The dancing Art Nouveau style graces of Mantuleasa quarter

Below are two interesting Art Nouveau style bas-relief panels dating from the 1890s representing scenes with dancing graces, inspired from ancient Greek and Roman mythology, located in Mantuleasa area of Bucharest. The dancing graces motif was frequently encountered in Art Nouveau visual arts compositions, being promoted by greats such as the actress Sarah Bernhard, the painter Alphonse Mucha, so important for the Art Nouveau current, who used the beautiful Sarah Bernhard as his model, or the dramatist Edmond Rostand to cite just a few.

The panels presented here were produced, in my opinion, as a direct consequence of Sarah Bernhardt’s presence in the mid 1890s Bucharest when she and her theatre company performed widely acclaimed plays at the National Theatre that comprised dancing graces scenes and also because of the popularity of Edmond Rostand’s writings among the high society of Bucharest who at parties and gatherings in their palaces acted in his plays, clad in fairy costumes similar with those presented in these architectural panels. Even the then Queen Elizabeth of Romania and Marie, the Crown Princess, were known to have acted at the Royal Palace in such plays by Rostand.

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The panel above shows a group of dancing graces, accompanied by music from a flute and tambourine in a scene imagined from the ancient classical mythology (dionysian mysteries if we judge after the grape fruit used as headdresses or some kind of harvest festival).

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The second Mantuleasa dancing graces panel presents a group of teenage looking female personages, holding each other and also carelessly revelling, accompanied by a Greek flute (syrinx) and tambourine, which somehow reminds me of the Dionysian initiation mysteries from the great fresco at the Villa of the Misteries in Pompeii. I like the grace standing alone on the left hand side of the panel, which holds in her hand an open papyrus scroll, a personification Calliope, the muse of poetry, perhaps.

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows the house hosting the two Art Nouveau style dancing graces panels from the Mantuleasa quarter of Bucharest. The overall architectural style of the house is a modest Beaux Arts, which is greatly enhanced by those wonderful bas-reliefs, constituting a reminder of the wonderful and creative years experienced by this city during the Fin de Siécle period.


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