Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti

Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti

Infobox Writer
name = Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti

caption = Photograph of Bogdan-Piteşti (left) and Joséphin Péladan, during the latter's visit to Bucharest (1898)
pseudonym = Ion Doican, Ion Duican
birthdate = birth date|mf=yes|1870|6|13|mf=y
birthplace = Piteşti
deathdate = death year and age|mf=yes|1922|1870
deathplace = Bucharest
occupation = poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, businessman, visual artist
nationality = Romanian
period = 1880s–1922
genre = lyric poetry, prose poetry
subject = art criticism, literary criticism
movement = Symbolism
influences = Joris-Karl Huysmans, Alexandru Macedonski, Joséphin Péladan
influenced = Tudor Arghezi

Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti (born Alexandru Bogdan, also known as Ion Doican or Ion Duican; June 13, 1870–1922) was a Romanian Symbolist poet, essayist, and art and literary critic, who was also known as a journalist and left-wing political agitator. A wealthy landowner, he invested his fortune in patronage and art collecting, becoming one of the main local promoters of modern art. Together with other Post-Impressionist and Symbolist cultural figures, Bogdan-Piteşti established "Societatea Ileana", which was one of the first Romanian associations dedicated to promoting the avant-garde and independent art. He was also noted for his friendship with the writers Joris-Karl Huysmans, Alexandru Macedonski, Tudor Arghezi and Mateiu Caragiale, as well as for sponsoring, among others, the painters Ştefan Luchian, Constantin Artachino and Nicolae Vermont. In addition to his literary and political activities, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti was himself a painter and graphic artist.

Much of Bogdan-Piteşti's controversial political career, inaugurated by his support for anarchism, was dedicated to activism and support for revolution, while he showed an interest in the occult and maintained close contacts with Joséphin Péladan—whose 1898 visit to Bucharest he funded. He was detained by the authorities at various intervals, including an arrest for sedition during the 1899 election, and was later found guilty of having blackmailed the banker Aristide Blank. Late in his life, he founded "Seara", a Germanophile daily, as well as a literary and political circle which came to oppose Romania's entry into World War I on the Entente Powers' side. He was arrested one final time upon the end of the war, by which time he had become hated by the general public.


Early life and anarchism

A native of Piteşti, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti was the son of a landowner from Olt, [Tudor Vianu, p.370] and, on his father's side, the descendant of immigrants from the Epirote area of Ioannina, whose ethnicity was either Aromanian [Cernat, p.42] Constantin Coroiu, [ "Pluta de naufragiu (2)"] , in "Evenimentul", December 30, 2002] or icon Krikor Zambaccian, Chapter VIII: "Al. Bogdan-Piteşti", in [ "Însemnările unui amator de artă"] , published and hosted by LiterNet; retrieved July 14, 2007] His father became a local leader of the Conservative Party. [Cernat, p.42] His mother was a boyaress, [Cernat, p.42] and, as art collector and memoirist Krikor Zambaccian recounted, was rumored to have been a descendant of the Balotescu boyar family. Bogdan-Piteşti also had a sister, Elena Constanţa Bogdan; both she and her mother reportedly survived his death. As one of his eccentricities, he encouraged the rumor that he was a direct descendant of the ancient Wallachian ruling house of Basarab. Raised in the Romanian Orthodox faith, he converted to the Roman Catholic Church in his twenties, [Cernat, p.17, 42] but was no longer a practicing Catholic by the time of his icon Krikor Zambaccian, Chapter VIII: "Al. Bogdan-Piteşti", in [ "Însemnările unui amator de artă"] , published and hosted by LiterNet; retrieved July 14, 2007]

He was educated in Geneva, at a local Catholic institution. [Cernat, p.42] Bogdan-Piteşti then attended medical school at the University of Montpellier, without ever graduating, and afterwards left to join the Bohemian milieu of Paris. [Cernat, p.42] He enrolled at the University of Paris, studying Law and Letters, but withdrew after a short while. [Cernat, p.42] Art historian Sanda Miller recounted that Bogdan-Piteşti attended the "École des Beaux-Arts" in the French capital, whence he had been expelled.Sanda Miller, "Paciurea's Chimeras", in "Apollo", October 2003] According to literary historian Tudor Vianu, at that stage, the young man also began associating with the criminal underworld. [Tudor Vianu, p.370]

