The Peleş Castle, former royal summer residence, today a museum open to numerous visitors from the country and abroad, was built between 1875 and 1914 in two important construction phases.
Placed at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains, in the upper part of the Prahova Valley, on the left side of the Peleş rivulet, the castle had, in the beginning, the size of a big villa, consequently developing to the dimension of the monument that we know today. The construction started in accordance with the plans of the Viennese architect – from the German school – Wilhelm Doderer, and was continued, with important modifications, by an assistant of his, Johannes Schulz from Lemberg (Lvov); it was finished, in its first form, in the autumn of 1883. The profound changes and the considerable additions from the second important phase of construction (1896-1914), made under the supervision of the Czech architect Karel Liman, tend to offer the edifice a more sumptuous aspect, a more monumental character. The characteristics of the external architecture: the angular profiles, the predominance of the lithe verticals and of the irregular shapes, the asymmetry of the numerous parts and towers that make up the building, the abundance of carved wood and of the decorative elements (pilasters, arches, gables, copings, skylights, portals, balconies, etc.), exquisitely picturesque, are typical for the German Neo-Renaissance style, used skillfully by the architects of the castle. The variety of the construction materials (stone for the ground floor, brick for the storeys, wood, marble) used in a harmony of colors, emphasized by the background of the forest, the surrounding terraces, made in the style of the Italian Neo-Renaissance and decorated with fountains, statues, vases, columns, contribute to the beauty of the edifice as well.The German Neo-Renaissance style predominates also in the decoration of the interior of the castle, but there are also rooms arranged in various neo-styles, copies after: the Italian and British Renaissance, German Baroque, Louis XIV style, French rococo, Spanish-Moorish, Turkish style, etc. The various stylistic ornamental solutions of European and oriental inspiration, adopted for the interior of the castle, emphasize the impression of the edifice as parting with the national environment, just like the pile of surrounding buildings inspired also from old German architecture. The whole conception of the architecture and interior decoration illustrates thus the position of the Hohenzollern dynasty, which, building its summer residence in one of the most beautiful places of the adoptive country, preferred here a synthesis of well-known European styles, considering as uninteresting the use of Romanian art in ornamenting the castle. A characteristic of the interiors is the sumptuous ornamentation made out of carved wood and intarsia (wainscoting, ceilings, inlaid work, frames, furniture), which create the dominant atmosphere of the rooms, that of solemnity, giving them, beyond the diversity of styles, a note of unity. In connection to the architecture and interior decoration we must underline as well another component of the main style that contributes to the accentuating of the specific atmosphere, the large amount of German and Swiss stained glass in the castle, some from the 16th and 17th centuries. To the opulent character of the interiors contribute, beside the stained glass, a valuable and varied collection of almost four thousand European and oriental weapons, from the 15th-19th centuries, amply ornamenting many of the rooms; oriental carpets from well-known manufacturing centers of Persia (Kirman, Tabriz, Keshan, Horasan), Asia Minor (Caesarea, Ispart, Smyrna), Caucasia (Shirvan, Kazah), the Middle East (Bukhara, Mosul), etc., French and Flemish tapestries, as well as a series of paintings from the 17th-19th centuries, Meissen and Sèvres porcelain, Murano crystals, etc. At the end of the short general view of the Peleş Castle, we must say that its main features are not so much the monumentality and even less so the unity of style, as – especially – a richness of ornaments, maybe sometimes ostentatious, a stylistic feature considered eclectic. After going through the large space of the terraces the visitor enters the building through the main south entrance and passing through the hall and an ample staircase of honor, he arrives in the Hall of Honor.The Hall of Honor. Main guestroom arranged in 1911 on the site of an old inner court, three-storey high, placed in the center of the main building, the hall has a monumental character, accentuated by the architecture, typical to its original function.The walls of the room – large surfaces between the arcades giving into the surrounding corridors – are covered up to the level of the first floor, in nut tree wood paneling, richly carved, inspired from one of the most representative rooms, inherited from the German Renaissance (1583) and placed in the present-day palace of the Chamber of Commerce in Lübeck.The panelings are ornamented in the upper side with bas-reliefs of alabaster that make up two suites with mythological, biblical, historical subjects.Above the paneling unreels a frieze of panels made out of intarsia of various types of wood, representing the German houses of the Hohenzollern family.Between the arcades of the balconies of the first floor is exhibited the suite of French tapestries from the 18th century, Picking Fruit, and on the sides of the big western