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Serbia - Expo Paris 1889

Serbia at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889
Architect(s) : Lafanège

Serbia was the first nation to agree to take part officially in the Universal Exhibition in Paris. As soon as the French government made known its intention to hold a universal exhibition, the government of King Milan asked the Chambers for a credit of 100,000 francs, which was immediately voted.

This credit was not enough, for the central committee of Belgrade, presided over by M. Goudovitch, spent 160,000 francs in Serbia and the installation at the Champ de Mars cost 60,000.

The Serbian section, which covers an area of 560 square metres and is situated between the Greek and Japanese exhibitions, has a monumental façade on the Avenue de Suffren which is one of the most successful of the Exhibition. It was designed by Mr. Lafanège, architect, and is in the purest Serbo-Byzantine style. It is composed of enamelled mosaics, framed by white marble slabs and gives an absolute impression of Serbian national architecture, of which only very rare traces can be found in Serbia itself, the Turkish occupation having destroyed almost all the monuments. This facade is therefore more than an ordinary ornamentation, it is a reconstruction of interest to archaeologists as well as to walkers.

The interior of the Serbian section is entirely covered with carpets from local factories. They were chosen, like all the objects in the Serbian section, by the central committee of Belgrade, which collected from all parts of the kingdom what it considered most appropriate to make known to foreigners the very diverse industries of Serbia.

Alongside these carpets, which are of a very rich colour, which does not prevent them from being very cheap, one notices first of all the very numerous exhibitions of dried plums: this is one of the most important branches of Serbian industry. Large quantities are shipped to America. A little further on, the exhibition of Mr. George Weifert, the great brewer from Belgrade, whose products are very well known in the whole of the lower Danube region. We also see the first samples of the cloths that Serbia has been producing for some years. All of these cheap goods are made on the model of similar English goods. Numerous samples of ores prove the mineral wealth of Serbia and explain, together with the grains in the food section, the numerous financial creations made in Serbia in the last ten years with capital from Central Europe.

A little further on, the official exhibition of the Kragougevatz arsenal shows the efforts made by the Serbian government to keep the army's armaments up to date with modern science.

However, what most interested the visitors were the national products of Serbia. First of all, the embroidered fabrics that are very reminiscent of Turkish embroidery. Then there are the peasant jackets, some of which are embroidered with an art and taste that one would not expect. The ornaments are of a sobriety rare among Orientals; there are peasant jackets in black cloth and black braid which would certainly not be out of place in one of the elegant couturiers of Paris. In the same collection there are belts of a very interesting design and light fabrics with bright stripes which are used for women's toilet and which are of a graceful effect.

The exhibition of filigree objects is also very interesting. The objects on display, although similar to those from Russia, have a special character; it is clear from certain details that the Serbian craftsmen were more or less directly influenced by the Orient. This character or rather this special stamp gives interest to the objects of worship, monstrances, ciboria, in which one is quite astonished to find motifs borrowed from the ornamentation of mosques. Belt buckles, jacket clips, and pistol grips also show that the Serbian filigree industry produced less important and equally interesting objects.

This is the judgment that can be made of the whole Serbian exhibition; it is interesting: for it is always curious to see a people trying to get rid of the outdated formulas that hinder them in order to enter into the full stream of modern civilisation.

© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889