It was also around that period that Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti began frequenting the French anarchist circles, while joining the Symbolist movement. [Cernat, p.42] He was a presence in the anarchist group of Alexandre Vaillant (before the latter was executed for planning the bomb attack on the French Chamber of Deputies), [Tudor Vianu, p.370] and was acquainted with the anarchist geographer Élisée Reclus. [Cernat, p.42] At some stage during the late 1880s, Bogdan-Piteşti was also a supporter of Georges Ernest Boulanger, a general who attempted to gain power in France with support from the Orléanist, Bonapartist and socialist camps; he also befriended the prominent Boulangist and Romantic nationalist thinker Maurice Barrès. [Cernat, p.42] In time, he became a representative of Symbolism, and maintained contacts with authors such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, Maurice Maeterlinck, Octave Mirbeau, Jean Moréas, and Paul Verlaine. [Cernat, p.42] Another influence on him was the occultist and novelist Joséphin Péladan, whose Rosicrucian salon he attended several times. [Cernat, p.42]

He debuted as a writer and political essayist, and it was later reported, but not confirmed, that he published his pieces in newspapers and magazines of diverse backgrounds—"Le Figaro", "Le Gaulois", "L'Intransigeant" and "La Libre Parole" among them. [Cernat, p.42] A lover and protector of actresses in both France and Switzerland, he also claimed to have played a part in staging the first Genevan showing of Richard Wagner's "Die Walküre". [Cernat, p.42]

"Salonul Independenţilor"

Placed under surveillance due to his involvement in revolutionary politics, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti was eventually expelled from France, despite Huysmans' intervention in his favor. [Cernat, p.42] Zambaccian doubted that the ultimate legal decision was owed to his anarchist connections, and claimed that Bogdan-Piteşti may have originally caught the attention of French authorities for having stolen bicycles.

In 1896, with the Post-Impressionist artists Constantin Artachino, Ştefan Luchian and Nicolae Vermont, he founded "Salonul Independenţilor", the Romanian replica of the French "Société des Artistes Indépendants". [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.34-36; Lassaigne & Enescu, p.49-51, 104] ro icon Adrian-Silvan Ionescu, [ "Artachino"] , in "Observator Cultural", Nr. 222, May 2004; retrieved July 14, 2007] They were soon joined by painter Nicolae Grant and caricaturist Nicolae Petrescu Găina. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.35] The exhibits featured some of Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti's own drawings, which he intended to use as illustrations for his book of French-language poems, "Sensations internes" ("Internal Sensations"). He planned for his art movement to reach outside of Romania, and, also in 1896, financed an international exhibition of independent and avant-garde artists. [Cernat, p.42] "Salonul" was known for its public protest against academic art: located just outside the Romanian Athenaeum building (a main venue for Neoclassicism), it was decorated with a large caricature of the academic artist C. I. Stăncescu (originally printed in the salon's catalog) and a red flag. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.35] The latter socialist symbol was taken down by the Romanian Police soon after being hoisted. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.35]

The independent group was not entirely opposed to tradition, and occasionally appealed to it as a basis for cultural reconstruction. [ro icon Amalia Pavel, [ "Pictura evreilor din România: interferenţe culturale"] , in "Observator Cultural", Nr. 29, September 2000; retrieved December 9, 2007] It had among its honorary members the oil painter Nicolae Grigorescu, an established artistic figure connected with the Barbizon school. [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.51] Bogdan-Piteşti was especially fond of Luchian's work, and, in an 1896 article for the cultural magazine "Revista Orientală", spoke of his associate as "an admirable colorist", a "free spirit", and a purveyor of "revolutionary ideas". [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.104] He was, however, adverse to Grigorescu's traditionalist style, whereas Luchian used it as a source of inspiration in his own work (promting critics to argue that Grigorescu's acceptance was Bogdan-Piteşti's concession to his friend). [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.40]

He had by then begun publishing his poems in the Symbolist magazine "Literatorul" [Cernat, p.42] and was friends with Macedonski; in 1897, he was chosen by the latter to edit his book of French-language poems, "Bronzes". [Cernat, p.42; Tudor Vianu, p.369-371] Having financed the volume's publishing, [Cernat, p.42] Bogdan-Piteşti also authored its preface. [Cernat, p.42; Tudor Vianu, p.370] The latter essay compared Macedonski's poetry to that of Mihai Eminescu. Vianu, who was himself an associate of Macedonski's, commented that Bogdan-Piteşti was probably unsuited for the task, and noted that, despite expectations, the volume did not have a notable effect on the French public. [Tudor Vianu, p.369, 371] Part of this argument was based on the lack of press reviews for "Bronzes"—with the notable exception of a May 1898 article in "Mercure de France", written by Pierre Quillard (himself a Symbolist and anarchist). [Tudor Vianu, p.371]

