Art Nouveau lettering

The Art Nouveau style architecture is a bit of a rara avis in Bucharest. My periodical walking tour “Art Nouveau Bucharest” endeavours to survey an ample proportion of those elements embellishing the city. I thus feel rewarded when from time to time I find the odd Art Nouveau gem here and there, as is the case with the two letter rendering examples presented in the photographs bellow. The first one, with the name of the old Agricultural Bank, Banca Agricola or “Agricola”, as it was habitually known one century agao, was quite hard to spot, on top of a backstreet building façade in the CEC area of central Bucharest. The second Art Nouveau lettering example is on the floor of the western entrance of Amzei Church, a peculiar Art Nouveau – Byzantine design by architect Alexandru Savulescu in 1901. It welcomes the churchgoers with the saying “Sa fim credinciosi” (“Let’s be faithful/ believers”). Both examples are delicate signals to the indifferent contemporary passer-bys  from a long gone and beautiful epoch.

Art Nouveau lettering: the name panoply for "Banca Agricola" ("The Agricultural Bank") dating from the 1900s, CEC area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Art Nouveau lettering: "Let's be faithful" on the pavement at the western entrance of Amzei Church, dating from 1901, 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.

The dancing Art Nouveau style graces of Mantuleasa quarter

This post is a teaser for tomorrow’s photography architectural tour in the Mantuleasa historic quarter of Bucharest at which you are all invited (meeting point in front of Bucharest Tourist Information office from within the University Subway area between 8.45am and 9.00am. The tour will take place between 9am and 12.00 and costs 35 lei (Romanian currency) each.

Bellow are two interesting Art Noveau style basrelief panels dating from the 1890s representing scenes with dancing graces, inspired from ancient Greek and Roman mythology, located in Mantuleasa area of Bucharest. The dancing graces motif was frequently encountered in Art Nouveau visual arts compositions, being promoted by greats such as the actress Sarah Bernhard, the painter Alphonse Mucha, so important for the Art Nouveau current, who used the beautiful Sarah Bernhard as his model, or the dramatist Edmond Rostand to cite just a few.

The panels presented here were produced, in my opinion, as a direct consequence of Sarah Bernhardt’s presence in the mid 1890s Bucharest when she and her theatre company performed widely acclaimed plays at the National Theatre that comprised dancing graces scenes and also because of the popularity of Edmond Rostand’s writings among the high society of Bucharest who at parties and gatherings in their palaces acted in his plays, clad in fairy costumes similar with those presented in these architectural panels. Even the then Queen Elizabeth of Romania and Marie, the Crown Princess, were known to have acted at the Royal Palace in such plays by Rostand.

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The panel above shows a group of dancing graces, accompanied by music from a flute and tambourine in a scene imagined from the ancient classical mythology (dionysiac mysteries if we judge after the grape fruit used as headdresses or some kind of harvest festival).

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The second Mantuleasa dancing graces panel presents a group of teenage looking female personages, holding each other and also carelessly revelling, accompanied by a Greek flute (syrinx) and tambourine, which somehow reminds me of the dionysiac initiation misteries from the great fresco at the Villa of the Misteries in Pompeii. I like the grace standing alone on the left hand side of the panel, which holds in her hand an open papyrus scroll, a personification Calliope, the muse of poetry, perhaps.

Dancing graces, Art Nouveau style in Mantuleasa quarter, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The photograph above shows the house hosting the two Art Nouveau style dancing graces panels from the Mantuleasa quarter of Bucharest. The overall architectural style of the house is a modest Beaux Arts, which is greatly enhanced by those wonderful basreliefs, constituting a reminder of the wonderful and creative years experienced by this city during the Fin de Siécle period.

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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.

