The Birth Of A Museum In Memoirs And Documents

The Eng. Dumitru Minovici Museum of Ancient Western Art at 3 Nicolae Minovici St. in Bucharest was born in June 1945 as a result of the donation made by Dumitru Minovici to the Romanian Academy. It is the only museum of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest. We will first present a small interview from 2000 with Mrs. Ligia Minovici, who was the custodian of the museum from 1968 to 2003: Adrian Majuru: Please tell us the story of the donation of this wonderful museum...Ligia Minovici: By the time it was donated I hadn't even met my husband and he had already collected so many things... he loved art ever since he was little. When he was 8 or 9, his mother gave him some money and asked him what he intended to do with it. "I would like to buy myself a kite," he answered. So he went to town, entered an Italian bookshop and saw some reproductions... he bought them and brought them home... it was the portrait of Lorenzo the Magnificent by Benozzo Gozzoli... a reproduction after Masaccio... his first collection. After a while his parents told him: "Forget about this. You should first get a real job." So they sent him to France, in Toulouse, where he studied coal mine and oil engineering. Which, of course, didn't have anything to do with art. Then he went to Paris, where he studied at "L'Ecole du Petrol" and afterwards he returned to the country, where he got a job at "Creditul Minier." That company exported Romanian oil throughout Europe. Really everywhere in Europe. Its headquarters were in Vienna. The company was called "Cremin" and my husband became its general manager. It didn't have anything to do with art, as you can see, but my husband was glad to have the opportunity to travel around Europe for the company's business and to attend sales, auctions, exhibitions and to visit second-hand shops ...and that's how he developed a certain taste and skill... when he returned to the country, both "Cremin" and "Creditul Minier" were repealed. He spent 20 years abroad and he sent the objects home gradually. Once he sent this Florentine fireplace that he had bought piece by piece... and he would store these pieces at family members and friends..., he would also buy pieces of furniture... When he returned to the country for good, he gathered all the objects and started to build the house that was about to become a museum and that had to match the objects. That was very complicated... proficiency was required and thorough thinking... He had a friend, an Italian architect, Canella, who had built another Gothic house in Bucharest, on Sofia street. He made the plans according to the objects, like this Mosul collection carpet, a very big carpet, long and wide, with knots on the back side... There you can see the bookshelves from Vienna. They have been bought at an auction after a Westphalian castle was sold out... And, you see, the room follows the shape of the bookshelves that are Neoclassical. In 1945 we made this donation to the Academy under conditions that have been fulfilled for as long as the Academy possessed the museum.A.M.: A few months ago you told me how committed Petru Groza [Romania's prime minister imposed by the Soviet Union, 1945-1952] was in preventing this museum from being nationalized...L.M.: I have to say that Petru Groza was the saviour of this museum. Our luck was that who knows who had counseled him and he kept coming here, of course, accompanied by two agents, not by car... on foot... He would arrive around 6.30 in the morning and by then my husband would have all his clothes at hand, like a firefighter and get dressed immediately and show him around both museums... Groza liked them very much... Any time he had a foreign guest he would bring him here. He helped us a lot. I must tell you – although you might not believe what he advised us – "don't join the [communist] party," he said. Besides, he didn't join the communist party either, he was just a member of the Ploughmen's Front. That's strange, I almost couldn't believe it. Then he came with some of his ministers... sometimes alone and some other times in the company of one of his daughters. He once invited us to his place for lunch... I can hardly describe their lunches. Well, Mrs. Groza was a superior woman and daughter of a physician from Deva. She was amazing. Everybody was incredibly disciplined at the table. None of the children would talk unless asked for. He would do most of the talking at the table and no one was allowed to ask questions. Lunch was always regular... I remember that there was always a white soup with some kind of cream, on top of which you added sour cream. Once he invited only actresses and actors and us for lunch. Tantza Cocea and her spouse, Dina Cocea and her spouse, Elvira Godeanu... They all were invited. Then she threw another lunch... She said "We'll have lunch with lawyers for Mrs. Minovici" and she invited Paraschivescu, who was president by that time, some lawyers and advisors... Once she invited writers, like Paul Dumitriu for instance. Anyway, he saved this museum of ours. One fine day Roller – who worked at the Academy – came to us and told us that the Global Congress of Youth would take place there – for the first time in Romania and Bucharest – and that we would have to leave our home... Then Groza said: "I'll arrange for you to get a room at Hotel Ambassador..." And I said: "No way, I am not leaving home." So we fixed ourselves a room in the other building (the museum Nicolae Minovici) where we stood for a week, as long as the congress took place. There was no other way. Then Roller published a provision in the Official Gazette of the Academy. It stated that this house as a whole – including the floor we were