These panels are a unique part of Slovenian folk art. The tradition of painting the frontal panels of beehives is a unique Slovenian tradition. The Museum of Apiculture’s collection includes more than 800 examples and is the richest in Slovenia.
These paintings present different motifs of everyday life, historical events, and relationships, but also illustrate folk tales, proverbs, and different religious themes.
The oldest panel is dated 1758, depicting the Pilgrim Mary. This tradition was most actively followed during the 19th century, roughly between 1820-1880, but it has faded during the 20th century due to changes in beekeeping technology. In the past, beehives were made by beekeepers themselves. Sometimes the painted panels were bought from rural painters, sometimes they were also done by the beekeepers.
The decorations were made with natural pigments and colors, therefore they faded over time. It’s not entirely clear why this tradition of painting the front panels of beehives started. However, it represents an important testimony of folk imagination and ways of thinking in rural Slovenia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Know Before You Go
The painted beehive panels are presented in some other local or ethnographic museums in Slovenia but the Museum of Apiculture in Radovljica has the most extensive collection on display.