Avilys 12 & 13 (set)
Wayy back 10 years ago in January, I inked 20 4×4″ illustrations of honeybees in traditional Lithuanian clothing, and then painted them in watercolors in March. I called this series “Avilys”, meaning “beehive” in Lithuanian: a meditation on my feelings about being of Lithuanian descent in America. Bees have a special significance in Lithuanian history, and feature prominently in their language and stories. Each bee is unique and depicts an aspect of culture, food, or history!
Avilys 12 & 13: Both bees are examples of Leičiai, a medieval caste unique to Lithuania (and perhaps the root of the name “Lithuania”) that provided the nucleus of Lithuanian society during the pre-state and early Lithuanian state eras. Similar to knights, they performed basic military and economic duties within the state: patrolling borders, guarding the capitol, guarding roads, and breeding warhorses. The leičiai were unlike knights, however, in that they were considered servants of the Grand Duke and thus served the state, not independent lords. Their power waned however in the 15-16th centuries, and by the 1557 Volok Reforms, were phased out entirely. The symbols they bear on their shields are both ancient symbols of Lithuania: the Vytis (white knight on horseback) and the Columns of Gediminas (yellow heraldic fortress).