"Ileana" and Péladan's visit

Later in 1898, back in Romania, Bogdan-Piteşti and the other "Salonul Independenţilor" initiators, together with Ioan Bacalbaşa and the architect Ştefan Ciocâlteu, [Cernat, p.42] founded "Societatea Ileana", an association dedicated to supporting innovative artists. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.40; Vianu, p.370] Its presiding committee was later joined by the intellectual and political figures Constantin Rădulescu-Motru, Nicolae Xenopol, and Nicolae Filipescu, as well as by the painter Jean Alexandru Steriadi. [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.51]

The group probably adopted the name "Ileana" because of a character in Romanian folklore, a reference to the fairy tale character Ileana Cosânzeana. Its press organ, also known as "Ileana", was edited by Bacalbaşa [Cernat, p.42] and illustrated by Luchian. [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.52-53, 105] Described by Vianu as a "refined art magazine", [Tudor Vianu, p.370] it is also considered the first one of its kind in Romania. [Cernat, p.43]

As head of "Ileana", Bogdan-Piteşti organized Péladan's 1898 visit to Bucharest. [Cernat, p.42, 407] [Tudor Vianu, p.370] It was a much-publicized event, which attracted the attention of high society and received ample coverage in the press; Bogdan-Piteşti accompanied Péladan on visits to various Bucharest landmarks, including the Romanian Atheneum, the Chamber of Deputies, the Orthodox Metropolitan and Domniţa Bălaşa churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Saint Joseph Cathedral. [Cernat, p.42-43] Among the politicians who attended the ceremonies were Nicolae Filipescu, Constantin Dissescu, Take Ionescu, Ioan Lahovary, and Constantin C. Arion, and the prominent intellectuals Barbu Ştefănescu Delavrancea and Rădulescu-Motru were also in the audience. [Cernat, p.42-43] Péladan agreed to lecture in front of "Societatea Ileana" at the Atheneum, and his subject of choice was "The Genius of the Latin Race".

Various commentators were dismissive of the visit and its importance. Art historian Theodor Enescu described its impact as "amazing", and referred to Péladan as an "unusual ["funambulesc" in the original] representative of French culture". [Cernat, p.42-43] He also proposed that the reception, which he called "noisy" and "exacerbated enthusiasm", was possibly due to the "complexes of a provincial culture, confronted with the promiscuous exorbitance of a great culture". [Cernat, p.43] This assessment was shared by literary historian Paul Cernat, who noted that the level of attention enjoyed by the French intellectual was in contrast to the latter's "rather modest value". [Cernat, p.42] However, Cernat argued that the visit played an important part in promoting new cultural trends, specifically notions of art for art's sake and decadence, "through the means "of politics" [italics in the original] ". [Cernat, p.43]

As "Ion Doican", Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti contributed to "Ileana" essays praising various painters (such as Luchian, Arthur Verona, and George Demetrescu Mirea). "Ileana" only published a few issues before closing down in 1901. Bogdan-Piteşti's collaborator Bacalbaşa, known by then as a dramatist, also attended, but drifted away from the group in 1900, giving up his position as editor of "Ileana". [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.110] A similar split occurred between Luchian and his patron, probably lasting for several years. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.44-46] Over the same period, Bogdan-Piteşti became one of "Literatorul" 's main financial backers. [Cernat, p.41]

Writing in 1910, at a time when Romanian art came to be me more familiar with new artistic trends (including Cubism and Fauvism, both advocated locally by art critic Theodor Cornel), [Cernat, p.45-46] Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti complained that Romanian intellectuals still considered Impressionism a novelty. [Cernat, p.46] On the occasion, he hailed the Post-Impressionist French artists Paul Gaugin and Paul Cézanne as the models to follow. [Cernat, p.46]

Return to politics and Vlaici

He remained noted for his political activities after returning to Romania, and was reported to have toured the countryside, rallying peasants to rebellion and calling for a radical land reform. During the general election of 1899, he ran for a deputy seat in both Olt and Ilfov, without registering success. [Cernat, p.43; Jianu & Comarnescu, p.46; Lassaigne & Enescu, p.110] Reputedly, Bogdan-Piteşti passed himself off as the son of deposed "Domnitor" Alexander John Cuza. [Cernat, p.43] His activity in Olt resulted in violent incidents: peasants in and around Slatina were instigated to riot, and their revolt was suppressed with use of force. [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.110] He was arrested for sedition, and is reported to have based his successful defense on denying he had any part to play in the events. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.46]

Overall, he claimed to have been imprisoned over forty times by Romanian authorities, and stressed that all these convictions were owed to political crimes—while reporting this statement, Vianu stressed that, in reality, some prison terms included in Bogdan-Piteşti's account were owed to misdemeanors. [Tudor Vianu, p.370] In time, his reputation as a convict attracted him the colloquial moniker "Bogdan-Văcăreşti", after the Văcăreşti prison in Bucharest.

