Collections And Collectors

By definition, the collector is a person who gathers various objects for his pleasure or for study. Didn't we all have this tendency, during our childhood? Remember how we used to show off on our collections of napkins, stamps, beer caps or chewing gum wrappers, of foreign actors photos or, especially the girls, of oracle-like notebooks, in which famous lyrics, quotations and aphorisms were gathered. As we have grown, this tendency has turned, for some of us, towards more practical areas. Almost everybody collects things: shoes, jewellery, clothes, cars, houses and also less expensive things, like cake recipes or embroidered towels dating from our grandmother's time. There was and still is a category of people who invest in things which bring them esthetic satisfaction, nurse their egos and satisfy their thirst for beauty. I would like to detail this and tell you, not necessarily in a certain order, about a few personalities who had various passions and became well-known collectors. The notorious publicist Cezar Bolliac (1817-1881) was a passionate collector of coins and antiques. He is considered to be the founder of Romanian numismatics. In 1855, his collection had about 3500 golden, bronze and silver coins, as well as numerous antique objects. Ten years later, he donated a part of them to the National Museum of Archeology created by Alexandru Ioan Cuza, thus founding its numismatic cabinet, which exists even today. Cezar Bolliac became member of the French Numismatic and Archeology Society and initiated, in 1868, a general course of numismatics at the BucharestUniversity. The academician Constantin Moisil (1876-1958) – the father of the well-known mathematician Grigore Moisil – was a famous numismatist, the one who practically founded the Romanian numismatics school. Here are a few of his accomplishments in this field: enriching the collection of the Academy Numismatics Cabinet (whose director he was), the beginning of classifying, cataloguing and studying in detail of the numismatic pieces gathered in the cabinet's inventory. He had an extremely intense activity within the Romanian Numismatics Society (created in 1903) and contributed many times to the Romanian Numismatics Society's Bulletin; he established a numismatics department at the ArchivesSchool (this school was related to the State's Archives in Bucharest). The great politician and historian Mihail Kogalniceanu (1817-1891) studied in Berlin, which explains his passion for collecting German artworks. The most important German paintings that he owned were The Annunciation by Zeitblom, Madonna and the Infant by Lucas Cranach the Old and The Mystical Engagement of Saint Catherine, painted by the Nuremberg school. Nicolae Kretzulescu (1812-1900), doctor and politician, was Romania's minister in Paris and Berlin. From his many journeys he collected a lot of paintings among which the one entitled Children and Dog, attributed to Pierre Mignard's school, is the most remarkable. I'd also like to remind you of the doctor Ioan Cantacuzino (1863-1934), who collected portraits and French authors compositions and of Anastase Simu (1854-1935), member of honor of the Romanian Academy, founder of the Simu Museum in Bucharest who, in 1927, donated to the state his collection of Romanian and foreign art.Yet by far one of the most passionate art collectors was Samuel von Brukenthal (1721-1803). Descendent of a family belonging to the small nobility of a minority in Transylvania, he had a brilliant career at the Imperial Court in Vienna, becoming chancellor in Transylvania. That was the period in which his painting collection (mentioned in 1773 in the "Almanach de Vienne" as one of the most valuable private collections in Vienna, at the time) was gathered. Brukenthal also collected numismatic, archeological, mineral and bibliophile rarities. He went back to Sibiu as governor of Transylvania and built a palace in Viennese style (late baroque). Through his testament, the baron Samuel von Brukenthal allowed the opening of his palace as a public museum, a gesture whose generosity was highly appreciated. The doctor Nicolae Minovici (1868-1941) – Mina Minovici's brother, the founder of the Forensic Institute – the one who established the first ambulance service in Bucharest, had an impressive collection of folk art (costumes from Suceava, Vlasca and Arges areas, various craft-work with floral and zoomorphic motives from the Olt area, Horezu, Binis and Fagaras ceramics, pieces of folk furniture and domestic appliances, musical instruments, decorated eggs, Transylvanian 17th-18th centuries' peasant icons made of wood and glass) which was donated, along with his folk-style villa, to the city of Bucharest, in 1936. Not only men were passionate collectors. Queen Mary of Romania (1875-1938), king Ferdinand's wife, also surnamed as The Artist Queen, was a notorious poet, painter and designer (she accepted to appear in a commercial meant to praise the qualities of "Pond's Cold" cream; that was the first testimony in the history of publicity and Queen Mary was the first royal personality to accept such gesture). She loved the style of her time (Art Nouveau), a style that she chose in decorating the PelisorCastle in Sinaia. She had a strong personality; therefore, she didn't copy the Art Nouveau style, enriching it with Celtic and Byzantine influences. The Pelisor Castle owns a valuable collection of decorative Art Nouveau, containing, among others, works of Emile Gallé (known because of his special technique of glass modeling, which was named after him; the Gallé glass is extremely well sold throughout the world, its price being calculated according to the manufacture period, the working technique, the number of glass layers and the chosen subject), the Daum brothers (glass as well), Joseph Hoffmann (furniture and decorations), LC Tiffany (chandeliers, pilot lights, glass work, various decorative objects). The castle's walls are decorated with paintings and graphic art by famous artists, such as Mucha, Grigorescu, El Greco, Rembrandt, Mutzner, or to less famous artists whom the queen was helping in their debut. The list of the great, "historical" personalities-collectors could go on and on. I don't want to end before reminding you of some contemporary personalities who own more or less known collections: the great jazzman Johnny Raducanu collects miniature gas lamps, the well-known politician Dinu Patriciu is a philatelist, and so is Sorin Pantis (the former minister of telecommunications); the famous painter Sabin Balasa collects… stones (not precious, but river, sea or ocean ones); and the literary critic Nicolae Manolescu is a numismatist. I also know other collectors, but about that I will tell you some other time. Until then, farewell!

by Dolores Iordănescu