Art Deco monument: Maica Smara statue

Maica Smara statue, Cismigiu Park, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The central park of Bucharest, Cismigiu, contains a number of memorials of past personalities that imprinted the city’s history. The monument dedicated to Smaranda Gheorghiu (1857 -1944), or Maica Smara, how she was known among her contemporaries, is one of the very few that exhibits Art Deco elements. I believe the statue was erected sometimes in the 1940s, or even the following decade, as a tribute, probably after her death. Maica Smara was active among the nascent women’s rights movement in this conservative country in south east Europe. She was well known in Romania as a literary figure and traveller reaching even North Cape in Norway in her peregrinations, not a mean fact for a Romanian woman of the late c19th and the early c20th periods. The name “Maica Smara” literally means “mother Smara[nda]“, given as a compliment for her educational work and as a writer of children stories and poems.

Maica Smara statue, Cismigiu Park, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The most prominent Art Deco element of the monument, which is the creation of the sculptor Mihai Onofrei, is the bronze bas-relief at its base showing two school children. The boy and the girl are represented reading and respectively writing attentively passages from Maica Smara’s stories. I especially like the flamboyant flower motif on the left hand side area of the panel, which conveys the serenity and natural world described in this personality’s literary creations, some of which I read and listened to during my childhood.

Maica Smara statue, Cismigiu Park, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Another Art Deco element of note is exemplified by the three retreating steps at the base of the monument, illustrating the rule of three typical of this style.