Bogdan-Piteşti inherited a manor in Vlaici village (part of Coloneşti), which was, beginning in 1908, the center of his activities and his sizable art collection, as well as being among the first places in Romania where visual artists could participate in summer art camps. [Cernat, p.43] Veronica Marinescu, "Conacul de la Vlaici al colecţionarului Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti, într-o stare jalnică", in "Curierul Naţional", August 12, 2004] Veronica Marinescu, "Un «prinţ al artelor» uitat de vreme. Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti şi Vlaiciul primelor tabere de creaţie", in "Curierul Naţional", July 22, 2006] The summer camps he began organizing were attended by the three artists, and, in time, attracted virtually all other major "en plein air" painters of the day: Nicolae Dărăscu, Ştefan Dimitrescu, Iosif Iser, M. H. Maxy, Theodor Pallady, as well as Camil Ressu.

Political-cultural circle

In 1908, his villa on Bucharest's Ştirbey-Vodă Street (near the Cişmigiu Gardens) began hosting regular gatherings of intellectuals. [Cernat, p.43] Among those who attended in successive stages were the writers Arghezi, Macedonski, Mateiu Caragiale, Victor Eftimiu, Benjamin Fondane, Gala Galaction, George Bacovia, Ion Minulescu, Claudia Millian, N. D. Cocea, Ion Vinea, F. Brunea-Fox, Eugeniu Ştefănescu-Est, A. de Herz, Ion Călugăru, and Adrian Maniu. [Cernat, p.34, 39, 44] It also hosted the artists Luchian, Artachino, Verona, Maxy, Iser, Steriadi, Dimitrescu, Pallady, Ressu, Dărăscu, Nina Arbore, Constantin Brancusi, Constantin Medrea, Dimitrie Paciurea, Maria Ciurdea Steurer, Oscar Han, Nicolae Tonitza, Ion Theodorescu-Sion, Friedrich Storck and Cecilia Cuţescu-Storck, [Cernat, p.39, 44] as well as Abgar Baltazar, Alexandru Brătăşanu, Alexandru Poitevin-Skeletti, George Demetrescu Mirea, Rodica Maniu, and Marcel Janco. [Cernat, p.39] Also in 1908, following Iser's proposal, Bogdan-Piteşti sponsored a Bucharest exhibit showcasing works by the well-known European painters Demetrios Galanis, Jean-Louis Forain and André Derain. [Cernat, p.407]

After 1910, his patronage took on new forms. Literary critic Şerban Coiculescu noted that, at least initially, the relationship between the collector and the young impoverished writer Mateiu Caragiale included a financial aspect, with Bogdan-Piteşti inviting the destitute poet to dinner and providing him with funds. [Cioculescu, p.369] He was also providing lodging and materials for various disadvantaged painters, as reported by his close friend Tudor Arghezi, and took a special interest in promoting the poetry of Ştefan Petică (as well as that of Arghezi himself). [Cernat, p.41] Arghezi claimed that the influence exercised by his patron over Luchian, as well as his moral support, were "decisive". [Cernat, p.41] In his memoir of the period, linguist Alexandru Rosetti claimed that the patron had "over a dozen artists" invited for supper each icon Alexandru Rosetti, [ "Tudor Arghezi"] , in "Cronica Română", April 8, 2004; retrieved December 9, 2007]

His religious conversion saw him publicly expressing opinions against Eastern Orthodoxy, and its predominant local branch, the Romanian Orthodox Church. [Cernat, p.17] Paul Cernat noted that this was part of his search for a religious alternative, which in turn reflected a Symbolist-influenced choice in favor of cosmopolitanism. [Cernat, p.17] However, Gala Galaction, who was later ordained an Orthodox priest, recorded that the circle could accommodate people of very diverse backgrounds, citing, alongside himself, the Roman Catholic priest Carol Auner, the Protestant sculptor Storck, and the anarchist activist Panait Muşoiu. [Cernat, p.44] According to Cernat, Bogdan-Piteşti's Bohemian society also grouped people believed associated with the illegal activities, and was noted for its "libertine" atmosphere. [Cernat, p.39, 43] Galaction himself noted that, alongside literary men and artists, the salon accommodated "a dozen con artists and prostitutes." [Cernat, p.44]

