Bee 🎨 Galleries

Unique form of folk painting

By Slovenian Tourist Board

Man taking care of hives (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

Drawings on beehive panels reach the top of the world's folk painting.

How It Started...

Beekeeping has a long history in Slovenia, both from a folk and scientific point of view, and goes beyond the borders of the country.

House full of hives in nature (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

The apiary or beehive was placed in the shelter of fruit trees next to the homestead. 

The green tree canopy protected the bees from the scorching sun and severe wind. There is a saying in Slovenian ‘’if a storm walks, the beekeeper mourns.’’

Mead (2021) by Ariela HerčekSlovenian Tourist Board

In ancient times, bees gave man the first sweetener and the first light.

They sweetened his hard everyday life with honey, and with a wax candle they lengthened his day and shortened his night.

Autumn forest in Bela Krajina by Jacob RiglinSlovenian Tourist Board

Our ancestors gathered honey in the forest. They stole it from wild bees. This work, however, was neither easy nor harmless.

Wild bees sometimes nested deep in the hollow, so predators of their nests cut out the path to their honey with an axe. If they found honey, they were very happy.

Honey (2021) by Branislav MiloševićSlovenian Tourist Board

There is still a folk saying today that ‘’the axe fell into the honey’’ - if some dangerous or difficult work is successfully completed.

Tools for weaving (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Over time, the man moved the bees near his home and prepared straw baskets and later wooden hives for them.

Beehives in sunlight (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

This transition from forest to garden beekeeping is said to have taken place in the region around Slovenia sometime in the 11th century.

Anton Janša (1934)Slovenian Tourist Board

Anton Janša

Beekeeper Anton Janša from Slovenia is the pioneer of the science of beekeeping in Europe.

Vienna Viewed from the Belvedere Palace (1759/1760) by Bernardo Bellotto, called CanalettoKunsthistorisches Museum Wien

The knowledge about bees has advanced so much in the region around Slovenia that one of the beekeepers from the Alpine region in Slovenia, Anton Janša became the first teacher of beekeeping in Europe in Vienna.

He had the knowledge that every beekeeper from the Alpine region had in the 17th century. He came to Vienna illiterate and without knowledge of German.

As a gardener at the court of Empress Maria Theresa, he impressed the Empress with his knowledge of bees and founded the first beekeeping school in Europe in Vienna. 

Agr BeesLIFE Photo Collection

Anton Janša became a teacher and author of the first beekeeping textbooks at his school.

Taking care of hives (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

A typical old-world Slovene homestead consisted of - a house, a barn, a granary, a linden, an elder, a swallow's or stork's nest and a beehive - the home of bees, very unique in the world.

Wedding coins (2017) by Ana GregoričSlovenian Tourist Board

Bees were the companions of life in the ancient Slovenian village. When the beekeeper got married, the beekeeper went to the bees.

He called them his friends, and told them for example that a new housewife had come into the house or that he got the baby. 

A bee by a dahlia at Wakehurst by RBG KewRoyal Botanic Gardens, Kew

He was talking to the bees about good or bad news. At Christmas, he listened to the rustling of bees predicting a good or bad harvest.

Man holding hive beam (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

Matija Juvan

continues the tradition of beekeeping at the Vandot family homestead in Rateče in the Alpine region of Slovenia.

Matija has been a beekeeper for 30 years and is dedicated to caring for his bees, who live in an apiary overlooking the mountains that rise above the Tamar Valley.

'The year was good' (1923-08) by Matija JuvanSlovenian Tourist Board

Matija still remembers his grandfather making notes about bees and writing "The year was good" for the year 1923.

Matija still remembers his grandfather making notes about bees and writing "The year was good" for the year 1923.

Beehive panels (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

To his friends, tiny bees, the beekeeper decorated the apiary with painted hive panels, which are a unique form of folk painting on a global scale.

In the old days these painting “galleries” were part of bee hives all over Slovenian villages. 

Painted beehive panel. Motif: Hunter's Funeral (1876)Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica

Drawings on beehive panels show history, everyday life, jokes...

Painted beehive panel. Motif: An Annunciation of MaryBeekeeping Museum in Radovljica

...piety, perseverance... 

Painted beehive panel. Motif: Dog Yoke (1837)Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica

...mischief, joy, sadness, holidays...

Painted beehive panel. Motif: The Dance (1865)Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica

...everyday work, crafts... 

Painted beehive panel. Motif: The wind scatters a group of tailors (1837)Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica

More than 600 motifs of beehive panels are a unique pictorial folk "encyclopaedia", an image of life, knowledge, thinking and beliefs of the ancient Slovenian village.

Meta Weber painting in nature (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

The beehive panels were drawn by the beekeepers themselves, or by talented village illustrators walking from house to house and drawing beehives.

All the time the painter was drawing beehive panels at one master, he was a guest in his house. These travelling painters were mostly copying motifs with a template.

Painted beehive panelsBeekeeping Museum in Radovljica

Most of these famous drawn beehive panels originated in the 19th century.

Painted beehive panel. Motif: A Devil Whetting a Woman's Tounge (1848)Beekeeping Museum in Radovljica

Painted hives, according to folk belief, protected bees from spells that cause disease. 

Expecting the young queen to return from the mating flight by Ivan EsenkoBeekeeping Museum in Radovljica

But they also had practical tasks. The colours of the pictures helped the bees not to miss the real hive, and they helped the beekeeper to more easily distinguish the hive from each other and know which hive had already swarmed.

Beehives in sunlight (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

The apiary with painted hive panels is a unique home that Slovenian beekeepers built and painted for the bee - his neighbour, friend, wisdom teacher and role model of virtue.

Meta Weber painting in nature (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

Today, the painted beehive panel is a nice souvenir and represents one of the pearls of Slovenian folk art.

Group of Meta Wraber illustrations (2021) by Igor ŠkafarSlovenian Tourist Board

The times of painting beehive panels have passed, but the art of painting beehive panels continues. 

Meta Weber in nature (2021) by Miha SkrtSlovenian Tourist Board

Illustrator Meta Wraber painted the apiary of Matija Juvan in Rateče.

Credits: Story

📣 Special thanks to storyteller and writer Dušica Kunaver, beekeeper Matija Juvan and illustrator Meta Wraber

🐝 Sources:
Slovenian world sights in folk heritage, Dušica Kunaver, 2019
Honey in Slovenian folk heritage, Dušica Kunaver, 2019
Life with the bees (BeeAware! CIPRA project), Bee Association Kranjska Gora, 2020

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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