Ionescu-Mihăieşti House

I often meet people who are trying to sell a painting or some other work of art, claiming that it's a part of their collection. They are really mistaken. Every man furnishes his house according to his possibilities and his tastes. A rich man can have in his house paintings by Grigorescu, Pallady or Petraşcu without being a collector. In reality he lives around things that correspond in value to his social status, just as a modest clerk buys his paintings from Obor market. Only when material means, passion and culture come together can we meet interiors like that belonging to professor Ionescu-Mihăieşti. He would have ardently denied the name of collector, accepting that of lover of beauty. The grandson of painter Anton Chladek, he inherited his taste for art as well as a few paintings, and some valuable carpets and furniture. Like all Romanians who studied in France, he loved the atmosphere of bourgeois houses where adorned and gilded furniture was preferred to provincial furniture, and porcelain was considered better than faience. The walls of the house were covered with silk over which Kashmir shawls or carpets were exhibited, as an undisclosed memory of their Oriental taste. Above these they hung paintings, engravings, and from time to time 18th-19th-century faiences. 18th- or 19th-century solid wood furniture lent, through its massiveness, a sort of opulent elegance. Large carpets covered the floor, and smaller bright-colored carpets brought life to the room. The way the paintings were arranged might have seemed arbitrary. One could see a Pallady or a Steriadi painting placed near an 18th-century Dutch landscape, a Ghiaţă, a Grigorescu or a Luchian: in this way the owner was able to create a harmonious ensemble. In the living room, on the big cupboard, one could see old French faiences and also a B. Palissy which were in perfect harmony with the popular Romanian and Transylvanian Saxon pottery. Books, drawings, engravings or old family photographs covered the walls entirely so that the solemn interior had the deep sound of a cello. In this house they lived and walked on precious carpets, they sat on hundred-years old chairs and armchairs without having any restrictions. In this way, despite their age, those things lived, were useful, foreign to that distance imposed to them if they were exhibited in a museum. Besides the joy that such a house brings to those who live in it, its role is essential for those who visit it. Next to a piece of furniture where you can sit, whose old wood you can feel, the carpets you walk on, the faiences you can pick up and touch, appreciate their brightness and bell sound, you can discover their capacity to fascinate. Only after you walked in such a house are you ready to fully appreciate a museum room. That's why I consider visiting memorial houses, no matter how modest, the best way to prepare oneself for visiting a museum; in the former you learn to love in order to be able to admire the latter.

by Radu Ionescu