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Some observations on the anthropological basis of artistic practice: the Merry Cemetery, Săpânţa (Maramureş)



This paper aims at showing the strong relationship between tradition and innovation in the so called Merry Cemetery (Săpânţa, Maramureş, Romania). The cemetery contains many ranks of richly decorated blue crosses showing, in verses and images, episodes of the villagers’ lives. The Merry Cemetery is the fruit of Romanian traditional culture (born at the crossroads of multiple influences, pre-roman, roman, Slavic, Hungarian and so on) and shows a dialectic fusion between tradition and originality, which I intended to analyze briefly. The artist who created this unique graveyard, Ioan Stan Pătraş (1908-1977), took many elements from the popular tradition of Maramureş (typical versification, traditional colours, decorative motives), but was also very open to the innovations due to the contact with the urban world, or to the historical changes in Romanian society (the communist period). The synthesis between these elements marks the profound originality of Ioan Stan Pătraş’s creation and the birth of a local “new tradition” continued even today.

Keywords: anthropological artistic practices, Săpânţa cemetery, traditional culture, folklore