A dandy, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti himself led a life of luxury, marked by excess, and had become a drug addict. [Cernat, p.41] He was a homosexual, which did not prevent him from marrying a young woman named Domnica (commonly known under the hypocoristic Mica). [Cernat, p.43] According to memoirist Constantin Beldie, she was of Polish origin, and had previously been a prostitute at a nightclub. [Cernat, p.43] Herself a libertine, she was described as "androgynous". [Cernat, p.44]

German connections and wartime

Around 1912, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti's political influence was on the rise, after he began associating with a grouping of the Conservative Party around the Mayor of Bucharest, Grigore Gheorghe Cantacuzino. [Cioculescu, p.378] By then, like the Conservatives, he came to support the Romanian Kingdom's alliance with the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. This view was popularized through the means of his literary club, and support for the Central Powers was also voiced by his newspaper, "Seara", which he began publishing with Arghezi's assistance. [Cernat, p.39, 41] The journal's cultural page notably hosted contributions by Vinea and the young poet Jacques G. Costin. [Cernat, p.34, 188]

His circle, which was already hostile to the National Liberal cabinet of Ion I. C. Brătianu, welcomed the diverse environments who resented the country's potential participation in the war: the pro-German Conservatives, the supporters of proletarian internationalism, and the committed pacifists. [Cernat, p.39-40] The artistic clientele associated with the politicians was also represented in the group, and, in Cernat's view, was not in a position to distance itself from its patrons' options. [Cernat, p.40]

According to Zambaccian, Bogdan-Piteşti hinted that his support for Germany was "not in return for just nothing". At the time, through the means of notes in his personal diary, Caragiale reputedly accused Bogdan-Piteşti of having been financed by Germany to promote her interests in Romania and aid in her propaganda effort. [Cioculescu, p.376] Such assessments, accompanied by Caragiale's allegation that Bogdan-Piteşti was not knowledgeable in art, arguably reflected the conflicts between the two literary figures, and their overall reliability remains icon Paul Cernat, [ "De la Barbu Cioculescu citire"] , in "Observator Cultural", Nr. 319, May 2006; retrieved July 14, 2007]

A scandal erupted after the banker Aristide Blank brought Bogdan-Piteşti to court on charges of blackmail; the plaintiff enlisted the services of lawyer Take Ionescu, and the defendant lost the trial and was sentenced to a jail term. [Cernat, p.41] Throughout the scandal, "Seara" hosted articles by Arghezi, in which the latter professed his patron's innocence. [Cernat, p.41] In 1916, just before Romania entered the war as an Entente Power, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti was again involved in a legal dispute with the Francophiles Take Ionescu and Barbu Ştefănescu-Delavrancea, being represented in court by Constantin Dissescu.Octavian Goga, [ "1916. Din zilele războiului nostru"] , in "Magazin Istoric", September 1997; retrieved July 15, 2007]

After Romania suffered heavy defeats in her confrontation with the Central Powers, Bogdan-Piteşti, like Arghezi, Macedonski, Galaction and Caragiale, remained in German-occupied Bucharest. When Romania recovered possession over its southern areas during the closing stage of the Romanian Campaign, he was prosecuted for treason and served a jail term in Văcăreşti. [Cernat, p.39] Tudor Vianu claimed that he spent his last years "in ignominy", [Tudor Vianu, p.370] and Cernat described his position as that of "a pariah". [Cernat, p.41] He died four years after the war ended, at his house in Bucharest, after suffering a myocardial infarction. According to Cernat, his death came suddenly, while he was conversing on the phone (he defined the circumstances as "grotesque"). [Cernat, p.41] Bogdan-Piteşti's last wish was for his collection to pass into state property and be kept as a museum.


Role and influence

Bogdan-Piteşti was the subject of fascination in the literary and artistic community. According to Paul Cernat, his influential circle was "an excellent medium of transmission for the modern spirit, an informal institution and one of the first coagulant factors for [Romania's] first post-symbolist modernism." [Cernat, p.44] The patron received homages from many of his writer friends, under the form of notebooks written especially for icon Cornel Ungureanu, [ "Ion Vinea şi iubirile paralele ale poeţilor"] , in "Orizont", Vol. 19, Nr. 5 (1496), May 2007, p.2; retrieved January 26, 2008]

Theodor Enescu proposed that, alongside Macedonski's own group, the Ştirbey-Vodă Street salon was the only important manifestation of culture in the period between the decline of the trend-setter and pro-Conservative "Junimea" and the establishment of the modernist magazine "Sburătorul". [Cernat, p.40] Cernat also noted that, while the writer Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti was "neglectful and improvident" when it came to preserving his own works, his essays and prose poetry had genuine value. [Cernat, p.40] Art historian Petru Comarnescu indicated his belief that the controversial patron had "critical intuitions" that were superior to those of collectors Zambaccian and Ioan Kalinderu. [Cernat, p.45]

