Romania Figurative Arts – Transylvania and Moldova

By | January 7, 2022

Transylvania. – The oldest preserved monuments of Romanian religious architecture belong to the beginning of the century. XIII. With the exception of the churches of Denşuş and Gurasada (13th century), buildings with a central plan of a particular type, the churches are composed of a single nave with a bell tower to the west and an apse to the east (Strei, 13th century, Stă-Marie, Strei-Sân-Georgiu, 14th-15th century). The plan of these churches resembles those of Curtea de Argeş of Turnu-Severin, and of the wooden churches; but there are also Romanesque and, later, Gothic elements. Then, in Prislop (1403) and in the church of Hunedoara (1456), Serbian influences appear. As for Romanesque art, it developed first thanks to the activity of the Catholic Church and then of the Saxon cities. The first monument is the cathedral of Alba-Iulia, (late 11th century, rebuilt at the end of the 11th century). XIII). Among the small Saxon churches we note those of Sebes, Cisnădie and Cisnădioara, as well as the cross church of Turnişor (13th century). The first Gothic elements of transition appear in the Cistercian abbey of Cârţa, belonging to the second half of the century. XIII, and in the church of Bistriļa (around 1330).

The Gothic style flourished at the end of the century. XIV and in the sec. XV. It is a late Gothic that is due to the German influence. Apart from the Evangelical Church of Sibiu, all the churches have naves of equal height (examples: the choir of the church of Sebeş San Michele in Cluj, the Evangelical church of Mediaş, the “Black Church” of Braşov). Meanwhile, fortified churches were being built in the villages. Only the castle of Hunedoara (v.) Is due to the French Gothic.

The wars of the following epoch did not favor the development of the Renaissance; also the Italian influence can be seen in the transformation of the castle of Fágăraş (finished in 1613), and in the small country castles of the Hungarian nobles. Among the late Baroque monuments we note the Banffy palace in Cluj (end of the 18th century) and that of the governor Bruckenthal in Sibiu (1791). Romanian religious architecture in this period could not develop, being forced to build exclusively in wood (royal decrees against heretics). The preserved wooden churches are not prior to the century. XVII, but reproduce a very ancient type that can also be recognized between the Gothic and Baroque influences.

Also in painting we must distinguish the Byzantine-Romanian and the Western one. Romanian painting descends from the art of Wallachia and follows the same development. Its oldest remains date back to the century. XV (Strei-Sân-Georgiu, and in the ruin of Râv-de-Mori). Later examples are found in Hunedoara (1656) and in the churches of Brâncoveanu. An important school for popular art develops in the century. XVIII in Nicula, under Moldovan influence (icons painted on the glass). The first traces of Western painting s’meet in the church of Stă-Mărie (XLV-XV century), mixed here with Byzantine elements. Fruitful period was the century. XV and the first half of the XVI: many triptychs and frescoes were then produced under the influence of the various southern German schools (Johannes von Rosenau in Sibiu, and Johann Stoss, son of the famous Veit Stoss in Sighişoara).

In the Gothic churches he also worked on sculpture (Sebeş Sighişoara); and in the carvings of the altars the direct influence of Veit Stoss (Sebeş) is sometimes seen.

Moldova. – Exemplars of traditional wooden architecture remain there only, copious, from the century. XVII onwards; and they follow very varied patterns. Alongside the longitudinal Transylvanian type, there is the one with a central plan, as in Poland and Ukraine, consisting of three square rooms covered by pyramidal roofs. The most important churches were replaced by stone constructions, but not without preserving some of their characteristics in the latter. The first stone churches are due to the Romanesque (Rădăuţi, perhaps from 1360) and Gothic (Catholic church of Baia, first half of the 15th century) influence. But the most characteristic forms in Moldovan churches were formed under the Serbian influence, which came from Wallachia. To this they owe the plan and structure, while the ornamentation belongs to the Polish and Transylvanian Gothic, and the strange combinations of arches, called “Moldovan vaults”, are reminiscent of wooden architecture. The exterior is adorned with fake arches, niches and discs of colored terracotta. This type appeared before the time of Stephen the Great, but its first monuments are not preserved intact (examples : San Nicolò di Dorohoi, 1495; St. John of Piatra, 1497-1498; church of the Neamţu monastery, 1497-98).

In the century XVI, a mortuary and an exonarthex were added to the primitive plan of the churches; in addition, ornamental forms of the Renaissance were introduced, while the exterior was sometimes covered with frescoes (monasteries of Probota, 1530; Bistriţa, 1554; Suceviţa, 1585).

A new period begins at the end of the sixteenth century, due to Byzantine influences (Galata monastery, 1584) and Wallachian ones (Aroneanu monastery, 1594).

An open exonarthex is added to the plant; frescoes on the outside are no longer used. Then the decorative spirit of Georgia (Dragomirna, 1609; Trei Ierarchi, 1639; Cetaşia, 1672, from Iaşi) intersects with the Polish Baroque (Golia, in Iaşi), later replaced by the Constantinopolitan Baroque (S. Teodoru di Iaşi, 1761). At the end of the century XVIII and at the beginning of XIX the influence of Polish and Ukrainian classicism spread widely (Leţcani, S. Haralambie and S. Spiridon of Iaşi).

In addition to the religious monuments there is also a series of castles. The Byzantine one of Cetatea Albă (Maurokastro, Moncastro) belonged in the century. XIV to the Genoese, who then also dominated the castle of Chilia (Licostomo). In Hotin there is a Polish castle, rebuilt by Stephen the Great. The Moldovan castles of Soroca, Suceava and Neamţu (15th century) are still important.

The oldest vestiges of paintings belong to the end of the century. XV. They are frescoes that have affinities with the Macedonian school, but also show specific Moldovan characters, so that we have to admit the existence of a local school of painting. The iconography preserves very interesting medieval motifs, originating in Asia Minor, transmitted in part through Serbia; and to develop it, the inside and outside of the buildings offer a vast field. The abundance and quality of these paintings produce a wonderful effect (Pătrăuţi, 1487 S. Elie of Suceava, 1488; Arbora, 1541; Homor monasteries, 1530; Moldoviţa, 1537; Voronţ, 1547).

At the end of the century The influence of Russian painting begins to assert itself, especially in the icons that adorn the iconostases, while from the century XVIII onwards one feels the penetration of western, baroque forms, followed by a rapid degeneration of painting. Among the most famous frescoes of this period are those of the monasteries of Suceviţa (about 1585), Dragomirna (about 1609) and those of the Roman cathedral from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.

Romania Figurative Arts