The Sad Story of a Work of Art


Constantin Brancusi was a Romanian sculptor who trained initially as a carpenter and stonemason. He settled in Paris in 1904 where his early influences included African as well as oriental art. Although Rodin was another early influence, Brancusi decided he wished to make much simpler work and began an evolutionary search for pure form. While never entirely rejecting the natural world, Brancusi undoubtedly succeeds in conveying a sense of gravity by reducing his work to a few basic elements. Paradoxically, this process also tends to highlight the complexity of thought that has gone into its making. Source.

One of his early works, The Wisdom of the Earth (Cumintenia pamantului, 1907) is a reflection of Brancusi's philosophy, that has its roots in a tradition that is anterior to Christianity. The sculpture shows a woman that is very concentrated on herself, her figure releasing a mystery that transfigures her into an universal portrait. The statue expresses author's feeling of attachment toward the mother Earth but the source of inspiration of his work is actually unknown.

This statue, valuing now over 15 million dollars, was confiscated by the communist regime from its owner, the architect Gheorghe Romascu, who bought it from Brancusi in 1910. The heirs of Romascu were fighting over through the legal system with the Romanian government for over 25 years.  Meanwhile the statue was in custody of the National Museum of Art.

The daughter of Gheorghe Romascu, Paula Ionescu, explained that the statue was in the possession of her father during 47 years. In the year 1957 the police took the statue "for an exhibition". It was never returned. Later the state officials have invented the story that the statue was bought from Mr. Romascu by the state but it could never present the smallest evidence to the justice.

The sheet (issued 1982, Scott no. 3070, Michel Block 188) shows Brâncuşi in his workshop in Paris. Vintage photograph that served as a model for the designer of the package

Even if Paula Ionescu has documents that prove that she is one of the two legal owners of the work, she got in over the years only unfavorable sentences from the Romanian legal system. Finally, in the year 2016 the Romanian state returned the statue to its legal owners.This doesn't mean that the statue fully belongs to the successors. Being declares a "national treasure", it cannot be exported permanently and sold abroad, where it has a higher market value. The state offered to the family Euro 11 million, from which $ 5 millions will be paid by the state itself and 6 millions will be collected through a public subscription.
Nov. 14., 2017. Only about 1 million was collected by subscription. The statue will be re-evaluated and then the state will decide if it will exercise its preemption right. Update 2020. This didn't happen so far.

At a certain moment the statue was mounted on a pedestal, under the supervisory of the state specialists. When this was done, the legs of the statue were broken, said Paula Ionescu. Before this accident the statue was evaluated at $ 30 millions but the accident reduced its value to a half.

This page shows different views of the statue, in original and then in its modified form. There is also the Romanian stamp "Cumintenia Pamântului", issued in 1967 (Scott no. 1917, Michel no. 2586), from a set that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the artist's death. It is obvious that the designer E. Palade "beautified" the face of the statue and removed its right ear. Cuminţenia's left hand, which originally rested gently on her right breast, but leaving it visible, acquires a strange curvature and length on the stamp, with the obvious purpose of covering the chest too bare for the tastes of censorship. A vine leaf would probably have been more appropriate ... Did all this mockery still matter, since the communist state, which owned the post office, did not have the right to reproduce this work of art, which did not belong to it?

Created: 05/14/06 Revised: 06/11/2020
Copyright 2006 - 2020 by Victor Manta, Switzerland. 
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