Poster of the 1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition

The Great Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 has been a momentous event for the culture and economy of the young Kingdom of Romania. It has also marked, through the elaborate and high quality Neo-Romanian design of many of its pavilions, the onset of the mature phase of this style. The exhibition’s chief edifice was the Palace of the Arts, presented in the images bellow, which was envisaged as a gathering place of what was considered the finest products of the Romanian people throughout its history. That was also the central message of the event,  publicised as as a dual celebration of, on the one hand, King Carol I’s forty years of glorious reign, which saw the gaining on the battlefield of the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent Europeanisation process and the phenomenal growth of its economy, and also, on the other hand, marking 1,800 years since in 106 CE the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan conquered the ancient kingdom of Dacia located where in modern times the state of Romania emerged, a historical milestone that ignited the formation of the Romanian people and language. The 1906 exhibition was thus imbued with an intense and picturesque patriotic sentiment typical of the La Belle Époque period that had powerful reverberations throughout the whole of the Romanian speaking world, which at that moment included large swathes of territory under the sovereignty of other states, such as Transylvania in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or Bessarabia, then a province of Russia.

The Palace of the Arts is shown in all its glory in this colour poster published in the monthly magazine “Vulturul” (“The Eagle”, a reference to the country’s coat of arms). The issue date is Sunday 2 July 1906 (in the Julian calendar, in official use then in the country). It presents the official opening ceremony of the exhibition in the presence of the Royal Family and a welcoming public, which took place on 6 June (it closed on 23 November that year).

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Palace of the Arts was in a way the Romanian response to the tradition of iconic exhibition buildings inaugurated by the Crystal Palace in London  half a century before, epitomizing the ambitious aspirations of that young Balkan nation. It contained a large glazed roof over a central structure embellished with Neo-Romanian style elements and ornaments and also references to the classical architecture, considered then as the purest form of architecture. Its designers were the architects Victor Stefanescu and Stefan Burcus, the contractor being the engineer Robert Effingham Grant, a Romanian of British origins.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The central figures of this poster were the royal couple, King Carol I, an excellent administrator, brought up and trained in the military industrial complex of the mid-c19th Germany, and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, an internationally renown writer, known after her nom de plume as Carmen Sylva. They are presented receiving the homage of the population and in two prominent medallions flanking the image of the palace.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The monarch has been the supervisor of the exhibition works, a role in a way similar to that of Prince Albert for the London event of 1851, while the general manager was Constantin Istrati, an accomplished scientist.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Royal Family is present at the opening, King Carol I (second from right), Queen Elizabeth next to his left, while the Crown Prince Ferndinand and Crown Princess Marie are at his right. The children of the princely couple are in front, from left to right: Princess Elizabeth, Princess Marie, Prince Carol and on the right the little Prince Nicolas. A peasant woman graciously offers them a bunch of flowers.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The poster also presents in some detail the public participating at the ceremony, Bucharest people and visitors in a relaxed attitude, proud of their country’s achievements embodied in that great exhibition.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

I like the presence of persons wearing peasant costumes, as is the group on the left hand side of the image above, who were probably proper peasants and also higher class individuals, including aristocrats, representing a patriotic fashion introduced and promoted by Queen Elizabeth and Crown Princess Marie, who incidentally were of foreign extraction, the first a German and the second of British and Russian origins, at the local royal balls and other major functions.

In 1923 the Miliary Museum of Romania was established within the Palace of the Arts building, functioning until the late 1930s when the building caught fire and later, in 1943, demolished with the intention to erect a more modern museum edifcice. Those plans never came to fruition because of the war and the Stalinist takeover of 1947. However, a grandiose communist heroes mausoleum, which is now probably the most beautiful architectural structure of the communist era, was been built there in the late 1950s.

I would like to express here my thanks to architect Madalin Ghigeanu, who kindly provided this poster, part of his ample collection, for publication.

