Tag Archives: Ethnography

Ethnographic veranda pole

Ethnographic veranda pole, early 1930s Neo-Romanian style house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

There was a certain trend within the Neo-Romanian architecture for using ethnographic motifs, which unfurled at its highest intensity between the late 1920s and the late 1930s, transcending its mature and late phase of development, expressed especially in wood carvings decorating structures such as verandas, stair balusters, balconies, doorways, etc.  The wooden veranda pole in images presented above and bellow is such an example, of exquisite quality, inspired from the peasant art of regions of southern Romania (Wallachia).

Ethnographic veranda pole, early 1930s Neo-Romanian style house, Dorobanti area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Sheet metal fretwork in Chisinau

Sheet Metal fretwork, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)

I found these picturesque sheet metal fretwork doorway embellishments during my recent visit in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova. They date in my opinion from the mid-1980s, perhaps the early 1990s. They are quite attractive and present a curious vernacular synthesis between the triangular pediment of a classical temple found among the prestigious historicist c19th buildings of the city, and rich ethnographic motifs inspired from the Ukrainian and the Russian ethnography. Another area rich in sheet metal fretwork architectural embellishments is Bucovina, a borderland between Romania and Ukraine, where the local ethnography expounds a large degree of fusion between the civilizations of the Romanian and Slavic communities.

Sheet metal fretwork, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)
Sheet metal fretwork, Chisinau (©Valentin Mandache)

Neoromanian style picture frames – 2

I published in February this year an article about Neo-Romanian style picture frames, which was exceedingly popular among my blog readers. The present one is its second part, showing another two exquisite such artefacts from the prized collection of architect Madalin Ghigeanu to whom I am grateful to allowing the publication of their images on Historic Houses of Romania blogsite.

Neo-Romanian style picture frame dating from the 1910s 

The picture frame illustrated above is on the same pattern as the one described in the precedent article, as Brancovan church portals. The Byzantine arch is adorned with geometrised Georgian and Armenian latticework motifs inspired from the Curtea de Arges cathedral, supported by two short columns decorated with the rope symbol (they can also be interpreted as a mixed representation of the ethnographic motif of the rope and Solomonic column shaft). The pediment of the arch contain two beautiful six ray solar discs inspired from the Indo-European ethnography. Fittingly the photograph hosted by this frame is that of Crown Princess Marie in the 1890s, in a Romanian peasant costume (it is from Arges ethnographic area in southern Romania, given to her as a present by Queen Elisabeth of Romania, a keen promoter of the Romanian national identity in art and architecture; ref: “Marie of Romania. Images of a Queen”, author Diana Mandache, Rosvall Royal Books 2007 http://royalromania.wordpress.com/about-me/).

Neo-Romanian style picture frame dating from the 1910s 

The second frame has an ethnographic character, decorated with pleasant to the eye combinations of half and quarter solar disks. Its sides are arrayed in an attractive “H” shape. The picture inside that “H” is that of Queen Marie of Romania and her youngest daughter Princess Ileana in peasant costumes at Bran Castle, their property in the Transylvanian Alps, on the former border between the old princedoms of Transylvania and Wallachia.

Ethnographic solar discs doorway

The doorway presented here dates from the second half of the 1930s and is of a late Neo-Romanian style type. This phase of the national style of Romania unfurled in the 1930s and also went on until its twilight in the years of the Second World War. It is characterised by what I would call a “crisis of expression” caused by an erosion of its popularity due to the ascending preference among the public for the Art Deco and Modernist styles and of also for Mediterranean inspired forms and motifs. The Neo-Romanian style tried, in its late phase, in many cases successfully, to assimilate the new forms of expression as is the case with this well preserved wooden doorway. The artefact brings together ethnographic solar discs, common in the Romanian peasant art, the rope motif decoration of the doorway edges, and Mediterranean style elements, belonging to the type which I term as fairy tale style, such as the gridiron protecting its window or the hinge and knob plates. The are five kinds of solar discs, displayed bellow the photograph of the doorway. The first two are pagan, pre-Christian, shared with the rest of the Indo-European world, while the other three include the motifs of the cross typical of Christianity, thus making their combination a wonderful reflection of half-pagan, half-Christian universe of the traditional Romanian peasant communities.

