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Preliminaries to a

Preliminaries to a history of Bucharest iconostases of 18 th -19 th centuries | 131 “A type of roses painted between circles of saints” or how Neo-byzantinisim must replace academicism. The Bucharest Metropolitan (and from 1925, Patriarchal) Cathedral is perhaps the most complex case of the juxtaposition of different styles and eras within an iconostasis. Constantin Șerban erected the eponymous church of the Holy Emperors monastery in 1655. In 1668, it became the Metropolitan Cathedral. From that moment onward, it was subject to periodic reconstruction, restoration, and transformation: each of the hierarchs succeeding to the Church governance manifested care for the headquarters of the Metropolitan he shepherded. 27 Two moments among these successive interventions are of interest to our study: the restoration from 1834-1839, when the original painting was replaced and the present iconostasis was constructed; and the one from 1932-1935, when the painting from 1836 was replaced and the author of the new mural ensemble retouched the icons of the iconostasis, with the intention of “reformulating” them in accord with his aesthetics. The sculptural decoration and structure of the iconostasis in the Patriarchal Cathedral belong to a series that we also encounter in other churches erected or restored Fig. 15: Detail of the feast icons register, White Church, painter G. Tattarescu, 1873. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 16: Jesus Christ the Teacher, White Church, icon assigned to Nicolae Polcovnicul, c. 1830. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 17: Virgin Mary with Child, White Church, icon assigned to Nicolae Polcovnicul, c. 1830. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 18: Saint Nicholas, White Church, icon assigned to Nicolae Polcovnicul, c. 1830. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 19: Dormition of the Mother of God, White Church, icon assigned to Nicolae Polcovnicul, c. 1830. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 15: The Annunciation, White Church, painter G. Tattarescu, 1873. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. during the first half of the 19 th century (in Bucharest, Saint Demetrius-“Poștă”, Saint Elijah-“Hanul Colții”, “Domnița Bălașa”, “Slobozia”, the Holy Trinity church of the “Radu Vodă” Monastery, and, around Bucharest, the church of Saint George in Cernica Monastery, and the church of the

132 | sister Atanasia Văetiși Fig. 21: Lateral panel with the icon of Saint Charalambos, White Church, 1873. Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Fig. 22: Iconostasis of the Patriarchal Cathedral, first half of the 19th century (1834-1839). Credits: Daniel Mihail Constantinescu. Holy Trinity in Pasărea Monastery). They all embody an approach combining elements of Baroque vocabulary with those of Renaissance, Neoclassicism, and Academism. One may believe that they belong, using a term from French cabinet-making, to the Classicizing Baroque. The Baroque rhetoric of articulating the registers is tempered, in these cases, with a rich repertoire of Neoclassical shapes: fluted columns, diamonds, palmettes, acanthus flowers, dentils, egg and dart on ovolo. These icons from the first decades of the 19 th century belong to the most active painters of the moment, representatives of the painting schools from Buzău, Cernica, or Căldărușani. The iconostasis of the Patriarchal Cathedral was adorned with icons by Nicolae Polcovnicul, who was also commissioned to paint the church during that stage in the cathedral’s refurbishment. 28 Nicolae Polcovnicul was at that time the foremost representative of a new manner of painting: free, unconstrained by the Byzantine canons, preoccupied with assimilating the new techniques of Western art, which were supposed to confer plastic expressivity to their creations. In the Cathedral iconostasis, the manner of Nicolae Polcovnicul, master of the Cernica school, may now be seen only on the Deacon Doors. The feast icons and those of the apostles were re-painted to a considerable degree by Dimitrie Belizarie (1883-1947) during the restoration of 1932-1935, when he was tasked with painting the Cathedral. However, Belizarie did not cover the panels completely, as Tattarescu did in the White Church, but rather gave them a Byzantine touch. He painted over them, in the pastel background characteristic of the Cernica painters, a schematic architectural decoration, flattened, just as in Byzantine art. He intervened on the figures with a black, strong contour that characterises his painting style. In the mural ensemble of the Cathedral, he also redrew the faces and figure silhouettes, as well as elements of landscape and architectural décor. Dimitrie Belizarie (1883-1947) was at that time the promoter of a Neo-byzantine style in Romanian church painting. Together with other contemporaries, he attempted to recover the iconography and technique particular to the Byzantine tradition after a period in which Church painting had encountered the strong influences of the Western currents. Whilst Nicolae Polcovnicul was trying to reproduce the faces with verisimilitude, relating to reality as closely as possible, not abstractly and synthetically as in the Byzantine icon, Belizarie wished to return Church art to its Byzantine roots, aiming for the flattening and synthetic. Even though two opposing styles met in the icons retouched by Belizarie, the painter managed to attenuate their Western air through an artificialization of the backgrounds in the narrative scenes, thereby attaining the desired hieraticism. Belizarie also painted the Royal icons in the Patriarchal Cathedral iconostasis (St. John the Baptist, Jesus Christ the Teacher, the Mother of God with the Infant Christ and the Holy Emperors Constantine and Helen), but they can no longer be seen, unfortunately. 29 In the time of Patriarch Justinian, 30 years after their execution, these icons were replaced with those we see today, which were completed in enamel by Otilia Oteteleșanu, the artist leading the enamelling section of the Patriarchal Workshops of the Biblical Institute. 30 Enamel does not have a history in Romanian art; in the fifth and sixth decades of the last century, however, Patriarch Justinian initiated a program of recovering Byzantine artistic techniques: mosaic, marble or alabaster bas-relief, and enamel, as well as mural paint-

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