Antique Booksellers House

The Antique Booksellers House has been one of the iconic buildings of old Bucharest, unfortunately demolished during the fascist period. This video analyses its architecture, a mix of La Belle Epoque Art Nouveau and post-Great War Neoromanian, examining it in its topographical and architectural context. The conclusion is the Antique Booksellers House (Casa Anticarilor) was probably an edifice and institution that started in the 1900s and re-established after the war in the 1920s.

Town House with Peasant Style Veranda

The veranda of a late 1890s house from Targoviste, southern Romania, inspired from similar structures adorning local peasant dwellings. (©Valentin Mandache)

I very much like the balanced proportions of the wooden veranda presented above, where the most interesting feature is represented by the three identical ornaments carved with ethnographic motifs that come together at right angles within upper centre level of the structure. Their shape has a vague Art Nouveau slant, which is probably in tone with the increasing popularity of that style in Romania of that period. The house featuring the veranda, shown in the photograph bellow, is mainly a Little Paris style edifice (what I call the French c19th historicist styles provincially interpreted in Romania), with this unusual peasant inspired component grafted on it. The whole assembly dates from a period of “battle of the styles”, if I can put it that way, when the national romantic architecture embodied by the then nascent Neo-Romanian style developed within the Art Nouveau current, started to make important forays all over the country. This particular house is a timid, but delightful provincial experiment with those  new trends and ideas.

1890s town house with peasant style veranda, Targoviste (©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.

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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 Contact page of this weblog.

Greek God Statues on the Façade of the National Bank of Romania

The four allegorical Greek Gods statues on the façade of the National Bank of Romania dating from 1890, Lipscani, Bucharest. (©Valentin Mandache)

I detailed in an extensive earlier article the allegorical statues that embellish the 1890s sector façade of the National Bank of Romania in Bucharest. The above collage is made with the images of the Greek Gods that personify the economic activities and legal environment bringing wealth to Romania’s coffers in late Victorian period: Justice (Themis), Trade (Hermes), Industry (Hephaestos) si Agriculture (Demeter). They are made from a beautiful yellowish calcareous sandstone sourced in Rustchiuk (today Russe in Bulgaria) from quarries close by the right bank of the Danube. What I found very interesting is that the statues are modelled after local Romanian racial types, of men and women who lived in Bucharest and the surrounding area at the end of c19th, similar with the local human types seen in vintage Victorian era photographs.

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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.

Daily Picture 10-Jan-10: Village School in the Shape of a Greek Temple

A peculiar village school designed in the shape of a Doric Greek temple, built in 1884. Valea Stanciului, Oltenia region. The inscription on the architrave is aimed at peasant pupils and reads: 'Enlighten yourself and thus better appreciate the work with the plough and on the fields'. (©Valentin Mandache)

I was quite astounded to find, in one of my field trips to the deep countryside of Oltenia region in SW Romania, the above village school desingned as a classical Doric order temple. It is a school built and endowed by the local landowner, Nicolae Mihail, in 1884, to the memory of his father, according to an inscription on one of the side walls. At the height of the Victorian era, there were numerous philanthropic activities among entrepreneurs and aristocrats that got prosperous in the globalised world of that time. Romania was no exception, and I was able to find throughout the country a number of great examples of community charitable works put together and endowed by the local wealthy people. A most eloquent example was Pricopie Casotti and his village school, hospital for peasants and church building, a landowner about which I wrote an article on this blog dedicated to his country mansion: Casota Conac. In the particular case illustrated above, we have a similar and somehow more imaginative example. The local landlord was from a family of Vlachs that have their origins in Northern Greece in the village of Megarova. The Vlachs are a Latin ethnic group in the Balkans related to Romanians, similarly how on the Western side of Europe the smaller Romano-Celtic ethnic groups in the Pyrenees (Catalans) or the Alps (Savoyards) relate to the French group. The Greek temple design is an allusion of Nicolae Mihail’s familly’s ancestral origins in Greece and also a suggestion to the local peasants about the Victorian values modelled on the Greek and Roman ideals. The inscription on the architrave of the mock Doric temple (considered as the purest form of Greek temple architecture) reads as “Enlighten yourself and thus better appreciate the work with the plough and on the fields’ (in Romanian: ‘Luminati-ve ca sa pretuiti mai bine plugul si munca campului’), which is a very Victorian message, encountered in countless corresponding examples of educational works throughout the then world.

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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.

Allegorical sculptures on the building of Romania’s National Bank

The National Bank of Romania is located in the Lipscani historic quarter of Bucharest in a large neoclassical complex of buildings built in two stages: 1st in the 1880s and 2nd in the 1930s. The 19th century sector is in my opinion the more interesting and attractive one, boasting a worthy of note neoclassical style adorned with beautiful statues, seemingly inspired from French 17th century palaces.

The construction of that building was finished in 1890 under the direction of architect Nicolae Cerkez. The old postcard bellow dating from the first decade of the 20th century shows the bank in a surround setting which has not changed very much since its inauguration.

National Bank of Romania, 1910 postcard (Valentin Mandache collection)
The National Bank of Romania building (right hand side), 1900s postcard (Valentin Mandache collection)

The façade of the building, which is oriented to the south, is embellished with a series of allegorical sculptures inspired from the classical pantheon, symbolising the society and economy of Romania. Amazingly the sculptures still retain their initial freshness and sharpness after a century and two decades since they were affixed on the wall. That is because Bucharest has been much less affected by acid rains and corrosive pollution than other European capitals, as a result of the lower degree of industrialisation which the communist regime was able to achieve in Romania. The stone used for the façade and sculptures also seems of very good quality- a type of yellowish calcareous stone, which according to Romania’s National Bank website was brought from the area of Rustchuk, today Ruse in Bulgaria.

The top centre of the building is formed by a panoply composed by a coat of arms and clock flanked on the western side by a female deity symbolising Wisdom and the Sciences, represented measuring a globe with a compass and sitting on a stack of books. The usual goddess with these attributes is Pallas Athena, but it could well be another goddess from the Greek – Roman pantheon with similar attributes:

Allegory for Sciences, possibly goddess Pallas Athena. National Bank of Romania building (©Valentin Mandache)

On the eastern flank of the panoply is a male figure, again sitting on a stack of books, with a papyri scroll in his hands.

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