Friday Fun: Painters in Curtea de Argeş

One final blog post about my trip to Romania, but you will be relieved to hear that this time you will not have to rely on my puny photographic skills. Instead, I would like to introduce you to some painters associated with the little town of Curtea de Argeş. I was surprised to discover there were far more than I had expected, when I went to visit the local museum. Alongside painters who were either born or made their home here, this part of the country seems to have been a popular source of inspiration for well-known painters living in Bucharest. Not to mention, of course, the medieval church frescoes.

Starting with the oldest: 14th century altarpiece in the church at the Royal Court (Biserica Domneasca). From Trecator.ro
Interior of the Curtea de Arges monastery (frescos dating from the 16th century but renovated in 2010). From transfagarasantravel.ro
The famous ‘family portrait’ of Neagoe Basarab, who ordered the monastery to be built.
Iosif Iser: Peasant Family in Arges, 1918, from Universulargesean.ro
The artist who restored many of the church frescos in Arges, Dumitru Norocea. His house (painted here by himself) now houses a collection of art and ethnography. From Am Fost Acolo blog.
Ion Theodorescu-Sion: Street in Curtea de Arges, 1922, from Pictura Zilei, ziuaconstanta.ro
Porch in Arges by Rudolf Schweitzer-Cumpăna, 1927, on WikiArt.
Emil Ivanescu Millan was renowned in the 1930s as a painter of church frescoes. From adevarul.ro
After the Second World War, Ivanescu-Millan settled in Curtea de Arges and painted landscapes and portraits, from adevarul.ro
Nicolae Darascu: Landscape from Arges, 1950s. From WikiArt.
Not in Curtea de Arges itself, but at the Cotmeana Monastery nearby, this rather fine depiction of hell. From povestidecalatorie.ro.

Friday Fun: The Little Royal Town

My parents chose to retire in the little town of Curtea de Argeș (population 27,000), because they were both originally from the local area, still have family there and can easily go and visit the family graves or native village without having to live in a completely rural environment. Despite its idyllic location in the foothills of the Carpathians, it is a sleepy town for most of the year, without a single theatre, cinema or leisure centre, and a library and museum that are hardly ever open or visited by anyone. In recent years, quite a few people from Bucharest have chosen to retire there (usually because of family connections) and built quite beautiful and large houses, in the hope of luring back their children for the holidays. But the children tend to find the place completely dead after they turn seven or so.

However, the name of the town itself hints at its former glory, for it literally means The Court on the Argeș, which is the name of a rather manky looking river nowadays (because they have built hydro power stations all along it), and also the name of the county. In the Middle Ages, when several local fiefdoms united to form the basis for Wallachia (which later became one of the founding states of modern Romania), it was here that they established the first capital city. You can still see the ruins of the court of the Basarab family and the church that they built here, which is even older than the famous local monastery.

Built by 1351, although the interior frescoes weren’t completed until 1369.
Detail: this style of building with layers of horizontal bricks alternating with stone is quite unique to this area, as far as I am aware. The renovated sculptural details around the window casing data from the 17th century.
The grand entrance to the royal court: the ruler himself lived in a fairly simple two-room accommodation on the right-hand side as you walk in, but his ‘offices’ on the left-hand side, where people came to petition him and where he received foreign dignitaries, were much grander. Still, he could walk from home to work, right?
The gatekeeper’s house was built in the mid-19th century to mimic a traditional peasant house from the local area.
Couldn’t resist this juxtaposition of old and new – this church was built at around the same time on a hill just outside the Royal Court and probably served as a watchtower. Nowadays, the small park contains the War Memorial.
The covered market was built in the late 19th century, when the little market town became popular again because King Carol I decided to make it his final resting place for him and his descendants.
Not my picture, but to give you an idea of what it looks like inside: from ZiarulActualitatea.com. Nowadays, however, the farmers’ market is next door in a slightly more modern building, while the main building is dedicated to butchers and fishmongers. Still a great place to shop, though!
This, however, is what the town is best known for: the Monastery, with its rather gruesome legend with echoes of Icarus and human sacrifice, which has led to one of the most enduring and heartrending ballads in Romanian literature. Proud to say that my younger son was christened inside it, especially since the church is no longer used for ceremonies.
But there are plenty of examples of eclectic 18th and 19th century architecture peppered across town, despite the Communist drive towards industrialisation and ugly blocks of flats.
Traditional architecture in Casa Cioculestilor, from ro.wikipedia.org
Casa Chiriță from the early 20th century in neo-Romanian style.
Casa Norocea from 1913.
The town is also an important archdiocese for the Archbishop of the local area and obviously has reserved a fine building for him and his workers.
The Teodorescu House, from ro.wikipedia.org
The Hohenzollern royal family liked this place so much, they built a whole railway track from Pitesti, with each station along the way in a distinctive red brick style and of course culminating in this gorgeous oversized end of the line station. Sadly, although the local council wants to renovate it as a historical monument, it belongs to the National Rail equivalent in Romania, who doesn’t have the money to maintain it. From ro.wikipedia.org