Two contrasting types of Neo-Romanian style doorways

The Neo-Romanian architectural style throughout its over six decades of existence, between the 1880s and 1940s, had to adapted itself to evolving architectural trends and technologies and also adopted, sometimes quite liberally, motifs and symbols from other styles, the most prominent such synthesis being perhaps its hybridisation with the Art Deco style in the 1930s era. Bellow are two Neo-Romanian style doorways that express those processes. The first one embellishes the front entrance of “Iulia Hasdeu” high school in Bucharest, which combines Neo-Romanian, classical and Gothic style motifs, while in the second example is a doorway displaying ethnographic motifs. They are just a sample from the great diversity of forms and motifs found within the decorative register of this architectural style peculiar to Romania.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance, edifice built in 1926, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The high school doorway, seen in the photograph above and detailed image bellow, has a very interesting reference to a classical Greek-Roman temple pediment, symbolising the fact that the school is conceived as a “temple” or learning. The assembly also contains two thin Gothic column motifs at the door’s centre and on its arcade mullions, perhaps a metaphor for the fact that the school is envisaged as a “cathedral” of learning too.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, "Iulia Hasdeu" highschool front entrance (1926), Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photographs above and bellow show a Neo-Romanian style doorway that displays prominent ethnographic motifs, the most remarkable of which being the intricately carved corbels supporting the awning. The assembly is imagined as echoing an ancestral Romanian peasant gateway, suggesting types found in villages that dot the piedmont of the Carpathian Mountains.

Neo-Romanian style doorway, late-1920s house, Cismigiu area, Bucharest, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Neo-Romanian style lamp

Neo-Romanian style lamp, Amzei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian style lamps are a rarity, so you can imagine my joy in finding the one presented in the photograph above. It adorns the entrance of Ion IC Bratianu’s memorial house in Amzei Square, Bucharest, an edifice built in 1908 and designed by the architect Petre Antonescu, one of the most prolific and imaginative architects of the Neo-Romanian current. I was able to identify only a handful such artefacts so far, see the example here, which is incidentally designed by the same architect. I believe the object has been designed at the same time as the house, and is not a later addition. I like its “oriental” appearance, reminding of lamps manufactured in the Islamic Mediterranean world. The Neo-Romanian motifs are the rope motif abstraction noticeable in the zigzag line decorating its frame, together with the solar disc on the lamp bottom, similar in aspect with medallions that decorate the frieze of many neo-Romanian houses.

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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.

Vlach identity

There are sizable communities of Vlachs settled in and around Bucharest. The photograph bellow shows a Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, around the time of the Balkan Wars, displaying the name “Villa Cutika”, where Cutika is a Vlach feminine gender name.

Vlach is a collective term applied usually to peoples speaking Romance languages, others than Romanian, in the Balkan Peninsula. As you are familiar with the Romance speaking peoples of Western Europe, such as Spaniards, French or Italians, the same is the case in Eastern Europe, where there are smaller population peoples speaking Romance languages, descendants of the Roman colonists and Romanised natives from the time when the Roman Empire ruled the area two millenia ago. The Romanian language is the largest represented in terms of population Eastern Romance idiom, followed by a number of Vlach languages, such as Macedo-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian or Istro-Romanian. The nationalist movements that have affected the Balkan Peninsula in the last two centuries have often brought tragedies, such as discrimination and ethnic cleansing, upon the Vlach communities, who were allways a minority living in the midst of ethically different majority peoples then emerging as modern nations, such as the Greeks, Bulgarians or Serbians. The Romanian national state, in its turn, considered its duty to protect and give refuge to its etnic kin, the Vlachs, often wrongly regarded by the Romanian officials, historians and linguists as just speakers of mere Romanian dialects.

The house that hosts the tablet shown in the photography below is on Rumeoara Street, which sounds Vlach to me and it may well be the name of the region in the Balkans (Greece, etc.) from where the families settled on that street originate.