living in – was no longer going to be a museum but the headquarters of the Global Youth. The museum was going to be abolished. My husband was desperate. Then I asked Groza for an audience. He was there, at the Patriarchate, up the hill. I went to him and he received me immediately and I told him what it was all about. He cared very much about that museum so he called Roller on the phone... and started shouting: "Mister, as long as there is a Tretiakov in Moscow, there will be a Minovici in Bucharest! Take your bloody hands off the Minovici museum! Mister – he said to Roller – you falsified history, I am a Dacian, mister, you falsified history..." I got scared because his face turned red and I was afraid he might get a stroke or something because of what I had said and done. He screamed at Roller and concluded: "I won't pardon your driver... you are an evil person..." The thing is that Roller gave in and that's how we got away with the house, just imagine how easy it would have been for Roller to make us move out ... Anyway, Roller didn't have much luck either, the poor man had a son who died, I am not sure if you know the story...A.M.: I don't...L.M.: They made a swimming pool somewhere and he wanted to plunge head first into the water but he fell down where the water wasn't deep so he died instantly... You see, God punishes...A.M.: Why would Roller's driver need Groza's pardon?L.M.: He might have done something against regulations. I don't know... I don't think he had murdered anybody but he might have received a ticket... Incidents... Incidents... The donation act was concluded on the 4th of June 1945, following the advice of close friends and also of the doctor Petru Groza, who warned the owner in good faith that his house was going to be nationalized and that he was going to lose it. A donation might have been a solution against robbery. The donation went to the RomanianAcademy. These are the conditions specified in the donation act, elaborated under political pressure in June 1945: " (...) The given house is my property according to the purchase contract of the lot – with an area of 825 sq.m – and to the license of construction no. 67 of 2nd of April 1941 granted by the mayoralty of Bucharest for an area of 255 sq.m of housing. The building was conceived and built by me, the donor. I compel to the duty of offering the reception rooms that make out the museum to the Academy, whenever it should host academy members, foreign researchers or events. Due to the fact that this house possesses objects of art (registered in the inventory), the Academy may complete this collection with objects from its own collections: pictures, upholstery, old books, book covers a.s.o., preferably from 1400 to 1800, as objects from that time would best match the style of the house. As donor, I claim the right to add other objects – beside the ones offered by this donation act and mentioned in the enclosed inventory – , to modify the arrangement of the interior and to exert the custody and administration of the donated building in its best interest, the way I think is appropriate. I make this donation with the provision that I shall be the sole administrator and custodian of the building with the exclusive right over the rooms on the 1st floor, the living-room and the outbuildings for as long as I shall live. I, the undersigned, pledge myself to paying the taxes for the building to the Urban Credit. (the banks hadn't been nationalized yet). After my death, either my wife or, if she should decline, or if we weren't married by the time of my death, Mrs. Rozalia Bradler, residing in Bucharest, Brezoianu street no. 29, shall have all the rights I have reserved for as long as they shall live. The Romanian Academy will make sure that after my death or if I were to give up the rights I had claimed, the person who shall live in this house – my wife has the right of priority – obtains the custody and administration right of the museum and of the whole building. Custody and administration will be performed by these persons as mentioned above concerning the undersigned. After the death of a person mentioned above as having the right to live in the building and the position of administrator and custodian after my death, the other person will obtain these rights. After the death of these two persons, the Romanian Academy will benefit from the donated building as it wishes, both what the use and what the stock is concerned. Yet the wish of the undersigned donor is that the building continues to be used under the same conditions mentioned above, that is, to serve as a museum of applied ancient art, since it is the only museum of this kind in our country. It could be useful and instructive both for persons who show interest towards applied art and for the young people who study art in general. (...) Bucharest, June, 1945." In memoriam Ligia Minovici She passed away in a brightness that we will keep in our souls. Just as one keeps the mysteries of childhood hidden behind the serious countenance of maturity. Ligia Minovici held a university degree in literature and law and a doctor's degree in law. Beginning with 1938, she was an ardent defender of truth, especially in the terrible times (1945-1965) that have destroyed instantly human destinies and a civilized city life. Together with her husband, Dumitru-Furnica Minovici, engineer for coal mine and oil, holding a doctor's degree granted 1919 in Toulouse – she saved many a time the existence of the Museum of Ancient Western Art. After the death of her husband, 1982, she kept alive the memory of a world that was destroyed on purpose and carried out – not without effort – the duty of administrating a museum, in spite of her old age. (January 2004)

by Plural magazine