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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sophisticated Dracula

St. George and the Dragon in the Romanian Art Museum

It's a little slippery here in Bucharest.  Things are close to the same.  It looks like a familiar Western European city with beautiful old buildings and then you drive past block after block of communist era apartments with wild dogs lurking in the alley.

Manastirea Stavropoleos
Or a church that only has one room and is shaped like this picture and has a tiny courtyard full of stoneware in need of repair.  Similar but different: The bent white-haired lady was there kissing icons, but there were so many that this took awhile.  And all the candles were in special brass boxes outside.

That's what it was like in the city's art museum today.  Imposing former palace houses the collection.  That seemed familiar.  The whole first floor is gallery after bright purple-walled gallery of medieval art.  More gold gilt and large sad eyes grace those purple walls than I have ever seen amassed elsewhere.  And it's all Romanian—Muldavian, Transylvanian, etc.

Which is where the sophisticated Dracula comes in.  Vlad the Impaler, though quite the sponsor of churches in his time, does not make an appearance.  His brethren, however, made some very interesting depictions of Christ.  The nearest contemporary example I can think of is that in Transylvanian iconography, Christ looks like a haggard vegan hippie with bags (think luggage) under his eyes.

While that's not the sophisticated part, Transylvania, it turns out, was a melting pot of the time.  Protestant Saxons brought in as artisans to do the church's silver work mingled with Calvinist Hungarians who settled in the region, and Orthodox Romanians.  Over the course of a couple of hundred years they made work that slips from the human to the immortal before your very eyes.  If you'd like to look at it, here's a link: Transylvanian Art at the Bucharest Museum.

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