arcade there are two decorative pieces of carved nut tree wood: a remarkable spiral staircase, a copy of an interior piece – added in 1610 – of the Bremen city-hall, and an orator box , enclosed with stained glass.The nut tree wood furniture, partly inspired from the style of the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century, stands out through the classical pattern, straight lines, balance and symmetry, as well as through the solemn, sumptuous character of the armchairs with high backs upholstered in Cordoba leather, through the sculptural richness of the tables and dowry chests, typical of the century.Near the staircase of honor there are two statues carved in nut tree wood by Carl Fisher (1838-1891), and on the opposite side a sculpture after Madonna from Nürnberg by, allegedly, the German artist from the 16th century, Peter Vischer. Carpets from Mosul – the big one – Bukhara, Frehn, Shirvan, from the 19th century, complete the interior decoration.The ceiling – with stained glass – and the gliding roof of the hall, made of glass, provide uniform light to the room, which, because of its vertical natural source, highlights the artistic details of all the sculptural elements.Climbing a few stairs from the Hall of Honor, you arrive, through the northern corridor, in the big weapons room.The Big Weapons Room, built in 1903, is decorated in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance, in oak wood and stucco, with the squares into which the ceiling is divided painted with coats of arms and heraldic mottoes.Here is a rich and varied collection of European weapons from the 15th-19th centuries, mainly German, exhibited on panoplies which cover the upper part of the walls between the paneling and the ceiling, like a continuation with a powerful and compact metallic relief.Other pieces: knight's armors from the 16th century, bearing heavy two-hand swords, a Maximillian armor for the knight and the horse, numerous halberds, lances, spears, a few shields, harquebuses, small cannons etc. are placed along the paneled walls and the interior banister.On the edge of the fireplace is exhibited a German executioner's sword from the 16th century, with the adequate inscription.The stained glass made in Munich, at the end of the 19th century, reproduce original pieces, Swiss and German, from the 13th-17th centuries.Near the big weapons room, as an annex to it, is:The Little Weapons Room. It was built in 1908, in a vault with oblique arches, imitating the transition style from Romanesque to Gothic (from the 12th-13th century) and ornamented then with stucco typical for the interior decorations from the age of the German Renaissance.The hall exhibits on panoplies a collection of oriental weapons from the 14th-19th centuries, grouped by countries: Indian (above the entrance), Persian (around the fireplace), Arab (around the door made of forged iron), Turkish (above the niche), as well as African weapons from the 19th century (above the window).In the window they are presented according to types of weapons: curved swords, Turkish, Persian, Indian, Circassian etc. yathagans, pistols, valuable pieces, richly ornamented with gold, silver, precious and semi-precious stones, enamel, mother-of-pearl and ivory.Two Spanish-Moorish war saddles from the 18th and 19th centuries complete the weapon collection from this room.From here you can go to the antechamber of the study.The Antechamber of the Study dates since 1883 and is decorated in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance, with nut tree wood paneling, from the first half of the 19th century, a local interpretation of the Louis XVI style, and which is characterized by sober, straight lines, high backs of the chairs, panels carved with scenes from the lives of Breton peasants, a decorum rich in tiny relief, and pierced motifs of small "spindles."Some paintings, after the 18th-century Italian painter Bernardo Canaletto, present views of Venice.There follows, on the same (eastern) side of the building, the study.The Study (1883) is also decorated in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance.On the right side there is fixed a cupboard-bookcase reproducing a Swiss model from the 17th century, and on the left, near the writing table, the desk for official hearings and a box for private conversations.Here are exhibited paintings after Rembrandt.The stained glass, made in Munich in the second half of the 19th century, copies – or is inspired by – German and Swiss works from the Renaissance.One can see dishware made of enameled Bavarian glass, in the 17th-century style, and a Smyrna carpet from the 19th century.The Library, near the study, is a small room, from the same construction period and arranged in the same style (German Neo-Renaissance), having the paneling and the cupboards, like bookcase shelves, made of carved oak, placed on three sides of the room. In the upper part, on only two sides, there is a gallery with railings of gilded, forged iron.The stained glass from Munich from the 19th century depicts some of the mediaeval castles of the Hohenzollern family from the Black ForestMountains.The Council Room is situated in the wing built in 1914, on the southeast corner of the building.With its interior decoration inspired from a hall of the city hall in Lucerne, from the 17th century, the room is entirely covered in wooden paneling of various types of wood.The representative pieces of furniture – the armchairs and the chairs – are upholstered in Cordoba leather.The