Zambaccian defined his fellow collector as "a man created from a mold in which the evil and the good genius were present in equal measure. [...] Cynical and suave, generous on one side, a con artist on the other, Al. Bogdan-Piteşti relished the abjection that he served with cynicism". The journalist Pamfil Şeicaru would refer to him as "a scoundrel", while, on one occasion, Macedonski argued that Bogdan-Piteşti was "a wonderful prose writer and an admirable poet". Benjamin Fondane, the younger modernist poet, praised Bogdan-Piteşti for his taste and patronage, while reflecting that: "He was made of the greatest of joys, in the most purulent of bodies. How many generations of ancient boyars had come to pass, like unworthy dung, for this singular earth to be generated?" [Cernat, p.44] Writer and critic Eugen Lovinescu, himself a modernist, was bitterly opposed to the views of Bogdan-Piteşti and other intellectuals who sided with Germany: in 1922, he published the article "Revizuiri morale" ("Moral Revisions"), in which he attacked both the art collector and his associates Arghezi and N. D. Cocea. [Cernat, p.39] Criticism of the collector's activities was also voiced by Comarnescu and his colleague Ionel Jianu, who, while underlining Bogdan-Piteşti's qualities, spoke of his "reprovable faults" and "con artist coups", noting that his nature was that of "an exhibitionist determined to trick and scandalize", or an "enfant terrible". [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.34-35]

Comparisons have been made between the Romanian collector and other controversial historical figures: Fondane drew a parallel between him and Alcibiades, [Cernat, p.44] to which Zambaccian added that other commentators likened Bogdan-Piteşti to the Renaissance writer and notorious blackmailer Pietro Aretino (while he stressed that, unlike Aretino, Bogdan-Piteşti never profited from his artist friends). Comarnescu proposed that both Bogdan-Piteşti and the equally controversial Arghezi were better understood through the logic of Hinduism ("the ancient Indian ethics"), where, he argued, "good and evil are not opposed, but collocated, combined, in a state of confusion". [Cernat, p.44] Discussing Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti's preference for orality, his political connections and his mostly informal influence, Cernat concluded that, "the necessary changes having been made", they allowed one to compare the art collector with Nae Ionescu, a philosopher and far right activist whose career spanned the interwar period, [Cernat, p.40-41] and whose debut was also associated with Symbolism. [Cernat, p.26-28]


Several anecdotes concerning Bogdan-Piteşti's morals and extravagant lifestyle were put into circulation from as early as his lifetime. In 1912, Macedonski published a short story titled "Curcanul de Crăciun sau cincizeci de curcani într-unul" ("The Christmas Turkey or Fifty Turkeys in One"), which recounted how, prompted by his mentor's request to have a turkey sent to him for the holidays, Bogdan-Piteşti had presented him with a bird stuffed with 50 gold lei. [Tudor Vianu, p.370] Vianu commented that such "grand feudal attitudes" made Bogdan-Piteşti an "indisputably picturesque" person. [Tudor Vianu, p.370] The account was partly confirmed by Constantin Beldie, who also noted that, during those years, Alexandru Macedonski was "starving" and had to provide for "a house full of children". [Cernat, p.45] Zambaccian rendered a story told by the actor Ion Iancovescu, according to which, during World War I, Macedonski was asked by his former protegé to provide him with a copy of "Bronzes"; Macedonski demanded 1 million lei in return, and Bogdan-Piteşti bluntly offered him 5 lei—reluctant but prompt, Macedonski accepted the sum, allegedly commenting that "he is capable of changing his mind, that con artist!"

The relationship between Mateiu Caragiale and his one-time patron has attracted the interest of critics. It degenerated during the late 1910s, to the point where Caragiale, whose diary spoke of Bogdan-Piteşti's homosexuality in dismissive terms (calling him "a blusterer of the anti-natural vice"), laid out a plan to rob the house of his newly found enemy. [ro icon Ion Vianu, [ "O plimbare pe Strada Matei Caragiale"] , in "Revista 22", Nr. 840, April 2006; retrieved September 29, 2007] Caragiale's diary also featured an account of Domnica Bogdan, questioning her morality. [Cernat, p.44]

