Magnificent Neo-Romanian style “Tree of Life” decorative panel

Neo-Romanian style window decoration, Piata Romana area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I was literally blown away when I first encountered the splendid “Three of Life” window decorative panel, shown in the photograph above, part of the elaborate decoration of a late 1920s – early 1930 Neo-Romanian style house in central Bucharest. It is still well preserved, with the exception of the upper part of the window reticular screen, which was probably broken sometimes in the last decade by ignorant proprietors to make way for air conditioning ducts, a blemish that is nevertheless repairable. The panel is in fact a complex composition of many symbols, inspired from the rich Romanian church and peasant mythology, arranged together in a succession of metaphors that unfurl along the three of life theme.  I can detect there the origins of life motif in the plant pot represented on the base sector, sitting on three grains (the Trinity) from which the life sprang up as a fruit bearing vine plant. The middle sector shows life’s many paths represented by the two decorative side window dressings that illustrate the continuous Manichean encounters between the good (symbolised by the protector eagle) and evil (symbolised by the dragon) forces. Their encounters are interrupted by ornate medallions containing the symbol of the cross, epitomising the peaceful moments attained at some points in life. The upper sector is a representation of the Garden of Eden, where two peacocks, attributes of beauty and peace, feed from a fruit laden cup sustained by a double traverse cross symbolising in the Byzantine/ Orthodox imagery the triumph of Christ and therefore of life over death. The three sectors thus form together an elaborate and full of details three of life, that gives personality and meaning to the the whole architecture of the house. There are many other symbols within this wonderful assembly, like the rope unfurling on the edge of the reticular screen, symbolising the infinity, etc. The whole panel is an wonderful Neo-Romanian style design, which has found in the local church and peasant art and mythology an extraordinarily rich source of inspiration.

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

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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.

Manichean Symbolism on Neo-Romanian Style Panels

Neo-Romanian style circular decorative panels with Manichean representations: the battle between good (eagle) and evil (reptiles) adorning the street wall of an early 1930s house in Stirbey Voda area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Romanian folklore and traditional peasant beliefs, as well as the indigenous brand of Christianity (officially denominated as “Greek Christianity”, in reality very much blended with local ancient pagan beliefs) contain many references to epic Manichean battles between the good and evil forces. One of the usual representations in the Romanian visual arts of the good forces is that of the protector eagle, while the evil forces are symbolised by reptiles- snakes or dragon like lizards. I found two very telling such representations in the form of the circular architectural panels presented in the photographs above, which adorn the street wall of a grand Neo-Romanian style house in one of the central quarters of Bucharest. I am just overwhelmed by the dynamism and drama of these two well rendered scenes, in which the protagonists are clutched in a deadly fight, with no clear winner in sight. These two panels are some of the finest Neo-Romanian style Manichean symbolism representations that I encountered so far in my architectural photography work in Bucharest; another similar theme panel can be seen here, about which I wrote a post in June this year.

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I endeavor through this series of daily 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.