Fin de Siècle Romanian royal wedding and architecture

Because the whole planet seems now captivated by the recent wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, I thought it would be a good idea to post an article touching the subject of historic Romanian architecture in the context of another wedding, more than a century ago, involving Romanian royals. Bellow is a very rare old postcard depicting the official cavalcade accompanying Marie, the Princess of Edinburgh, freshly made a Princess of Romania through the marriage with Crown Prince Ferdinand, when she first arrived, after the marriage ceremony and honeymoon, in her adopted country on the 24 January (4 Feb.- Julian calendar) 1893. Marie’s coach is seen acclaimed by Bucharest’s citizens, passing by two of the city’s architectural landmarks of the late Victorian era: the Unirii Market Hall (in the background), a large and beautiful iron frame structure similar with the ubiquitous Les Halles Centrales found in many of the late c19th French towns and the majestic Beaux Arts style building of the Brancovensc Hospital Establishment (in the foreground). Both these wonderful edifices, so important for Bucharest’s identity, were savagely demolished by the communist authorities in the mid-1980s, during dictator Ceausescu’s infamous vast and architecturally coarse remodelling of large areas of central Bucharest for his infamous “Victory of Socialism” project. That area is today full of ugly and badly maintained massive communist apartment blocks, which are also among the most expensive properties in Romania’s capital- a measure of the dismal level of culture and confused identity of the post-communist inhabitants of this city.

The arrival of Princess Marie of Edinburgh/ Romania in Bucharest, in Feb (Julian calendar) 1893, passing by the Brancovenesc Hospital building and Unirii Market Hall (old postcard dated 1901, undivided back, Diana & Valentin Mandache collection)

For more information on Queen Marie of Romania see “Marie of Romania. Images of a Queen” by Diana Mandache, Rosvall Royal Books, 2007.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Drobeta Turnu Severin: Fin de Siècle architecture and Roman heritage in south western Romania

The Danube’s Iron Gate gorge system separates the Carpathian and the Balkan mountain ranges, controlling the main waterway, and thus one of the important trade routes, between Central Europe and the Balkan peninsula. The city of Drobeta Turnu Severin sits immediately downstream from the Iron Gate and thus is excellently positioned to benefit from the traffic passing on the great river. Its history can be traced down to the period when the area was inhabited by Celtic and Dacian tribes, the place name “Drobeta” being probably, in my opinion, a Celtic origin toponym having similar roots with that of Drogheda in Ireland, which means “bridge of the ford”. In fact one of the most audacious civil engineering and architectural master-works of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Trajan’s bridge over the Danube (inaugurated in 105 CE), immortalised on the Trajan’s Column in Rome, both built by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus, stood in the vicinity of the city at a place where the river has one of the lowest depths in the area, which tallies with the meaning of the word mentioned for the Irish case. The “Turnu Severin” part of the city’s name came into use during medieval times and it means a northern (“Severin”) located tower (“Turnu”) provided fortification, originating probably in the old-Romanian language of early Middle Ages. An abstract depiction of the ancient Trajan’s bridge is presented bellow on the reverse of a bronze Roman coin, sestertius (RIC 569-C), issued by the emperor to commemorate its inauguration.

Roman coin issued in 105 - 108 CE depicting the Trajan's bridge over the Danube, close to Drobeta Turnu Severin (Valentin Mandache collection).

After the fall of the Roman imperial rule in the region, Drobeta flourished again economically and as an urban centre comparable with the Roman times, only eighteen centuries later, in the reign of Prince, later King, Carol I of Romania (1866 -1914). That was the result of freeing the Danube navigation in the second part of the c19th both physically by the blowing up of the dangerous underwater rocks from the Danube’s cataracts at Cazane, upstream Turnu Severin, and politically by wars against a dying out Ottoman empire, the erstwhile overlord of the region, and subsequent international treaties. Those circumstances allowed the navigation of large modern vessels on the river course, which allowed goods to easily travel from Vienna as far as the Aegean Sea or grains from the Wallachian plains to reach markets in the heartland of Europe.

Old warehouses (1890s - 1900s) that once stored goods from the Danube river trade, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

Drobeta Turnu Severin greatly profited from the important trading opportunities generated by its favourable geographical location and those auspicious political circumstances prevalent at the Fin de Siècle. A remnant of those glorious times is the large warehouse pictured in the photograph above, today left neglected as the region is currently adversely affected by the actual recession and government maladministration. The city was also endowed in that period with beautiful buildings, a very small sample being presented in the images bellow.

Little Paris style house, late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

The usual architecture of those houses is the Little Paris style, which represents French c19th historicist styles, interpreted in a picturesque provincial manner in Romania from the “La Belle Époque” period.

Little Paris style house, dating from the late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania

The edifices presented here are quite large by any standard and richly ornamented, more than positively comparable with the best houses in this style of the late 1890s Bucharest.

Neo-Gothic - early Renaissance style house dating from the late 1890s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

There were also buildings in other styles as the one shown in the image above testifies, due to a diversity of increasingly sophisticated tastes among a very cosmopolite population that numbered Romanians, Germans, Serbians, Jews, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians and many other ethnicities.