Bogdan-Piteşti's relationships with his other protegés were not always cordial. According to an anecdote of the time, he advanced Luchian a large sum of money, which the painter used for a trip to Sinaia. [Cioculescu, p.114] In return, Luchian allegedly promised Bogdan-Piteşti to invite him over for a stay, but failed to send him his new address. The patron was upset by this disloyal gesture, and send a telegram to reach him. Instead of an address, it read: "To the ugliest tourist in Sinaia" [Cioculescu, p.114] (a pun on Luchian's proverbial bad looks). [Cioculescu, p.115] Tensions between them reportedly originated when "Ileana", contrary to Luchian's wishes, commented favorably on the academic art of C. I. Stăncescu (1900). [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.45] The two men probably resumed their frendship as early as 1901. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.46] By the mid 1910s, Luchian was incapacitated by multiple sclerosis, and Bogdan-Piteşti is said to have been one of the last persons to visit him before his death in June 1916. On the occasion, the patron asked his protegé how he was feeling, addressing him with the colloquial moniker "Babac" ("Old man"); Luchian is reported to have answered, "I'm going away" (words which are seen as a premonition of his death). [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.90]

Alexandru Rosetti, citing one of his conversations with Tudor Arghezi as a source, provided an anecdote involving one of Bogdan-Piteşti's temporary detainments in Văcăreşti prison on grounds of blackmail, which, he indicated, coincided with Arghezi's imprisonment on different charge. In this account, a Gendarme attempted to pushed the art patron into the same group as Arghezi, as the latter was making his way to court. Protesting this move, Bogdan-Piteşti reportedly stated: "Pardon, eu sunt escroc!" ("Pardon me, [but] I'm a con artist!"). Krikor Zambaccian claimed that, during his first legal confrontation with Take Ionescu, his fellow art collector had commented of the latter's deposition: "He sure is talented, that con artist!" The pro-Entente Octavian Goga was especially critical of Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti's stance during the early stages of the World War, and, in his record of 1916 events, including the Ionescu trial, described him as a "bandit" and alleged that his defense was paid for "with German money".

Fictional character

After the World War, according to Beldie, the actor Ion Iancovescu performed an imaginary dialog between Bogdan-Piteşti and an unnamed German official who was involved in administrating occupied Romania. In this account, the latter character accused the art collector of having used German funds to create "a petty evening gazette", which served to employ his "henchmen". [Cernat, p.45] To this charge, the fictional Bogdan-Piteşti replied: "I have consumed your money, this much is true, but I did not pull one on you! For how is it that you could imagine a traitor of one's country such as myself not being doubled by a con artist?" [Cernat, p.45] Beldie intervened in his rendition of Iancovescu's performance to add his suspicion that, instead of using money to revitalize the Central Powers' cause, Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti had directed them to increasing the size of his own art collection. [Cernat, p.45]

Despite their relationship having declined, Bogdan-Piteşti's style and his mundane interests are occasionally seen as sources of inspiration for Caragiale's only novel, "Craii de Curtea-Veche" (completed in 1928). He and his wife were both characters in Ion Vinea's novels "Venin de mai" ("May Venom") and "Lunatecii" ("The Lunatics")—Alexandru is assigned the name Adam Gună, while Mica is portrayed as Iada Gună. [Cernat, p.41, 43] The novels, both of which also depict the Bogdan family's cultural circle, allude to the patron's influence in making young people reject conventionalism and accept vice as a guiding principle in art and life. They also repeat the claim that Domnica was originally a prostitute, and allege that she continued to live the life of a libertine throughout her marriage. In addition, Ion Călugăru probably used Alexandru Bogdan-Piteşti as the inspiration for Alexandru Lăpuşneanu, the boyar character in his novel "Don Juan cocoşatul" ("Don Juan the Hunchback").George Călinescu, "Istoria literaturii române de la origini până în prezent", Editura Minerva, Bucharest, 1986, p.796] [Cernat, p.41] Literary historian George Călinescu described the protagonist as defined by: "The dignity in gossip, the boyar carriage, the refinement that the apparent vulgarity cannot bring to ruin, the blasé and cynical lechery [...] ." In one episode in the book, Lăpuşneanu simulates agony and receives a Catholic confession that he insists must be read in Latin instead of French. His wife, known as "Fetiţa" ("The Little Girl"), is estranged from him and, herself an eccentric figure, is shown making an appearance on a battlefield while wearing only a swimsuit.

