Štefan Cyril Parrák and his grand collection

Štefan Cyril Parrák and his grand collection

Ester Plicková

An original collection of Trnava resident, confectioner and baker Štefan Cyril Parrák (1887 – 1969) comprised around 9 thousand items representing various creative expressions, mainly traditional ceramics, arts and crafts items and everyday use items. Parrák collected his items for 50 years with great enthusiasm and developed a set of items that is unique for its scope, themes and materials as well as aesthetic values. The collection itself is a small museum.

Parrák made collecting his way of life and sacrificed benefits of prosperous trade and happy family life to his hobby. Parrák did not collect objects to do business with antiques. His aim was to protect evidence of visual art culture, however, not limited to folk environment. It is the way how his collection can be deemed up-to-date even today.

He obtained his first item – faience jar – in 1910. He started with decorating his confectionery with ceramic pieces. He concentrated on painted faience pieces made in the western Slovakia jar workshops between the late 18th century and the mid 20th century when the production ceased to exist. A large collection of ceramics includes the examples of developed Habans production, faience and stoneware from a prominent manufactory in the town of Holíč, during its flowering in the end of 18th century, ceramics from the Stupava workshop and the Slovak pottery production. Ceramic pieces were the centre of his life-long collecting efforts, but Parrák collected many other types of items. He collected utilitarian and decorative exhibits from wood, clothing and textile works, painted glass, arts and crafts objects such as glass, watch, tin utensils, Jewish ceremonial items, lithographs, engravings, small prints, various types of lightings, irons, grinders etc. Majority of exhibits remains fair evidence of cultural and historical importance.

Parrák made his collection publicly available in 1935. He exhibited his collection in eight, then in fourteen rooms he added to his confectionery. However, his life was full of ups and downs. He was generous with money that got him into debts. His creditors threatened him with executions and auctions. Parrák, however, rejected to sell his collection to a foreign country. He decided to donate his collection to the national conservation authority. Unsettled relations between many creditors and debtor Parrák did not help to complete the donation.

Historical events ruined already promising negotiations. After events in February 1948 the political establishment stopped any activities relating to private businesses. Parrák´s confectionery was incorporated into the state-owned firm Mlyny a pekárne. His house was confiscated. The original exhibition structure was eliminated and the collection was modified. The collection was used, after many troubles, for the establishment of the regional, later renamed into the Western Slovakia Museum in the town of Trnava.