Photos: Bartek Barczyk for Słowacki Theatre in Kraków.

Women’s Curtain

Monumental theatre curtain by Małgorzata Markiewicz unveiled at Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, Poland


The historic Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, Poland, unveiled a new curtain, Women’s Curtain, on 17 December 2023, to celebrate its 130 year anniversary. The theatre commissioned the curtain from Małgorzata Markiewicz, an artist based in Kraków, who took this opportunity to celebrate 130 women who contributed to the history of Kraków, from legendary figures to queens and saints, scientists, freedom fighters and artists.


The women’s names have been woven at the bottom of the curtain, providing the ground for upward-growing vines onto which golden female figures have been embroidered. At the top of the vines, there is an image of a golden Medusa head, seen as the patron of Kraków’s women and their creativity.


Medusa, as a symbol of uncompromising, fearsome femininity, is the hallmark of Markiewicz’s work. In Greek mythology, she is the youngest of the three Gorgon sisters, beautiful and distinguished by her lush hair, with which she rivaled Athena. Her beauty caught Poseidon’s attention who raped Medusa in Athena’s temple, for which the goddess turned her into a fearsome monster.


The feminist interpretation – explains Markiewicz – is that Athena gave Medusa the power to avenge this rape, turning her into a strong figure with the power to turn those who look at her, into stone. Medusa is wronged, but she does not remain a victim.


To produce the curtain, Markiewicz engaged the embroiderers from the LUD-Art Association at the Ethnographic Museum in Krakow, theater seamstresses and artists, all of them women associated with Krakow. They carefully placed the female figures on the curtain, embroidering and sewing the gold applications by hand. The weavers from Podlasie, Barnarda Rość and Lucyna Kędzierska, used the technique of double weave fabric, an unusual and the most difficult weaving technique, characterised by using two warp series and two weft series, providing the fabric with additional strength and durability.


Double wave fabric is an ancient weaving method traditionally used in the Podlasie region. It would most likely have been lost if not for Eleonora Plutyńska, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, who had a passion for old techniques. She started the process of reclaiming this method, going from village to village in Podlasie, collecting scraps of information about how to weave in this method, in order to teach it again the inhabitants of Podlasie villages. At the same time, she encouraged weavers in Podlasie not to copy existing patterns, but to create their own – explains Małgorzata Markiewicz.


“Women’s Curtain” is a work of art carrying an important message: viewers will be able to admire a huge fabric-picture, a unique work of contemporary art, a story about women created from warp and weft, millions of intertwined threads,” explains Słowacki’s Theater.


Małgorzata Markiewicz is a visual artist and performer, doctor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Her works address the situation of women in the modern world and raise the issues of motherhood, housework, female eroticism, creativity and the voice of women in the public arena. The artist talks about the need to break male domination in public and private spaces and strengthen the presence of women. She encourages women to discover their creative potential, providing a platform for discussion about the contemporary role of women in professional, family and social relationships.


An essay by Basia Śliwińska, art historian, on Małgorzata Markiewicz monumental work, Medusa can be accessed here.


The images of Markiewicz’s Medusa can be found here.