stained glass with secular and religious topics includes Swiss pieces, valuable originals, from the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th; one of them, The Oath of the Three Swiss Men (1605) is by Franz Fllenter of Lucerne (around 1550-1611).The Meshet-Horasan carpet (Persia, 19th century) contributes through its light colors to the exquisite luminosity of this hall.The old music room, the first room that follows on the south side of the castle, was built in the year 1883. Transformed into a living room, in the year 1906, it still has the old interior decoration (nut tree wood and spruce fir), in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance.Above the paneling, a sequence of canvas, illustrating German fairy tales and legends belongs to the painter Dora Hitz from the Symbolist German school at the end of the 19th century.Made in Munich, in the second half of the 19th century, the stained glass depicts themes from Romanian fairy tales ("Lady Ana," "Threading Pearls" and "The Skylark"), painted according to the vision of the German school of the period.On the platform of the music hall, there still stands today an orchestrion, an electrical musical instrument from the year 1910, invented in 1849.The Indian furniture made of teakwood ("Indian oak") exhibited in this hall, was made in the 19th century, with traditional motifs.In front of the window there are two Japanese vases of gilded Satsuma faience (19th century), and to the right a Chinese copper recipient with rich dragon-shaped handles (18th century).The Tabriz carpet (19th century), made with nuances of red, brings the extra color that the interior needs.In the succession of doors on the southern side, the Florentine hall is next.The Florentine Hall was arranged as it is today in the year 1910.The inlaid paneling that covers the walls, the golden, richly carved ceiling, having in the center a painting after Giorgio Vasari, the marble borders of the doors and of the fireplace – decorated with small-scale bronze copies after the well-known Florentine sculptures by Michelangelo, as well as a part of the furniture, are typical of the style of the Italian Renaissance, that is the source of inspiration for the interior decoration of the hall.The harmonious dimensions of the room, the symmetry and the shine of the ornamental elements, the equilibrium of the horizontals and the verticals, the arches of the gables highlight the dominance, the elegance and the richness of the Florentine style.Together with the furniture in Renaissance style (tables, ornamental thrones, benches, chairs) there are two ebony cabinets, with colored marble intarsia, and a big table, an original piece, with inlaid marble board, characterized by the richness of the ornamental elements, by a varied play upon curved lines, typical of the Italian Baroque style (17th century).The paintings in the Florentine Hall are copies after Peter Paul Rubens, with the exception of a canvas that represents Isabelle of Austria, painted by a Flemish anonymous painter from the 17th century.Chandeliers and dishes made of colored glass of Murano, made in the modern times, copy sumptuous models of the 16th century.The small oriental carpets, made of silk threads – three of Keshan (Persia) and one from Caesarea (Asia Minor) – from the beginning of the 20th century, also add to the room their rich colors.The Colonnade Room (or the room of the mirrors), the next guestroom, transformed in 1910, represents a modern interpretation of the Venetian Renaissance from the 16th century.This hall, in which arches, right in the middle, sustained by colonnades alternate with ceilings divided in squares made of elm wood, with the walls partly covered in big Venetian mirrors, has the air of a larger gallery that allows the access to all the rooms placed around it.The Italian furniture includes a beautiful octagonal table, in the same style, made of carved nut tree wood, an original piece from the second half of the 16th century, as well as a little corner cupboard, carved in oak, from the 18th century.Alongside with the paintings – copies after Italian masters –, especially Venetians from the 16th century like Titian, Veronese, A. Badille and another two copies after Rafael, there is also another original painting, an anonymous one, from Correggio's school representing Madonna with the Child and John.The living room opens on the right side of the colonnade room.The Living Room, with the ample nut tree wood decoration, in the style of the German Neo-Renaissance, with well-defined frames, was arranged in 1883.The most important piece of furniture is the massive cupboard that occupies the whole wall from the back side of the room.The ceiling squares, like the 36 chairs in the hall are upholstered in Cordoba leather.On the table and on the cupboard are exhibited vases and candlesticks made of silver and crystal, made in Bohemia, French, and German, in 17th-century style.Presenting scenes from the life of the German nobles from the 16th century, the stained glass were made in Munich, in the 19th century.A Smyrna carpet with a green background covers entirely the surface of the hall.The last, big guestroom, following the colonnade room is the Moorish room.The Moorish Room, representing a wing built in 1891 has in the interior decoration elements in Spanish-Moorish style. The motifs, the so-called "arabesques" of gilded and polychrome stucco, inspired from the ornaments of the palace of the Moorish kings of Granada, from Alhambra (Spain, 