, pain of losses, hope and faith. Sculptures of the collection reflect the main subjects of folk sculpture inspired by people’s world view and traditions. The majority of sculptures were made for shrines and pillar-type shrines with figurines of the saints.
Pensive Christ, Unknown author, late 18th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Jesus Christ
Baptism of Jesus, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus is a narrative, which reminds us of the event in Jesus’ life, which is a reference point for His mission on earth as the Saviour. According to the Bible, the Prophet of Conversion, John the Baptist, announced the news that people were living their last days, because God was angry and would soon destroy His enemies and create the world afresh. Repentant people rushed to the river to get rid of their sins and to convert. During Baptism, the sins of penitents are washed away with water. The works of art show Jesus immersed in the River Jordan being baptised by John the Baptist.

Jesus with a reed, Unknown author, 1849, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Jesus with a reed

Jesus of Nazareth is a subject of the Passion of Jesus, which depicts the humiliation of Jesus at the trial of Pontius Pilot before the Way of the Cross. Jesus was scourged and called the King of Jews, He was scornfully dressed in an old scarlet robe, a crown of thorns was put on his head and a reed put in his hand.

Jesus of Nazareth, Kazimieras Indriekus, 1904, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Jesus of Nazareth

Scourged and called the King of Jews, Jesus was scornfully dressed in an old scarlet robe, a crown of thorns was put on his head and a reed put in his hand.

Pensive Christ, Unknown author, second half of the 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Pensive Christ

The Pensive Christ is the depiction of Jesus before the crucifixion. Tired and exhausted the Saviour was sitting by Himself and thinking about the hardships, vices and pain of people who live on earth and grieved about it. Jesus is shown with a loincloth, sometimes with a red robe or a long gown and a crown of thorns. He is sitting on the stone resting his head on His right hand and His left hand is on his knees.

Jesus is laid in the tomb, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Jesus is laid in the tomb

Jesus is laid in the tomb is the theme depicting Jesus Christ lying in the tomb or on a board covered with a linen cloth. The Virgin Mary, St John, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are there. Sometimes there are more mourning saints, angels and apostles. According to the Gospel, the body of Jesus Christ was wrapped in a linen shroud and was laid in the tomb which had been hewn out of the rock.

Resurrected Jesus, Unknown author, 18th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Resurrected Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus is the subject, which completes the Way of the Cross and depicts the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his death and His appearance to His followers. Jesus Christ is shown with a scarlet robe or a robe and a loincloth holding a long cross with a flag in His left hand, which symbolises victory over death and Resurrection; his right hand is raised for blessing.

The Holy Family, Unknown author, early 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
The Holy Family
The Holy Family, Unknown author, early 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

The Holy Family is also called the Earthly Trinity. Mary and Joseph were both virgin and formed a family to give the Saviour to the world. The Holy Family has suffered a great deal of hardships, persecution, and fear.

The Holy Family, Unknown author, early 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund


The paintings of this subject depict young Jesus led by Mother Mary and guardian Joseph. Jesus is dressed in a light tunic belted with a golden sash indicating that the child is the ruler of the world, who holds power over all creatures. Joseph is bareheaded and Mary’s head is draped with a veil; sometimes they all wear crowns. God the Father, who takes centre stage, embraces them with His arms. A dove which symbolises the Holy Spirit is depicted below God’s arms.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Unknown author, 1848, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Virgin Mary
St Ann with the Virgin Mary, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Ann with the Virgin Mary

St Ann was the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, born in Nazareth and brought up in the temple of Jerusalem. At the age of twenty she married Joachim of Nazareth and at the age of 40 she gave birth to her daughter Mary. Soon after the birth of Jesus she became a widow and died at an old age.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Unknown author, 1848, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Our Lady of Sorrows

Our Lady of Sorrows is a depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which symbolises the pain the Mother of God had to suffer seeing the Passion of her Son on the cross. Mary is depicted standing, dressed in white with a blue robe. Her head is covered with a veil or a crown. Her hands are clasped in prayer and there are seven daggers piercing her heart. The first dagger pierced her heart when she saw Jesus being taken at night to the trial; the second – when she saw her Son badly scourged; the third – when she saw the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head; the fourth – when she met Jesus on the Way of the Cross, the fifth – when Jesus was being nailed to the cross; the sixth – when her Son died on the cross; and the seventh – when she saw his body taken down from the cross. All of this was predicted by Simeon, a priest.