Little Paris style house, late 189s, Drobeta Turnu Severin, south western Romania.

Turnu Severin, in 1906, together with the rest of Romania celebrated King Carol I‘s forty years of glorious and prosperous reign and eighteen centuries since the Roman conquest of Dacia (in 106 CE), a historical watershed moment that set into motion the formation of the Romanian people.

The bust statue of the Roman emperor Trajan, inaugurated in 1906; the cental park of Drobeta Turnu Severin.

As part of those celebrations, a bust of the emperor Trajan was inaugurated in the central park of the city, whose history and identity is so much linked to the events at the start of the second century of the Christian era.

The column shaft of the bust statue represnting the Roman emperor Trajan, inaugurated in 1906; the cental park of Drobeta Turnu Severin.

Trajan is also considered in the Romanian nationalist discourse and imagination as the founding father of the nation, a role shared with the Dacian king Decebalus whom he vanquished in two devastating wars. Those conflagrations represented the largest scale military engagements in Europe until the advent of the Great War, as stated by the historian Julian Bennett in his seminal biography of Trajan.

1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition - "Expozitia Generala Romana" postcard decorated with Neo-Romanian motifs expressed in an Art Nouveau manner. (old postcard, Valentin Mandache collection)

The 1906 celebrations culminated with a great exhibition, “Expozitia Generala Romana”, in Bucharest, where the country’s achievements in arts, science and industry were presented to the wider public. The Neo-Romanian style, the new national architectural order has also been one of the main themes of that exhibition, seen in the graphic motifs of the postcard presented above, circulated with that occasion. The two personages whose deeds the country, including the people of Drobeta Turnu Severin, were then enthusiastically celebrating, the Emperor Trajan of the two millennia ago (on the left hand side) and King Carol I, were facing each other across an altar with the Roman She Wolf emblem inscribed on it, blessed by a woman figure personifying Romania, a veritable effusion of national identity symbolism, giving an idea about the ebullient atmosphere and pride felt by the people of that era.

The photographs containing examples of period architecture from Drobeta Turnu Severin were provided by Irina Magdalena Bivolaru, a native of the city and a keen reader of this blog.

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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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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.

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern

Early Neo-Romanian style pattern decorating the exterior walls of a late 1890s house in the St Joseph's Cathedral area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The pattern contains the representation of the lilac leaf motif, popular in the Art Nouveau and also early Neo-Romanian style (itself, at that stage, one of the many national-romantic styles that developed within the general Art Nouveau movement coordinates). I encountered, during my fieldwork in the city, a number of such exquisite early Neo-Romanian houses that display this peculiar pattern, as is the window example documented in this article, a decorative pattern that seemingly was popular among the craftsmen, architects and house owners of Fin de Siecle Bucharest.

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.

Cast iron balcony

1880s cast iron balcony, Lipscani area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

Fin de Siècle Bucharest was literally a city of ironwork balconies, when the Little Paris style architecture (what I call the French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania of that time) has been all the rage in the city and the country. The balconies had in equal measure a functional and also a decorative role, greatly enhancing the personality of a house. The intricately worked iron balconies are also very evocative of the comfortable, relatively prosperous and contemplative way of life of the emerging middle classes in this corner of south east Europe during the height of the Victorian era. There were two main types of such architectural artefacts: the cast and the wrought iron balconies. The cast iron ones, such as the one from the photograph above, are usually the oldest examples of iron balconies, some of them dating from the 1860 – 1880s, while the wrought iron examples date mostly from between 1890s-1910s. The wrought iron balconies can be further divided into two types: upright fence ones and pear shaped balconies. Contemporary Bucharest is losing these charming period architectural embellishments at a fast pace, due to the chaotic and rapacious property development of the central areas during the last decade, or in some instances, even sold for scrap metal, by ignorant owners (the “new Romanians”, people from among the local middle class, very entrepreneurial, but crudely cultured, products of the low quality education system of post-communist Romania), who see them as an eyesore.

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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.

The 1900s doorway of a Targoviste city house

A well maintained picturesqye example of a doorway dating from the 1900s that embellishes a Little Paris style house (c19th French historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania) in the city of Targoviste, southern Romania. (Valentin Mandache)

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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.

