Stop 09

The Old Pirts [Sauna] on a River Bluff. | Vecā pirts upes krastā.
Tempera, 15 in x 11.75 in (30.48 cm x 38.10 cm), c.1980.

In this painting, my father depicts the traditional pirts, the Latvian sauna. The sauna would appear many times and in many variations throughout his career. His fascination with the pirts was rooted in its significance to the Latvian people going back to ancient times. Not only a place for washing up, it was also where babies were birthed. Mother and child bathed together here, in the warmest and cleanest structure on a Latvian farmstead. Here symbolic rites were performed to ensure their health and prosperity. In this scene, water is being carried in buckets from the pond to the pirts to create hot steam in preparation for bathing. The warm yellow light suggests a timeless Latvian summer evening.

Inside the sauna at the Riga Outdoor Museum, Riga, Latvia. Hot rocks for creating steam are visible at left. Photo courtesy Matthew Richardson.