Gracious Virgin Mary, Unknown author, mid - 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Gracious Virgin Mary

The Gracious Virgin Mary is a depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the description of a sister of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in 1830.

Group of saints, Unknown author, first half of the 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Saints
The Good Shepherd is an iconographic depiction of Jesus Christ taken from early Christian art. Jesus Christ is portrayed as a shepherd with sheep. Christ the Good Shepherd takes care of all the sheep in His flock; the sheep symbolise human spirits. This subject symbolises Christ’s relationship with mankind, His calling and concern for each lost soul. Christ the Good Shepherd is the guide and teacher.
John the Evangelist, Unknown author, 1849, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

John the Evangelist
(1st century)

John the Evangelist is a saint, one of the twelve apostles, and the youngest disciple of Jesus Christ. He is the author of the Fourth Gospel of the New Testament and the Apocalypse, and he raised the idea of Christ’s deity. After Jesus’ death, he did apostolic work and followed the Apostle Peter. It is said that wishing to test the apostle’s faith, the priest of the Temple of Diana gave him a poisoned chalice, but the poison escaped in the shape of a serpent.

St Casimir, Unknown author, 1849, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Casimir
(1458–1484)

St Casimir is the patron saint of Lithuania and Lithuanian youth. Casimir was the son of Casimir Jogaila (Jagiellon), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. He was born in Kraków and from his early age was trained as a future politician and received an excellent education. He was a pious person and preached poverty and chastity. He died in Grodno and is buried in Vilnius Cathedral. After his death he became famous for his miracles. In 1602, he was canonised. St Casimir is depicted with a white lily and a cross symbolising both piety and chastity.

St Anthony, Unknown author, second half of the 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Anthony
(1195–1231)

St Anthony is a saint and a famous preacher and missionary. He was born into a rich and noble family in Lisbon. His life was shrouded in legends and miracles. He is usually depicted with the Infant Jesus, who, according to the legend, appeared before the praying Anthony. Another theme refers to the miracle where the saint proved the existence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament to a non-believer. He showed that the donkey which had not been fed for three days first dropped on his forelegs before the Holy Sacrament that was shown to it.

St Catherine, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Catherine
(late 2nd / early 4th century)

St Catherine of Alexandria is one of the most prominent early Christian martyrs. The former only daughter of the King of Cyprus was gifted with wisdom, a strong will, eloquence and courage.

St Florian, Unknown author, mid - 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Florian
(died in 304)

St Florian is a saint martyr who was a Roman soldier. He was forcefully drowned in the River Emso (Austria) by attaching a millstone to his neck. He is depicted as a Roman officer wearing armour, holding a vessel in one hand and pouring water over the flame, and holding a spear or a banner, which symbolises strength and power, in the other hand.

St George, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St George
(late 3rd - early 4th century)

St George is the second patron saint of Lithuania. In the Lithuanian spiritual worldview, he is associated with the revival of nature in spring and he is the guardian of fields and livestock.

St Mary Magdalene, Unknown author, late 19th – early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Mary Magdalene
(1st century)

St Mary Magdalene is the repentant sinner, follower and helper of Jesus Christ, who saw, heard and touched Jesus. She was born into the family of a wealthy farmer in the city of Magdala near Jerusalem. After her parents died, she left for Jerusalem and became a prostitute. One day she heard Jesus preaching, she soon became ashamed of her occupation, started repenting and honoured Jesus as you would honour a king. The Savour forgave her and cured her from evil spirits and diseases. Mary Magdalene became a devoted follower of Jesus, followed him to the Mount of Calvary, buried him when he was taken down from the cross and was the first to see him resurrected.

St Thaddaeus, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Jude Thaddeus
(1st century)

St Jude Thaddeus is an apostle, a relative of Jesus Christ, and a brother of St James the Less. St Jude is usually depicted with the Saviour’s picture, with which he cured King Abgar from leprosy.

