In 1837, the Wallachian ruling Prince Alexandru Ghica moves his official residence to the large mansion built between 1812 and 1820 by boyar Dinicu Golescu on the site of the present-day south wing of the Palace. Following the Union of the Romanian Principalities of Moldavia and Walachia in 1859, ruling Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza uses the house as a ceremonial palace and residence. In 1866, German Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (since 1881 King Carol I of Romania), brought in to rule the Romanian Principalities, makes the palace his official residence. Until 1881, the building sustains only minor alterations (mostly additions) designed to meet growing administrative needs.
Between 1882-1906, King Carol I remodels and enlarges the palace. Successively he hires French architect Paul Gottereau and German architect Karl Liman (also involved in the Peleş Castle project). By 1906 the palace becomes the winter residence of the Royal Court.
In December 1926, a fire destroys the central part of the palace and the Throne Hall. King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie (granddaughter of Queen Victoria and of Tsar Alexander II of Russia) undertake to reconstruct the affected area retaining the original size and decoration of the rooms. Architects N.N. Nenciulescu and Karl Liman are commissioned to carry out the project. The government recommends that at least one floor be added above the Throne Hall. Between 1930-1937, King Carol II embarks on rebuilding and extending the palace; architect Karl Lorentz is hired to draw the plans. The restoration of the central part is completed. The old city mansion erected by Dinicu Golescu is demolished to provide room for a new south wing (known as the Kretzulescu wing, after the church in whose proximity it is built). Architect N.N. Nenciulescu is once again in charge of the works. Closely following the king’s instructions, he designs the new wing of the palace, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day and which includes several rooms devoted to the display of the royal collection (mostly of the Picture Gallery of King Carol I). Between 1938-1940, the Royal Palace is further enlarged by the addition of a north wing extending along Ştirbei Vodă Street, from which it takes its name.
During the massive air raid in April 1944, about 80 heavy bombs hit the palace; the Ştirbei wing is partly destroyed, yet the building retains the shape and the classicist style of the reconstruction works done during the reign of Carol II. Following the abdication of King Michael I in 1947 and the communist takeover, the royal palace is nationalized in June 1948. It is to be jointly used by two institutions - the Council of Ministers and a National Museum of Art whose project dates several years back.
On 20 May 1950, the National Gallery, displaying works by famous Romanian artists, is officially inaugurated. Over the following four years the Foreign Art Gallery, exhibiting both European and Oriental art, and the Department of Romanian Medieval Art are established. In 1961 the museum is relocated from the south to the north wing, completely rebuilt by that time. It will remain open for visitors until 1989.
During the events in December 1989, which put an end to Ceauşescu’s dictatorship and to the communist regime in Romania, the palace is caught in the crossfire; both the building and the collection suffer great losses, with over 1,000 works of art badly damaged, and some completely destroyed.
In 1990 the museum is granted the use of the entire royal palace. Between 1990-2000, the permanent display of the museum is closed to the public, as the building undergoes extensive restoration, including the overall refurbishment of the exhibition areas in compliance with the latest conservation standards. In 2000, The Gallery of European Art is the first to reopen for visitors. The Gallery of Romanian Modern Art and the Gallery of Romanian Medieval Art follow suit in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
The kitsch statue of King Carol I
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