Patriotic transition style house

Transition Little Paris to Neo-Romanian style house dating from late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

This house, which dates from the 1890s, embodies an interesting and relatively rare example of transition style between the cosmopolitan Little Paris style (which in a nutshell represents a symbiosis of French c19th historicist architecture provincially interpreted in Fin de Siècle Romania, with old local Ottoman Balkans motifs and construction techniques) and the then newly emerging Neo-Romanian style, represented in this instance through a number of defining ornamental medallions. Two of these medallions, decorating the street façade (see them in  more detail in the photographs bellow), represent the Prince Matei Basarab (1588 – 1654) of Wallachia and the Prince Vasile Lupu (1595–1661) of Moldavia. The artefacts are probably inspired from the great mosaics containing representations of Romanian leaders that embellish the entrance of the prestigious Bucharest’s Romanian Athenaeum, created a few years before this house was built. The two princes, famous for their bitter rivalry, instrumented in the c17th a brief Romanian national revival in their princedoms, before the region was further subdued by the Ottomans who put it in the early c18th under the administration of Greek dragomans, from the Phanar quarter of Istanbul. The Neo-Romanian architectural style, a national-romantic order through its genesis and programme, makes intense allusions to the heroic medieval and late medieval past. It is thus natural to find symbols and representations referring to those epic times of yore, such as the effigies of Matei Basarab and Vasile Lupu, on houses built, in various degrees of finesse, by ordinary people at that time. It gives us an idea about the ethos of that epoch, when the patriotic sentiment, expressed in references typical of the Romantic era, was at its height in the late c19th Romania, an intrinsic part of the process of modern state and nation building in this area of Europe.

Mural effigy of voivode Matei Basarab, house from the late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Mural effigy of voivode Valile Lupu, house from the late 1890s, Icoanei area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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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.

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