13th-14th century), cover entirely, with a fine, shiny, decorative lacework, the walls and the ceiling of the hall.In the spaces between the windows, we notice big panoplies of oriental weapons from the 16th-19th centuries, and as high as the back wall, a marble fountain, the reproduction of an Arab piece, of a mosque, from Cairo.The furniture is almost entirely Arab, with mother-of-pearl and ivory intarsia.In the hall, the first big carpet is from Isparta (Asia Minor) in Persian style, and the second one from Saruk (Persia), both from the 19th century.The colonnade room gives into, on the left side, the French salon and the Turkish salon.The French Salon (1883), a small room shaped like a quarter of a circle has the interior decoration applied, made of gilded wood, in Empire style, from the beginning of the 19th century.The pedestals-colonnades, with chandeliers, the little tables, the clock, etc. that complete this corner are in the same style.Among the paintings we notice two original works by the Flemish painters Cornelis of Wael (17th century) and Eugen Verboeckhoven (19th century), Triumph and Sheep Stable.The Turkish Salon (1883) is entirely covered in traditional silk embroidery whose motifs recur in the tapestry of the furniture reminding of the oriental style.In the upper part of the walls, an imitation of pillars and arcades made with applications of stucco on a glass frieze, gives the illusion of some openings towards nearby halls.A Smyrna Turkish carpet covers the whole surface of the room.Coming back through the colonnade room, the visitor passes through one of the corridors around the Hall of Honor, namely through the one on the western side.Belonging to the first part of the construction (1883), this has a vaulted, cradle-like ceiling, interrupted by the play of bent arches set on pilasters, and richly ornamented with stucco in the style of the German Renaissance.In the walls are mounted reliefs after Luca della Robbia, and on the pedestals there are statues made of bronze and gilded wood, after Jacopo Sansovino, well-known Florentine sculptors from the 15th and 16th centuries.The furniture – consoles and armchairs – is made in the style of the Italian Baroque.The big mirrors and the light brackets of Venetian crystal with Murano glass ornaments, in Neo-Renaissance style, complete the interior decoration of this passage.The last room that can be visited on the ground floor is the Theatre Hall.Built in 1883, of moderate proportions, with a capacity of 60 stalls, the hall uses for the interior decoration elements characteristic of the Louis XIV style.The walls covered with white paneling and wallpaper of golden, silk damask, the big medallion from the center of the ceiling and the frieze of panels, as well as the colonnades and the pilasters with rich golden ornamentation, reflect to a certain extent the luxury and the richness of this style of sumptuous classical inspiration.The paintings were made (during the school years) by the Austrian painters Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) and Franz Matsch, who were part of the Secession Viennese artistic group, the first as the leader at the beginnings of the group.The furniture set – armchairs and chairs – in Louis XIV style, with Aubusson tapestry, exhibited on the stage, is original. It is characterized by straight lines, equilibrium and perfect symmetry, simplicity and clarity in the architectural structure and setting inspired from the Antiquity, but treated with the finesse and the balance characteristic of this typically French style. Its elegance is accentuated by the gilt wood, by the spiral flutings of the colonnade-legs, by the colors and the design of the tapestry.The image offered by the important castle halls from the ground floor is completed with a few rooms from the first floor, that also have the features of museum pieces.We list here: The Great Concert Hall, decorated in the spirit of the English Renaissance, forming the north wing of the castle together with its former foyer, The Marble Gallery (Italian Neo-Renaissance), then The Guard Room, another instance of the German Neo-Renaissance style, and lastly, as the predominant aspect of the first floor, the suites for the guests of honor, reflecting the various grades of their importance:The Imperial Suite, the most ample and with an extremely rich interior decoration, which renders an Austrian variant of the German Baroque style;The Prince's Suite, bringing together in two rooms of moderate proportions, the French neo-rococo and the English style from the end of the 19th century;The Prime Minister's Suite in neo-Louis XIV style, etc.A monument that can be considered as the only one of its kind on the territory of our country, the Peleş Castle proves its importance as a museum, arousing interest among its numerous Romanian and foreign visitors, first of all through the personal character of the interpretation – in the spirit of the second half of the 19th century – given to the building in itself, as well as to a series of internal parts, reminding of the 16th-19th centuries – of the history of styles. At the basis of what we called stylistic "eclecticism" lie, as dominant for the Peleş Castle, one of the last two isolated manifestations of the Romanticist German school in Romania – the conception itself, as well as its numerous hypostases from inside, in the style of the German Romanticism, connected especially to the first phase of construction.
by Virginia Cristu; Carmen Răchiţeanu; Dan Popa