Bucharest recovers its royal past: the equestrian statue of King Carol I

The statue of King Carol I, the sovereign who modernised Romania on European lines from a backwater Ottoman province and won the country’s independence on the battlefield has been put back in its former place in front of the Royal Palace in Bucharest after a seven decade absence. The original statue was the master-work of the famous Croatian/ Yugoslav sculptor Ivan Mestovic and has been inaugurated on 10 May 1939, the National Day of Romania that celebrated the day when Carol I first arrived in Bucharest from Germany in 1866 as the newly appointed Prince of the Danubian Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia. The statue has been pulled down by the communist government in 1948, a few months after the forced abdication of the King Michael, in a barbaric show of force using tanks to tear down the structure. Its bronze is said to have been used in the construction of the statue of Lenin that has stood until 1990 in front of the Casa Scanteii (the communist press house), when this was in its turn pulled down by an enraged Bucharest population in the aftermath of the 1989 anti-communist revolution. The actual statue is a loose replica of the original one, by the sculptor Florin Codre. There were controversies with the descendants of Ivan Mestrovic regarding the copyrights for this artistic master-work, which seems to have been ironed out in negotiations and compensations by the Bucharest mayoralty. I assisted on 6 Dec 2010 at the re-inauguration ceremony of this monument; bellow is a video and a photograph from that event.

PS I had the great honour to be contacted by Mrs Rumiana Mestrovic, the daughter-in-law of the great Croatian sculptor. Please read the comments section, where Mrs Mestrovic expounds her qualified view on the controversies and awkward copyright issues raised by the production of the present monument and also about the many apparent blunders committed by the Romanian government and Bucharest authorities in communicating with the descendants and copyright holders of Ivan Mestrovic’s creations. It is indeed clear that the present statue is unfortunately a recycled concoction of the the original inter-war monument, put together by the Romanian sculptor Florin Codre. The Romanian authorities, who in general are a poorly cultured lot, products of the low quality education system of Romania, have once again managed to mess up an event that if organised properly, without the usual associated corruption and clan politics, would have been so auspicious in recovering the identity and memory of this city.

The equestrian statue of King Carol I re-inaugurated in Bucharest on 6 Dec 2010. (©Valentin Mandache)


Old photograph from the early 1940s: the equestrian statue of King Carol I by Ivan Mestrovic

This post has initially been published on Diana Mandache’s blog on Royal History: http://royalromania.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/bucharest-recovers-its-royal-past-the-equestrian-statue-of-king-carol-i/

3 comments on “Bucharest recovers its royal past: the equestrian statue of King Carol I

  1. Since the family of master Mestrovic was not contacted, nor did they demand payment or compensation, it looks as though this was just a covert enterprise by our government to “spend” another 3 Million Euros.

  2. Dear Mrs Mestrovic, many thanks for your comment! I amended and completed the article in the light of the information received from you as a member of Ivan Mestrovic’s family. My information came manly through Romanian press channels, which are notoriously unprofessional, with a world view limited to the country’s territory. Please be assured of my highest regard of your views and activity in putting right these awkward issues, which I believe that will be sometime in the future positively addressed by a more cultured and sophisticated generation of Romanians.
    Valentin Mandache
    Expert in historic houses

  3. Dear Mr. Mandache, thank you for sharing the video and the photos. I would like to mention that in connection with the equestrian statues to HM King Carol I or HM King Ferdinand the Bucharest Mayor never contacted in any manner our family for the above mentioned copyright , nor there were any “negotiations and compensations”, there fore nothing could be ” ironed out”. We consider the work of Mr. Codre not just a ” loose replica ” but an ugly plagiarism and a horrible expression of disregard towards the Romanian Kings in question, towards HM King Carol II who commissioned the original monuments and towards my father in law , the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic. I want also to underline that is a slander something often mentioned in the Romanian media: Ivan Mestrovic was never compensated for the destruction of the original monuments nor did our family ever asked for monetary compensation for the eventual reconstruction of the two royal statues (nor we were ever offered any money); as a matter of fact we indicated to the Romanian Ministry of culture and religious affairs that were ready to grant the right to reconstruct the statues whose original plasters/models are kept in Zagreb as property of the heirs. It is not for us to judge whether Codre’s plagiarism is worth 3 Million Euros or not , whether it was right that Bucharest actually got just a second cast (i.e.no the original that went to Calarasi), but we object to any association of the present statue with the name of Mestrovic because it simply looks as badly done plastic surgery work on the original equestrian statue of HM Carol I. Kind regards! Rumi Mestrovic, MA

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