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Ukrainian Decorated Egg

Pysanky Ukrainian Easter egg decorated by Wisconsin artist Betty Pisio Christenson, 1980s.
(Museum object #1996.118.356)

This chicken egg is an example of pysanky, an intricately decorated Ukrainian Easter egg. The artist was Betty Pisio Christenson, of Suring, Wisconsin. Her parents settled in Suring after moving from the Ukraine in the early 1900s. Christenson taught herself the technique for making pysanky after seeing eggs decorated while visiting relatives in Saskatchewan in 1975.

The decorations on pysanky have deep symbolism, using both ancient and Christian motifs. This egg contains a sunburst design, a popular decoration for Easter eggs, as the sun represents the arrival of spring. Each spring brings new life, renewal, and growth, which are celebrated along with the Easter season. This egg also contains many crosshatching designs, which symbolize fishing nets, as Jesus Christ was known as the “fisher of men.” Colors on decorated eggs also contain a special meaning. Red symbolizes hope, passion and happiness. Orange symbolizes strength, endurance and the sun. Yellow symbolizes light and purity, while green is symbolic of spring and new life.

This egg is an example of the wax-resist method of egg-decorating. First, the artist draws the design directly on to the eggshell. Wax is applied to an egg using a wire tool, a kristka, to areas designated not to take a color. The egg is then dipped in a colored dye. The wax is melted off revealing the color beneath, and the process is repeated using another dye.


Posted on March 24, 2005

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