“THE DR. NICOLAE MINOVICI VILLA”: RESTITUTIO

The Dr. Nicolae Minovici folk art collection returns “home”. Over the span of one year, a large part of the collection items have been restored in order to be shown to the public through an exhibition project, as envisioned by the doctor over one century ago. The folk art collection amassed by Nicolae Minovici can be considered the first of its kind, representing all regions of Romania, presented in a harmonious and uniform manner in a space specially conceived to house the exhibition.

This led Dr. Minovici’s museum to be considered the first folk art museum in Bucharest, created before the ambitious project of Tzigara Samurcaş. The latter had begun work on the Romanian Peasant Museum in 1912, but the building was finalised much later, in 1941. The heritage nucleus of this museum was set up in the State Mint building, with the help of Spiru Haret, on October 1st 1906. This museum space became the National Art Museum in 1912. At the beginning of 1906, the Dr. Nicolae Minovici Museum was already functioning, as a private museum, yet one that overtook the public and State initiatives. It is important to note that the 1906-1912 collection mentioned before was not housed in a space particularly designed for its items, but in a Mint that already had its own purpose, while the Nicolae Minovici museum was tailored to the collections it contained.

The “Dr. Nicolae Minovici” Folk Art Museum reveals its collection to the public in two stages. The first one was completed in 2017 through the opening of three spaces from the building’s upper floor: the church, the doctor’s bedroom, and the villa’s living room. Separately, the museum’s ground floor will open as a modern exhibition space dedicated to traditional Romanian garb, with a focus on the chromatic and symbolic diversity of the Romanian ie (an embroidered peasant blouse). In 2018 the other two rooms from the upper floor will open: the salon and the bride’s room, after the restoration of heritage pieces which will be exhibited within. The process of restoring the items is particularly laborious because it involves an entire array of interventions, depending on the typology of the pieces, from ceramic works to religious icons on wood and glass, from traditional garb to paintings and religious items. The process will also be carried out for the furniture of the rooms.

Doctor Nicolae Minovici’s “villa of unrest” reopens its collections, and its friends are there to support the initiative: The “Dr. Mina Minovici” National Institute of Forensic Medicine, the “Francisc Josif Rainer” Institute of Anthropology – the Romanian Academy. Brothers Mina and Nicolae Minovici were the founders and Directors of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, the first institute of its kind designed (in 1892) to fit the standards nowadays known to the entire world. Over one century since its first inauguration in 1906, Dr. Nicolae Minovici villa reopens after an arduous consolidation, rehabilitation and restoration project that took two years (2014 – 2015), followed by the landscaping of the villa’s park (2016 – 2017). Completion of these works represent one of the successful projects led by the Bucharest City Hall during the last years, projects linked to the cultural and touristic recalibration of the city of Bucharest.

In what concerns the residence itself, Dr. Nicolae Minovici called the house the “villa of unrest” because he always came here to work on his projects. Nicolae Minovici never lived in the building. His actual residence was at the “Salvarea” Society headquarters, in the area of today’s Izvor Park – a society that he led since its founding in 1906 until the last year of his life, 1941. The “Villa of unrest” was designed to play a representative role. At the start of the 20th century, Mina and Nicolae Minovici were collaborating, both institutionally and personally, with the European medical world, and visits were a constant occurrence. In order to present a more complete image of Romania, a country that had begun to modernise rapidly after 1860 yet still represented an exotic, lesser-known place for many cultural and scientific partners in Europe, Nicolae Minovici decided to dedicate himself to a project that would reveal details of his country’s authenticity.

This initiative took the shape of the national folk art museum, housed in one of the first neo-Romanian style buildings in Bucharest, designed by architect Cristofi Cerkez. After 1906, all the external collaborators and partners of the Romanian medical sphere were brought to the “villa of unrest” for a visit that would allow them to explore a part of Romanian culture.

The main directions of action that shaped Professor Nicolae Minovici’s activity, in order to solve pressing issues of the time, were of course determined by the just acknowledgement of medicine’s social and ethical role, of the deeply human aspect of his profession and of his naturally organised spirit.

However, these traits also stemmed from a profound patriotism, from a desire to contribute, by all means possible, to the prosperity of the country and the betterment of its people’s lives, to whom his spirit dedicated the warmest of loves.

His passion for Romanian art, served by knowledge, understanding and good-taste, also stemmed from the same sources.

This passion was expressed through the construction of the “villa with bells” from the side of the road, a building that has been part of not only the landscape, but also the artistic legend of the Romanian Capital.

The rich Romanian folk art collections, housed in this building, the only wealth acquired during his lifetime and donated five years before his passing, became what is today known as the “Folk Art Museum”, which all foreigners passing through Bucharest visit and appreciate.

This artistic gift perpetuates the doctor’s memory and summarises all the behavioural traits of a complex personality, so brilliantly manifested through numerous accomplishments for society.

The tinkling of bells heard from the road remind us of the special personality of the one who gave Bucharest all the warmth of his heart, the realist spirit of a scholar, the tenacity and enthusiasm of an organiser and his patriotism, capable of giving all, managed to achieve so much, on many levels, for the good of mankind and for the honour and pride of Romania.

Adrian Majuru

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