Levente Lehel Sütö and Fourteen Generations of Folk Furniture-Making
By Tasha Sandoval, 2013 Katzenberger Art History Intern, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
This online exhibition is based on the documentation of traditional craftspeople at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s program, Hungarian Heritage: Roots to Revival. Levente Lehel Sütő was one of the twenty-four craftspeople who demonstrated his work at the festival.
The Sütő family hails from Vargyas, a town in the historically Hungarian enclave of Szék in Transylvania, Romania. Furniture making and painting techniques like those of the Sütő family are specific to the Szék tradition—from the style and ornamentation of the painting to the furniture designs.
The Sütő family tree, which Sütő displayed proudly behind his crafter’s booth at the Festival, indicates the longevity and dynamism of the family tradition. Klára K. Csillery’s brief history of Hungarian folk furniture, Hungarian Village Furniture, references the Sütő family with praise:
“In some cases one can speak of a veritable dynasty of joiners. In 1568 for instance, the Sütő brothers, joiners and carpenters, settled in Vargyas, and from that date, 13 generations of Sütős handed on the tradition of floral painted furniture” (67).
As a member of the fourteenth generation of Sütős, Levente Lehel Sütő is very proud of his family’s craft tradition:
“In my life I have a tradition from very long time to make furniture. I am fourteenth generation from my family who made wood furniture, who made a house from wood. We have tools in our [family] from the end of [the] sixteenth century.”