Ethnographic solar discs doorway, late 1930s house, ASE area Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)
Ethnographic solar discs doorway, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

Corner-inside Modernist staircase

Corner-inside Modernist staircase, late 1930s apartment block designed by arch. R. Glasberg, Dacia area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photograph shows an interesting solution for placing the staircase of a modernist building, which had to use a difficult shape plot of land, facing a small courtyard filled with other packed together Art Deco and Modernist style apartment blocks, in Dacia area of Bucharest. The edifice was designed by architect R. Glasberg, dating from the late 1930s, showing his talent in an era without computer aided design, when he had to rely solely on imagination, experience and good training. The corner-inside staircase is not only a practical solution, but also a decorative one, full of meanings as it resembles a column, in my opinion inspired from the totemic poles of Romanian peasant art. In fact at the time when the building was designed, the famous Endless Column sculpture created by Constantin Brancusi was being erected in the town of Targu Jiu in south west Romania and is not excluded, given the fame and impact of Brancusi’s art in Romania, that it influenced Glasberg in choosing his staircase design presented here.

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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.

Adobe peasant house from the Oriental Carpathian mountains

Adobe peasant house, Uz Valley, Oriental Carpathian mountains, Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The adobe constitutes an excellent building material widely used until very recently in Romanian countryside. It is made from soil with a high clay and sand content, mixed up with water, bound together by straw and horse or cow manure. The compound is then cast in brick shape moulds and left to dry in the sun for a number of days (2-3 weeks). A finer variety of adobe is also used as a plaster, coating the walls made from those type of bricks. That plaster can later be whitewashed or painted in a diversity of colours and motifs. The buildings made from that material provide a good degree of comfort and insulation from the excesses of the Romanian climate characterised by very hot summers and utterly cold winters. Adobe is in many aspects similar with cob or mudbrick, but in my opinion more robust, durable and efficient than those. I grew up in a village where most of the dwellings were made from adobe bricks, even parts of my parents’ house was built from that material. I fondly remember as a child trampling my feet in the mud, together with other fellow villagers, in preparation for the bricks, literally going round in circles, a ritual like scene so much part of the ancestral village life.

The photograph above, which I made during my recent trip to Uz Valley (Darmanesti, Bacau county) in north eastern Romania, presents such an adorable adobe peasant house. It is a very simple, but exceedingly functional structure, with everything a peasant family needs: a kitchen, placed on the left hand side of this example, and a large bedroom, spaces divided by a corridor where the doorway is placed. This house type is quite ubiquitous throughout the Romanian lands, being built as such since at least the c18th when the necessary tools and technology became widely available in the region; of course the roof was then made from wooden shingles, the ceramic tiles seen in this example being a contemporary “amelioration”. The adobe walls are surrounded by a nice veranda made from simple beams, only the wooden columns having a bit of reduced to essence decoration. The back roof slant is extended to create a covered area behind the house, where the family keeps the firewood dry and other major household items (a cart, tuns, etc.)

I very much like the balanced proportions of this house; it is something there reminding me of the Golden Ratio, similar, if I am allowed to compare, with that of the classical antiquity buildings.

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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.

Uz Valley ethographic architecture (north eastern Romania)

Ethnographic architecture from north eastern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

The above photomontage depicts peasant houses and monumental wooden gateways carved with ethnographic motifs from the Uz Valley in the Oriental Carpathian mountains of Romania (Darmanesti, Bacau county). The name “Uz” comes from that of the old Turkic and Ugric populations that settled in the area one millennia ago, which in time got assimilated within the host ethnic Romanian population, but also still survive, represented by the small Csango ethic group, living in settlements in and around Bacau county, which are related to the Hungarians. The village, now a quarter of Darmanesti city, an oil refinery centre, is amazingly picturesque, with its ethnographic architecture surprisingly well conserved, hardly touched by the wild property development boom that devastated the stock of historic houses of this country in the mid 2000s. The pictures from the collage, which are also presented in the slide show bellow, display a wealth of ethnographic motifs typical to the area: a fascinating mixture of Romanian and Csango patterns. That type of period property is quite cheap now and would constitute an excellent renovation/ restoration project for anyone brave enough to acquire such a house in this quaint rural setting from the eastern fringes of the European Union.

