Rare Neo-Romanian Dolphin & Vines Decorative Panel

A rare Neo-Romanian style dolphin and vine decorative theme panels embellishing a late 1920s house in Cotroceni area of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The panels from the above montage depict an interesting and rarely encountered Neo-Romanian decorative theme of vine leaves and dolphins, a very peculiar juxtaposition for the Neo-Romanian architectural style, which has its decorative register inspired by and large from the late medieval Wallachian church panoply and Ottoman Balkan motifs like the grape vine, the peacock, the griffin, the three of life, intricate geometrical patterns, etc. These themes and motifs pertain to a landlocked civilization as was and is still the case with the ancestral Romanian communities and their environment centred in and around the alpine ranges of the Carpathian Mountains. Which is then the explanation for the unusual aquatic motif occurrence depicted in the above image? Romanians had only a recent unmitigated contact with the sea and the seafaring way of life, namely since 1878 following the Berlin treaty stipulations, when the country was granted the Black Sea maritime province of Dobrogea or Dobruja, a territory ardently disputed with Bulgaria. The province hosts within its confines the Danube Delta and one of the largest ports in the Black Sea basin, being also an important wine producer. The coat of arms of Dobrogea contains two dolphins and my hypothesis is that the first owner of this house was a native or strongly connected with that province on the Black Sea shore. The vine leaves together with the dolphins and the Greek type cross at the centre of the right hand panels (an allusion about the Christian Orthodox faith of the local Romanian population and also about the ancient Greek colonies established millennia ago in Dobrogea) constitute a fitting regional identity statement expressed within the context of the Neo-Romanian architectural style.


I endeavor through this daily series of images and small articles to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of European architectural history and heritage.


If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing the property, specialist research, planning permissions, restoration project management, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this weblog.