“Villa Cutika”- Vlach name tablet on Neo-Romanian style house dating from the 1910s, Fire Watchtower area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Neo-Romanian style “medieval” gateway

Bellow is presented an early 1920s Neo-Romanian style gateway designed in the “citadel” variety of this order. Its impressive aspect is given by the heavy brick and mortar fabric, austere decorative arches and a severe looking metal door imagined as the “harrow gate” (portcullis) of a medieval fortress. During its heydays, in the inter-war period, the structure provided the visual focus for the entire house it embellishes. Today, by contrast, the gateway is in a decrepit state and nearly invisible to the passers by, as can be ascertained from the first photograph after the text. In order to better convey to the readers its former glory and impressiveness, I posted another two processed images of this structure (see bellow)- an inverse colour and gradient green filter photograph and a posterised image with a sunburst at its centre, which somehow bring from “beyond the grave”, in the manner of a ground radar, the features and message that the architect intended for this gateway.

Neo-Romanian style gateway, early 1920s house, Rosetti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Neo-Romanian style gateway (inverse colour & gradient green filter), early 1920s house, Rosetti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Neo-Romanian style gateway (posterised photograph with sunburst at its centre), early 1902s house, Rosetti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

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I endeavour through this daily series of 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 Contact page of this weblog.

Evolution of the Neo-Romanian architectural style

Neo-Romanian houses showing this style's evolution over at least one decade and a half (ie early-'20s - mid-'30, Soseaua Viilor area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

I found the two Neo-Romanian houses pictured above as very instructive in showing the evolution of this style during a quite short period in the first part of the c20th, when technology innovations, new building materials and fashions gave a new dynamism to the Romanian architectural scene. The buildings are located next to each other, fronting the street, and therefore excellently placed for an outside observer to study their differences and style intricacies.

The building at the top is the earlier built one, dating probably from the early 1920s, possibly mid-1910s, just before Romania entered the Great War (1916). An elements which distinguishes it as being from that period is the heavy wall structure made mostly from brickwork, which afforded a limited number of window openings and just a single upper floor. Stylistically the house has many elements peculiar to the early Neo-Romanian style such as indentations mimicking the crenels of a fortress  and other citadel-like motifs seen on the veranda and top of the faux tower at the centre. Other early Neo-Romanian aspects are the Byzantine-Ottoman inspired window frames and arches as well as the chunky grapevine motif frieze, all echoing the Art Nouveau current popular in the previous decades. There are also elements borrowed from the Little Paris style (French c19th historicist architecture interpreted in a provincial manner in Fin de Siecle Romania) noticeable especially in the steep slope roof crowning the faux tower.

The second building, at the bottom of the photograph, belongs to the mid-1930s era, when the wider use of structural elements made from reinforced concrete afforded a much slender appearance and also a greater amount of fenestration, additional floor levels and a taller roof. Stylistically one can easily notice a departure from the Ottoman and Byzantine motifs (present here mostly in the ornamentation of the faux tower roof, most prominent such element being the beautiful finial that crowns that sector of the roof) toward the Art Deco. The syncretism between the Neo-Romanian and the Art Deco is especially displayed in the reticular ornamentation of the balcony fences and the aspect of the window frames.

These two buildings are a proof of the dynamism of the inter-war Romanian architectural scene and of the flexibility and adaptability of the Neo-Romanian style to evolving fashions, concepts and technologies.

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I endeavor through this daily 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.

Neo-Romanian Style Rainwater Heads

Neo-Romanian style rainwater heads (©Valentin Mandache)

The rainwater head is usually a prosaic detail among the water draining fittings of a building that has the role to convey the rainwater collected from the roof troughs to the drain pipes. However, the high visibility of a rainwater head at the edge of the roof eave or on the top of the façade, also renders it as an excellent decorative element within the architectural design of a house. The Neo-Romanian architectural style gives a prominent role to the rainwater head within its customarily elaborate decorative panoply. The photomontage above and the slide show bellow the text show a few such exquisite Neo-Romanian style rainwater heads, which I photographed during my fieldwork in Bucharest.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.