Manichean battle symbolism on Neo-Romanian architectural panel

Neo-Romanian style architectural panel: Manichean battle symbolism, mid-1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above panel is about 1.40m in length and constitutes the fence of a second floor Juliet balcony adorning a mid-1930s house built in a mix of Neo-Romanian and what I call fairy tale castle styles, located in Dorobanti area of Bucharest. I made the photograph during the architectural tour, which I organised there a couple of Sundays ago. The two sectors of the panel display a very expressive and refined Manichean symbolism: the good and evil principles on the left hand side panel and their never-ending and never-decided battle on the other, encircled all along by grapevines representing, in Neo-Romanian imagery, succeeding cicles of the universe. The Manichean myths have ancient roots in the Romanian peasant beliefs, being expressed in ethnographic art, legends and also intensely intermingled with the type of Christian religion practiced by peasants. The Neo-Romanian architecture has adopted the symbolism associated with those beliefs in its represenetations, as I often was able to find such wonderful depictions within panels and architectural elements on Bucharest’s buildings in that style, such are the examples featured here or here.

In the case of the panel presented here, its first sector (the right hand side one) contains a lion symbolising the good principle, paired by a fantastic and fearsome winged four legged animal with a “bloodthirsty”-like bird head that symbolises the evil principle. The second sector contains representations of battles between the good and evil: the first battle, from the left, is won by the good forces, where the eagle kills a serpent, while in the second battle representation the evil forces win over the good ones seen in the wolfish animal grabbing and eating a fallen eagle. I am impressed by the drama exuded by this last particular scene, rendered in a naive artistic manner, something which very much reminds me of the famous paintings of Douanier Rousseau (Henri Rouseau), the post-impressionist French artist, especially his canvases called The Sleeping Gipsy or Scout Attacked by a Tiger. I included bellow a close up of that scene to highlight that stupefying similarity. It denotes perhaps a phenomenon of artistic convergence in visual naive arts spanning decades and meridians.

Manicheian battle symbolism, Neo-Romanian style panel, mid-1930s house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)


I endeavour through this series of periodic 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 or selling a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in sourcing and transacting the property, specialist research, etc. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contactpage of this weblog.