Bucharest 1870s mascaron

Bucharest 1870s mascaron (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a window apron mascaron, from among a dozen or so that embellish the street façade of painter Gheroghe Tattarescu’s museum in central Bucharest, close to Lipscani, the commercial quarter of the city. Tattarescu is one of the best painters of the first “European” generation of Romanian artists in the mid 1850s, when this region was slowly escaping from the obit of the Ottoman Empire and its cultural models. The painter renovated the house in the late 1850s, resulting in an interesting transition phase between Ottoman and early Little Paris style edifice. My supposition is that this set of mascarons are a later addition, dating from the 1870s, perhaps even later in the 1880s, as I encountered similar types on other Bucharest houses built in that period. This ornament is ceramic (probably terracotta) made and not a stucco application as one might expect. It is also well preserved, on account that the city had throughout the last century and a half much less industrial pollution than other European capitals. Another dating clue could be the hairstyle and pearl necklace of the woman represented at its centre, which to me looks somehow Second Empire style (between 1865 – 1880). In all, the mascaron, is an interesting and beautiful sight on the historic façades of Romania’s capital.

Elaborate mascaron adorning a Bucharest “Little Paris” style house

Mascaron adorning the window of a late 1890s "Little Paris" style house, Calarasi area, Bucharest. (Valentin Mandache)

This elaborate and quite large scale mascaron embellishes a diminutive “Little Paris” style (what I call the French c19th historicist architectural styles provincially interpreted in Fin de Siècle Romania) Bucharest house. The size of the mascaron is more typical of that found above windows of larger commercial and public buildings, making a picturesque contrast with the domestic dimensions and surroundings of the house which it adorns. The mascaron represents a floral deity from the classical mythology, a theme which on the other hand is very much in tone with the lush gardens of the old Bucharest houses during the long torrid local summers.

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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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