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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.

Ethnographic identity veranda poles

Ethnographic veranda poles, mid-1930s Neo-Romanian house, Campina, southern Romania (©Valentin Mandache)

This is a well preserved example of veranda poles adorning a large mid 1930s Neo-Romanian style house in central Campina, southern Romania, inspired from the ethnographic motifs of Prahova county. The main particularity of this ethnographic province is that it features a mix of Carpathian and Ottoman Balkan (especially Bulgarian-like) ethnography. The Carpathian ethnographic motifs and artefacts are typically very geometric and angular, a sort of “peasant cubism” reflecting the artistic traditions of a population settled in the area since the first arrivals of the Indo-European populations more than five millennia ago, seen here in the shape and symbols of the capitals adoring the poles. The Ottoman Balkan ethnography is characterised by a more cursive, round geometry with floral motifs, reflecting the influence of the subsequent waves of populations that settled the area in the course of history from Slavs and especially Central Asian origin Turkish populations, seen here in the motifs embellishing the poles’ base. The veranda poles presented in this photograph, the creation of a talented and well informed inter-war Romanian architect, display excellently in their choice of motifs the ethnographic identity of the people of the area where the house was built; it is practically a statement of regional Prahova county identity.

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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.

Solar symbol in local stone

Ethnographic solar symbol (about 70 cm diameter) in lumachel limestone, Buzau (©Valentin Mandache)

The above ethnographic solar symbol adorns the doorway of the remarkable Palace of Justice in Buzau, south east Romania, a building designed by the great architect Petre Antonescu in the Neo-Romanian style with interesting Art Nouveau overtones; edifice completed in 1912. The solar motif features prominently in the Romanian peasant art and is found represented in contexts ranging from sewing patterns to wood and stone carvings. What I like in this particular representation is the fact that is carved in the local lumachel stone (greyish brown limestone, made from cemented together fossil shells). The stone comes from quarries located on the Istrita hill in the Carpathian piedmont (aka the Subcarpathians), not far from the city of Buzau. The stone, known locally as the “Istrita stone” is found in the structure and decoration of many peasant houses or public edifices from that region. It also used to be the main material for making peasant crosses, which imprinted the old local village cemeteries with an extremely picturesque, stone forest like character. The Istrita stone has seen a fatal decline in its use as building material ever since the industrially produced concrete became cheap and widely available in the 1960s, a fact that contributed to the loss of an essential component of the architectural identity and character of the Buzau county.

Above is a Google sattelite map of the Istrita hill

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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.

Doorways canopy decorated with sheep rearing motifs

Doorway canopy decorated with sheep rearing ethnographic motifs, 1930s house, Carol Park area, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The interesting wood carved decorations presented in this post, embellish the doorway awnings of a semi-detached house dating from the 1930s, located in the Carol Park area of Bucharest. The house has otherwise a nondescript architecture, where the only remarkable artefacts are these masterfully carved sheep rearing ethnographic motifs. Sheep rearing is the most important traditional occupation of the Romanian peasants, a fact abundantly reflected in arts and literature. The Neo-Romanian architectural style frequently contains references in its decorative register to the sheep rearing activity in the form of wood or stone carved ethnographic motifs or plaster mouldings. The images shown here contain fine representations of the sheep head, together with solar disc and rope motif carvings, signifying the key role of the sheep as a sustainer of life for the ancestral peasant communities from the Carpathian Mountains region, where Romania is located.

Doorway canopy decorated with sheep rearing ethnographic motifs, 1930s house, Carol Park 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.

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

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.