Description of 1900s Bucharest in The Catholic Encyclopaedia

I would like to recommend a very fitting description of Bucharest at about 1905 in the Catholic Encyclopaedia, written by someone obviously skilled in snapping the essence of a place in just a few sentences, who probably was a first time visitor to the city and thus had the advantage of a fresh eye observer:

The city is situated in a swampy plain on both sides of the Dimbobitza which is here crossed by about a dozen bridges. It is noted for many stately edifices, and the semi-Oriental appearance of its older quarters is heightened by the numerous gardens and the bright domes of its Greek churches.

Source: The Catholic Encyclopedia http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03045a.htm

Clamshell Doorway Awning (Little Paris style)

Little Paris style doorway dating from the 1900s decade, Targoviste, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The elaborate and exquisite glass and wrought iron clamshell shape awning for doorways is a hallmark element of the Little Paris architecture of Romania that flourished in this country in the last quarter of the c19th. That type of awning is inspired from models used in c19th French historicist and Art Nouveau architecture, one of the most famous examples being the awning of the entrance into the Porte Dauphine metro station in Paris. The delicious clamshell awning with well preserved wrought iron garlands, presented in the photograph above, is from Targoviste, a city in southern Romania that still preserves many beautiful buildings from the Fin de Siècle period.

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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.

Fin de Siècle Mountain Resort Villa

Mountain resort villa dating from 1890s, Sinaia, on the southern slopes of the Transylvanian Alps, Romania. (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photograph shows a holiday villa built in the 1890s in the town of Sinaia, in the Transylvanian Alps, 120km north of Bucharest. The town undertook at the end of the c19th an amazingly fast transformation from an isolated monastic community to an elegant summer and week end retreat resort, full of villas, casinos, hotels and restaurants, where the Bucharest elites came en masse to escape the canicular midsummer days or for leisure. That rapid transformation was set in motion by the building there of the magnificent Pelesh Castle (started in the 1870s), the amplest private residence of the Romanian Royal Family, and the completion, in the same period, of the railway line that crossed the mountains, linking Bucharest to the rest of Europe. The architecture of the interesting building presented here is a typical Central European Fin de Siècle mountain villa design where neo-rococo and other historicist motifs are grafted on what is by and large a chalet structure.

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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.

Art Nouveau Outlines in A Neo-Romanian Style Doorway Assembly

Art Nouveau echoes in a late 1920s Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly, Cotroceni area, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

The Neo-Romanian architectural style emerged at the end of c19th together with other European national romantic movements in visual arts that saw the emergence of national architectural styles in countries spanning from Scandinavia to the Balkans. These styles were initially an expression of the internationalist Art Nouveau experiments of the time, taking inspiration from the local national traditions. Particular for Romania was that this Art Nouveau ambiance and character was still in use in many instances in the local architecture until the late 1920s and even in some cases in the 1930s, long after the twilight of the Art Nouveau and other national romantic styles elsewhere in Europe. The image above shows one such telling example of powerful Art Nouveau echoes in a late 1920s Neo-Romanian style doorway assembly that still preserves very prominent Fin de Siècle national-romantic forms (short Byzantine type columns, oversized decorations inspired from medieval Wallachian church architecture, the red paint as an allusion to the Pompeian Red colour and through that to the ancient Roman/ Latin origins of the Romanian people, etc).

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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 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.

Fin de siècle villa in Campulung Arges: architect identification controversy – Video-analysis

In this video I analyse whether or not the architect Ion Mincu, the initiator of the Neo-Romanian style, is the designer of Villa Mirea in the town of Campulung Arges, southern Romania. I discuss the characteristics of Mincu’s architectural design by analysing two of his most important creations- Lahovary House and the Causeway Buffet in Bucharest and conclude that Mincu could in fact be the designer of anther edifice in Campulung, namely Villa Apostol Mirea (notice the similarities between the names of the two buildings, a fact which possibly led to the actual confusion in identifying the architect). The photograph is by Daniel Bobe, a native of Campulung; the old postcards- private collection.

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I endeavor 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 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.

Daily Picture 17-Feb-10: Bucharest Art Nouveau Architectural Ornaments

A photomontage of beautiful Art Nouveau style architectural ornaments and details that embellish exquisite Fin de Siècle (last part of 1890s - 1900s) building façades, which I encountered in the central areas of Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

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

***********************************************

If you plan acquiring a historic property in Romania or start a renovation project, I would be delighted to advice you in locating 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.