Figurines from the subject of St Isidore, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St Isidore
(1070–1130)

St Isidore is the saint of Spain. He was born into a poor family in Madrid. From childhood he was brought up as a good Christian, who loved people and animals, and served farmers. The legend says that every morning, before going to work Isidore prayed. Once, someone reported to his master that because of this Isidore was late for work. In order to ascertain if it was true, the master came to the field and found Isidore praying while an angel was ploughing the field instead of him. The saint is depicted as a ploughman or as a sower.

St John Nepomucene, Vincas Svirskis, late 19th – early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

St John Nepomucene
(1340–1393)

St John Nepomucene was a Czech priest and saint born in the small town of Nepomuk in Bohemia. He was the canon of St Vitus Cathedral in Prague, general vicar of the archdiocese, and the confessor of the wife of King Wenceslaus IV. He was thrown into the river from the Charles Bridge in Prague because he refused to disclose the Queen’s confession to the King.The saint is depicted dressed in priest’s clothes, wearing a biretta, holding a cross in his right hand and a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom, in his left hand. A halo of five stars adorns his head commemorating the stars that, according to the legend, hovered at the place where St John drowned.

Angelic pietà, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Angels
Archangel Raphael, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Archangel Raphael

An angel is a symbolic messenger and representative of God the Father on Earth. Angels are God-created powerful non-corporeal spiritual beings. Angels are depicted as youngsters with hands stretched out for blessing or as children or sometimes as heads of infants with wings. According to the Bible, every Christian has a guardian angel who inspires them to do good deeds and protects from evil. Angels are considered to be mediators between God and people, the only servants of God who fulfil God’s will and participate in the lives of men. All angels belong to different ranks. The angels of the highest hierarchy intended to reveal Lord’s will were the archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.

Archangel Raphael, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Archangel Raphael is considered to be the angel of healing, teaching and knowledge, and guardian of pilgrims and other travellers (especially young people). In the Lithuanian worldview, he performs the role of a guardian angel, a companion in man’s spiritual journey. Raphael is usually depicted as a large angel with wings together with a child who is ready to travel. A large figure of Raphael with a child by his side gives an impression of guardianship and security; the angel is leaning towards the child holding his hand.

Archangel Michael, Unknown author, early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Archangel Michael is the most powerful archangel in charge of all Christians and the Church.

Angelic pietà, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Angelic Pietà

Pietà (mercy in Italian) is a subject depicting the pain of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the sight of Jesus’ crucifixion. The Mother of God is portrayed cradling the body of her Son following his removal from the cross. Mary is majestic – with a crown, a cross, and a halo with twelve stars. A white veil covers her head and a large crown with a cross at the top adorns her head. One or seven daggers piercing her heart symbolise the sorrows of the Mother of God. Mary is larger than Jesus, thus giving her the central role in the painting. Sometimes Our Lady of Sorrows is depicted with instruments of Jesus’ torture – the crown of thorns and nails. The composition of the Angelic Pietà is supplemented with two angels with candles.

Shrine on the theme of the Crucifixion of Jesus, Unknown author, late 19th – early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Shrines
Shrine on the theme of the Crucifixion of Jesus, Unknown author, late 19th – early 20th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

The shrines built on farmsteads usually contained as many figurines as the number of family members that lived on the farmstead, so that each would have his own protector and guardian.There was a sculpture of Jesus’ crucifixion in each home, most frequently in shrines. The theme of crucifixion in the shrines is supplemented with sculptures of Our Lady of Sorrows, St John the Evangelist, and St Mary Magdalene.

A shrine with the figurine of Pensive Christ, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

Shrine with the figurine of the Pensive Christ Figurines used to be placed inside small shrines attached to a tree or the wall of the house.

A shrine with the sculpture of pietà, Unknown author, late 19th century, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund
Shrine with the sculpture of the Crucifix, Unknown author, 1887, From the collection of: Lithuanian Art Fund

One may notice that narrative scenes from the life of Christ, such as The Holy Family, The baptism of Christ, Pensive Christ – dominate in folk sculpture. However, Christ’s suffering and his crucifixion could be considered as the most popular theme.

Saints were loved by people not only as their intercessors with God, but also as role models in daily life. They were respected because of their personal qualities – sense of justice, wisdom, and diligence. As a result, they became part of people’s earthly life. Representation of saints in sculpture was based on church iconography observing the established compositions for the subject, colours and attributes.

In the light of this, the items of this story reflect the main subjects of folk sculpture inspired by people’s world view and traditions.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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