Poster of the 1906 Royal Jubilee Exhibition

The Great Royal Jubilee Exhibition of 1906 has been a momentous event for the culture and economy of the young Kingdom of Romania. It has also marked, through the elaborate and high quality Neo-Romanian design of many of its pavilions, the onset of the mature phase of this style. The exhibition’s chief edifice was the Palace of the Arts, presented in the images bellow, which was envisaged as a gathering place of what was considered the finest products of the Romanian people throughout its history. That was also the central message of the event,  publicised as as a dual celebration of, on the one hand, King Carol I’s forty years of glorious reign, which saw the gaining on the battlefield of the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent Europeanisation process and the phenomenal growth of its economy, and also, on the other hand, marking 1,800 years since in 106 CE the Roman Empire under Emperor Trajan conquered the ancient kingdom of Dacia located where in modern times the state of Romania emerged, a historical milestone that ignited the formation of the Romanian people and language. The 1906 exhibition was thus imbued with an intense and picturesque patriotic sentiment typical of the La Belle Époque period that had powerful reverberations throughout the whole of the Romanian speaking world, which at that moment included large swathes of territory under the sovereignty of other states, such as Transylvania in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or Bessarabia, then a province of Russia.

The Palace of the Arts is shown in all its glory in this colour poster published in the monthly magazine “Vulturul” (“The Eagle”, a reference to the country’s coat of arms). The issue date is Sunday 2 July 1906 (in the Julian calendar, in official use then in the country). It presents the official opening ceremony of the exhibition in the presence of the Royal Family and a welcoming public, which took place on 6 June (it closed on 23 November that year).

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Palace of the Arts was in a way the Romanian response to the tradition of iconic exhibition buildings inaugurated by the Crystal Palace in London  half a century before, epitomizing the ambitious aspirations of that young Balkan nation. It contained a large glazed roof over a central structure embellished with Neo-Romanian style elements and ornaments and also references to the classical architecture, considered then as the purest form of architecture. Its designers were the architects Victor Stefanescu and Stefan Burcus, the contractor being the engineer Robert Effingham Grant, a Romanian of British origins.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The central figures of this poster were the royal couple, King Carol I, an excellent administrator, brought up and trained in the military industrial complex of the mid-c19th Germany, and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, an internationally renown writer, known after her nom de plume as Carmen Sylva. They are presented receiving the homage of the population and in two prominent medallions flanking the image of the palace.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The monarch has been the supervisor of the exhibition works, a role in a way similar to that of Prince Albert for the London event of 1851, while the general manager was Constantin Istrati, an accomplished scientist.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The Royal Family is present at the opening, King Carol I (second from right), Queen Elizabeth next to his left, while the Crown Prince Ferndinand and Crown Princess Marie are at his right. The children of the princely couple are in front, from left to right: Princess Elizabeth, Princess Marie, Prince Carol and on the right the little Prince Nicolas. A peasant woman graciously offers them a bunch of flowers.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

The poster also presents in some detail the public participating at the ceremony, Bucharest people and visitors in a relaxed attitude, proud of their country’s achievements embodied in that great exhibition.

1906 Bucharest Jubilee Exhibition poster, published  by the  montly “Vulturul”, on 2 July 1906 (arch. Madalin Ghigeanu collection)

I like the presence of persons wearing peasant costumes, as is the group on the left hand side of the image above, who were probably proper peasants and also higher class individuals, including aristocrats, representing a patriotic fashion introduced and promoted by Queen Elizabeth and Crown Princess Marie, who incidentally were of foreign extraction, the first a German and the second of British and Russian origins, at the local royal balls and other major functions.

In 1923 the Miliary Museum of Romania was established within the Palace of the Arts building, functioning until the late 1930s when the building caught fire and later, in 1943, demolished with the intention to erect a more modern museum edifcice. Those plans never came to fruition because of the war and the Stalinist takeover of 1947. However, a grandiose communist heroes mausoleum, which is now probably the most beautiful architectural structure of the communist era, was been built there in the late 1950s.

I would like to express here my thanks to architect Madalin Ghigeanu, who kindly provided this poster, part of his ample collection, for publication.

Images from last Sunday’s architectural history & photography tour in Carol Park area

Architectural history and photography tour of Carol Park area, 19 June '11, Bucharest (©Valentin Mandache)

The third architectural history and photography tour took place last Sunday, 19 June ’11, in Carol Park area of south central Bucharest. The park hosted in 1906 the great National Royal Exhibition, held to celebrate King Carol I’s jubilee of 40 years of glorious reign, during which he modernised and Europeanised the country, won its independence from the Ottoman Empire on the battlefield and extended its territory to the shores of the Black Sea. The exhibition has also been intended as a showcase for the new national architectural style, known today as Neo-Romanian. Anyone intending to properly understand this architectural order, needs to study the designs used for the buildings making up that exhibition, the problem being that nowadays, more than one century later, there are just a few surviving remnants of those edifices and artistic creations. I aimed in my tour to chart and mentally reconstruct as much as possible from the old Royal Exhibition, and I believe that I was quite successful in that endeavour, judging from the feedback received from some of the participants. We viewed, for example, a reinforced concrete bridge, a technical rarity for that era, adorned with Neo-Romanian motifs or admired a great sculptural assembly in the Neo-Romanian style. Apart from the park, we visited the surrounding area, where the local architecture was visible influenced by the archetypes showcased at the exhibition. A highlight of the tour was Filaret train station, the first railway terminus of Bucharest, dating from 1869, about which I wrote an article yesterday, click the link here for access. The photomontage above presents some of the interesting buildings from different historical eras encountered during the tour and bellow is a selection of photographs with the wonderful tour participants, together with a slide show encompassing those images.  I trust that the participants had a beautiful day out, shot attractive architectural photographs and enhanced their knowledge about the remarkable architectural history of this corner of Bucharest!

The next Sunday (26 June ’11, 9am-12.00) architectural history and photography tour will take place in Cismigiu historic quarter, west central Bucharest (see a map at this link); meeting point: Izvor tube station (outside eastern exit, toward the fast food restaurant). I look forward to seeing you there!

Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)
Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)
Architectural history and photography tour in Carol Park area, Bucharest, 19 June '11 (photo: arch. Daniela Puia)

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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 Contactpage of this weblog.