Regina Elisabeta în medalistică / Queen Elisabeth of Romania in the medallic art
|Limba de redactare||română|
|Excerpt||In spite of the fact that an ever more intense research into the historical archives entailed great progress, we consider that medals and plaquettes, as well as other iconographie sources bring evidence likely to complete and revive the overall image of Romanian society during a crucial moment of its evolution, to shed light upon, and find the clues to, a series of less clarified aspects of Romanian politics at home and abroad. At the same time the sources mentioned could open fields of research, regarding especially the phychological experiences of the people whose destinies meant being snatched away from their environment, and obliged to start new lives ahead of a young state, situated at the time at Europe's periphery. For an objective spectator, the images and legends of the medals and plaquettes presented on this article, the rhythm of their striking, may provide interesting data on the Romanian political class of that age, and also of all times. This article represents a continuation of our previous work regarding the medallic iconography of King Charles I of Romania. In spite of the fact that, during the second half of the 19th century, the medal got more and more challenged by lithography, and later photography, King Charles I and Queen Eliasbeth, as large shares of Romanian society considered it important. There is evidence that the Queeen herself was actively involved in the process of striking medals and plaquettes, by choosing the artists and representations. Of about 650 types of medals and plaquettes issued between 1866 -1914 the effigy or name and title Princess and later Queen Elisabeth apears on 85 of on about pieces. The medal and plaquette issues bearing the effigy of Elisabeth are extremely unevenly distributed over her long life. Their rhythm and number were generally linked less to the great political events of the time, and more to his private life, or that of the royal family. Until 1891 the number of commemorative medals and plaquettes struck for her was rather small, even i f the years 1877 and 1878 marked a major political event, that is, winning the Independence on the battlefield and its international recognition. Proclaiming the Kingdom, in the spring of 1881 constituted an occasion for a major activity in the medallic art, when were put into circulation types of medals and plaquettes, four of which "popular" medals with handle and a normal one. During the first years of the reign of Charles I the portraits of his wife appeared very rarely on medals. It should be observed that until now no "popular" medals are known for this period. The turning point would be the year 1881, when the status of the country changed a second time, by the proclamation of the kingdom and the coronation of Charles I and Elizabeth as Kings of Romania. Elizabeth's portrait appeared for the first time on a commemorative medal from 1869 struck on the occasion of her marriage to Charles I . Then, Wilhelm Kullrich realized a twinned portrait of the princely couple, in the most typical classicizing manner. The first medallic portrait depicting only Elizabeth was made by the same author, in 1881, when the queen, who used the literary pseudonym of Carmen Sylva, was elected member of honour of the Romanian Academy. In most medallic representations Queen Elizabeth appears in the company of her husband, and they are owed to Kullrich and Telge. Only after 1900, the Queen can be seen more frequently on medals dedicated to herself, or her charity works. The issues from the last years of her life are numerous and extremely well made, without any attempt to idealize her or make her younger, in contrast to those of Charles I . The most precious late portraits belong to Szirmai and the Belgian artist Godeffroid Devreese, linked to the "art nouveau" trend. Like her husband, the queen benefited from posthumous medallic portraits. Her memory was immortalized for the longest period by the "Health Merit" decoration that was issued from 1913 to 1947. On her death, in 1916, a modest commemorative medal was struck. It is interesting that a portrait of Queen Elizabeth depicting her 1909 physiognomy appeared on a medal put into circulation in 1917 by the German military freemason lodge in Bucharest called Carmen Sylva. The modeller Ludwig Christoph Lauer and the engravers J. Tubben and W. Tubben, from the Lauer & Sons company in Nurenberg used the prototype of a portrait made by the firm for an older order. Her last postumous medallic portrait dates from 1939. Of the many artists who carried out the models and dies of the medals and plaquettes of Elisabeth, it is worth mentioning above all Wilhelm Kullrich, in a way the personal artist of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family. Wilhelm Kullrich, an artist of the German academic school, dominated the Romanian medallic art not only between 1866 and 1887, but also after his death. Indirectly, Kullrich's influence extended over the period preceding the outbreak of World War I , as it was reflected in the artistically modest work of the engravers of the Romanian houses of the goldsmith and engraver families of Camiol and Radivon. The portraits made by Kullrich bear the seal of classicism, intermingled with romantic traits, however not idealized. The sovereigns inspire both resoluteness and a kind condescendence, as well as equilibrium and a serene confidence in the future. These works matched the artistic tastes of Charles I and Elizabeth, and were rather faithful to the image that they themselves shared as far as they and their mission as heads of the Romanian State was concerned. As a matter of fact, we should point out that in the second half of the 19th century, and even until World War I , academic classicism used to be the artistic trend most searched for among the aristocratic elites of the time.
After the death of Wilhelm Kullrich, in 1887, for two decades his role was played, to a certain extent, by another German artist, the Berliner Paul Telge, whose classicizing works matched better the aesthetic ideals of the royal family in Bucharest. Telge carried out important orders from the Court and the Government in Bucharest, until 1909, but the aesthetic value of his medallic works is relatively low. Another foreign artist, who worked a lot for the Romanian authorities, was a man from the Banat, of Hungarian origin, naturalized French, Tony Szirmai. We may firmly assert that his works by far dominate the entire Romanian medallic art between 1898 and 1914. Open-mindedly taking the influences of the "art nouveau" trend, Szirmai tried to bring about a renewal in the style and techniques of the official medallic art. Judging from the creation preserved, he enjoyed much success in his endeavours only in the case of the medals and plaquettes made for Crown Prince Ferdinand and his wife Mary, who favoured innovation, and less of those made for Charles I and Elizabeth. In the Romanian medallic art from the turn of the century, a special role played the issues of the Bucharest firms of the Camiol and Radivon families, both of them having the status of "supplier of the royal court". The large production of the two firms, in spite of an obvious improvement in quality, after 1890, and especially after 1900, failed to excel either by originality or fine artistic and technical works. Most of the portraits of Queen Elisabeth depicted on the medals signed by Carniol or Radivon are just pastiches of those created by Kullrich or Scharff. Their relief is flat, and the other representations are very conventional. At the beginning of our century also a Romanian provincial medal center developed, that had already been active enough as early as the 1880s. It set in Jassy, where between 1887 and 1913, functioned the firm of the Elias and Samoil Şaraga brothers, often Kissing associates. Started for cultural, political and patriotic reasons, the medals struck by the Şaraga firm realized an important continuous technical progress between 1906 and 1913, even i f artistically they could not overcome academism. At any rate, the medals signed by the Şaraga firm are much better than those struck in other provincial centers, such as Galatz or Bârlad. In certain cases these medals and plaquettes are often comparable with the best creations in Bucharest. Menachen Carniol, Theodor Radivon and Şaraga made numerous "offcial" medals and plaquettes. In spite of all that, one can say that they steadily dominated above all the Romanian market of "popular" medals. The economic and social progress, the conventions of the time and the numerous important events that were celebrated in a grand manner made this market grow impressively from 1881 to 1914. The most original posthumous medallic portraits of Queen Elisabeth are the ones made by the Romanian artist Emil W. Becker. Although Becker was influenced by the art-deco trend, the medallic portraits made by him are surprisingly classicizing. For almost 50 years no Romanian medal or plaquette evoked the faces of the sovereigns of Romania. Only in recent years, some private persons took the initiative to issue a series of medals bearing the portraits of King Charles I , Queen Elizabeth, King Ferdinand I , Queen Mary and King Michael I .
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