Arghezi, who dedicated Bogdan-Piteşti some of his first poetry writings, [Cernat, p.41] also made him the hero of a small eponymous poem:

Collection and estate

By the 1910s, Bogdan-Piteşti's art interests gave birth to a collection of as few as 967 or as many as 1,500 individual works, most of them hosted by his estate in Coloneşti. They comprised objects created by prominent Romanian visual artists, including, alongside his early associates, Nina Arbore, Constantin Brancusi, Oscar Han, Aurel Jiquidi, Maria Ciurdea Steurer, Constantin Medrea, Ary Murnu, Dimitrie Paciurea, Nicolae Petrescu Găina, Alexandru Satmari, Francisc Şirato, Cecilia Cuţescu-Storck, Jean Alexandru Steriadi, Friedrich Storck, Ion Theodorescu-Sion, and Nicolae Tonitza. Of the total, around 900 works were of Romanian provenance. Among the foreign artists whose work was featured in the collection were Georges Rochegrosse and Frank Brangwyn. The section dedicated to newer works of art was designed and opened as the first the modern art museum in Romania.

The collection included many samples of Luchian's art. Three of his famous paintings featured there were "Lăutul" ("Washing the Hair")—which Bogdan-Piteşti is said to have likened to the luminous oil paintings of Paolo Veronese, "Safta Florăreasa" ("Safta the Flower Girl")—originally part of the Luchian family collection, [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.110] and a 1907 oil portrait of Luchian's cousin, "Alecu Literatu" ("Alecu the Literary Man"). [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.112] They were accompanied by the 1906 pastel "Durerea" ("The Pain"), which had been reproduced in a 1914 issue of "Seara", [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.112] and by the paintings "De Nămezi" ("Lunchtime") [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.112] and "Lica, fetiţa cu portocala" ("Lica, the Girl with the Orange"). [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.115] Among the works in the series were two portraits of Bogdan-Piteşti: an ink drawing which the politician reproduced on his 1899 political manifestos, and a since-lost oil painting. [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.28, 110]

Domnica Bogdan sat as a model for various artists, and was notably depicted in works by Camil Ressu, Pallady and the Bulgarian-born painter Pascin. [Cernat, p.44] In 1920, Bogdan-Piteşti commissioned Paciurea to complete a portrait bust of Domnica. The same year, Dimitrescu painted her an oil-on-cardboard portrait in dominant shades of brown (with touches of red and gray). [Claudiu Paradaiser, "Ştefan Dimitrescu, monografie", Editura Meridiane, Bucharest, 1978, p.15, 37, 42. OCLC|4807364] Bogdan-Piteşti's literary works were illustrated with drawings by George Demetrescu Mirea, Ion Georgescu and Alexandru Szathmary. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.35]

The Coloneşti manor and its art collection fell victim to neglect. According to Vianu, the collection was "blown over by the wind of devastation" as early as the interwar period. [Tudor Vianu, p.370] In 1924, in defiance of his last request, it was subject to a public auction, [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.88; Lassaigne & Enescu, p.110] a measure which drew protests from literary figures such as Cezar Petrescu, [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.88] Perpessicius and Victor Eftimiu. As a result of the auction, many works passed into the collections of Zambaccian, Alexandru G. Florescu, Iosif Dona and several others. Zambaccian himself attributed the incident to the National Liberal government's unwillingness to accept a donation from "a compromised person". He and several commentators place responsibility for the sales on Finance Minister Alexandru Lepedatu, who is believed to have either hesitated in assessing the collection or to have plotted with businessmen who wanted it sold cheaply. [Jianu & Comarnescu, p.88] Zambaccian was to be the eventual owner of "Lăutul". It became a feature of the Zambaccian Museum, and appears in one of his portraits (painted by Pallady). [Lassaigne & Enescu, p.115]

Under the communist regime, the Vlaici building was transformed into a branch for the state-owned producer of agricultural machinery, and, in 2004, belonged to its successor, Agromec (although largely unused). Beldie recounted that, under Communism, Domnica Bogdan worked as a nurse for the hygiene department at the Central Hospital in Bucharest. [Cernat, p.43]



* Paul Cernat, "Avangarda românească şi complexul periferiei: primul val", Cartea Românească, Bucharest, 2007. ISBN 978-973-23-1911-6
* Şerban Cioculescu, "Caragialiana", Editura Eminescu, Bucharest, 1974. OCLC|6890267
* Ionel Jianu, Petru Comarnescu, "Ştefan Luchian", Editura de stat pentru literatură şi artă, 1956. OCLC|229894980
* Jacques Lassaigne, Theodor Enescu, "Ştefan Luchian", Editura Meridiane, Bucharest, 1972. OCLC|8359286
* Tudor Vianu, "Scriitori români", Vol. II, Editura Minerva, Bucharest, 1970. OCLC|7431692

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