The Story of a Shot Painting on Stamps

Elder Nicolae, the Fiddler” (1906) is one of the best known paintings of Romanian painter Ștefan Luchian (1868-1916). Although Luchian excelled in the area of landscape and still life painting, there are a couple of well-known portraits signed by him, among which Gypsy flower sellers, laundresses, and children are captured in Impressionist style. A former student of the renowned Nicolae Grigorescu, and an avid admirer of Rembrandt and Correggio (whose works he copied during his 2-semester stay at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts), Luchian’s paintings are immediately recognized by Romanians due to his very personal touch. It is in this position that we find “Elder Nicolae, the Fiddler” – the portrait of a weary, anguished older man, caught in a moment that has little to do with his trade. Nicolae is resting, probably after vivacious carousing, where he conducted the entertainment of the merry-makers.

The painting was first featured on a stamp in the year 1968, in a set devoted to the treasures from the art galleries of Bucharest and Sibiu. The set comprises 6 stamps, featuring Romanian, Italian and Flemish paintings.

The second time, it was featured on a stamp in the year 1990, in an atypical stamp series, entitled “Shot Paintings“. Again, the set includes 6 stamps, featuring different Romanian, Italian and Flemish paintings. The only repeated stamp is “Elder Nicolae, the Fiddler“.

While the painting is the same, the focus of the two paintings changes. The first one, from 1968, features the painting as it was known to be on display at the time. The second one, is pierced by gunshots – hence the name of the series, “Shot Paintings“. During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, as many as 200 paintings pertaining to national and international art patrimony were shot with machine guns, in an act of gratuitous violence, that destroyed irremediably the respective works of art.

Ms. Dorana Coșoveanu, a known art critic, who was at the time of the events curating the exhibitions, spent 4 days and 4 nights trying to defend the remaining works of art. Following the events, she tried to pursue prosecution – however, she was intimidated and fired from her position in the National Museum of Art. Even today, 30 years after the events, there is no prosecution of the perpetrators and there is no explanation of this act of vandalism.

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