Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lithuanian Wood Carvings – Part 2 – the Rupintojelis

The Rupintojelis (pronounced roo-pinto-YAY-lis) is an important part of Lithuanian wood carving folk art. Derived from the Lithuanian word rupestis it can be translated as anxiety, concern and solicitude. This image is a repetitive subject in Lithuanian woodcarving. It depicts a man in a sitting position, leaning on his elbow, looking pensively and sadly at passers-by. At times the Rupintojelis is sitting on a tree stump or a stone wall. This image is carved in various styles, but always in a way that you immediately know he is suffering. Some scholars think that perhaps village woodcarvers consciously or unconsciously expressed their own worries, and fears through woodcarving. The Rupintojelis was found in the home, at crossroads and other public places.

The Rupintojelis image started as an a representation of a suffering human but, after Christianity came to Lithuania, the image gradually evolved into Christ, the Man of Sorrows, pondering all the ills of humanity. All emphasis is placed on the facial expression of deep thought and infinite sorrow. From what I understand, Rupintojelis can be seen along the roadside and in cemeteries throughout Lithuania…and of course at every tourist gift shop.

Some say the pose represents Jesus' anticipation of his crucifixion, after his scourging and crowning with thorns. Others say it depicts Christ after the resurrection and not yet ascended. Polish people have their version of the rupintojelis. It is very similar. They call it Chrystus Frasobliwy. One Polish legend says Christ travelled through the world with his crown of thorns. Tired from his journey, he sat on stones near the road and wept. This statue means many things to many people. Lithuanian Christians believe it shows how Christ was human and one of us. He shared our feelings and concerns. In it they see God's endless compassion and care for his people.

Here is a photo of contemporary wood sculptor Julius Urbanavičius with his wfe and one of his Rupintojelis sculptures. As you can see, some of them get pretty large.

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