The National Museum of Art of Romania
Anonymous painter - Boyar Manolache Manu
Artwork description
Anonymous painter
Oil on canvas
0,700 x 0,575
Moldavia
1841
Inv. 2395
Artwork location
Romanian Medieval Art Gallery, room 7

Slightly gauche and obsolete even as it was painted, the portrait of Boyar Manolache Manu writes a page in the visual history of Romanian society in the first half of the 19th century.

At the time, Manolache Manu was a member of the Moldavian government, his rank roughly the equivalent of internal affairs minister and hence assimilated to Ottoman administration. The caftan and headdress are indicative of this status. The fur-lined caftan is open so as to show the tulip pattern on his white shirt, tulips being the favourite flowers of sultans. Both the caftan and the pear-shaped headdress are oversized compared to his face and slim figure. Well past his prime, Manu changed the rich beard of traditional boyars over a well-trimmed chin beard and moustache, more in line with the Western fashion of the time.

Beyond him are displayed four thick volumes in French, suggestive of his spiritual pursuits (L’Histoire Sainte and L’Image de la Vertu).

In stark contrast to Manolache Manu, his wife, Sultana Manu, née Mavrogheni, wears a typically Western dress, even if out of fashion. Together the two portraits are indicative of the limitations of Romanian intelligentsia as it struggled along the path to modernization.

See more works in the Romanian Medieval Art Gallery