Interior of the Ambassadors Accreditation Hall, 1923–1929, at the Riga Castle by Artist Ansis Cīrulis (1883–1942)
The interior of the Ambassadors Accreditation Hall at the Riga Castle designed by Ansis Cīrulis is the most socially and artistically significant interior ensemble with which the new Latvian state, established in 1918, proclaimed its identity. The interior, which was done in step with the stylization of national motifs in Art Deco, is an early example of this trend, not only in Latvia but in all of Europe. It is all the more valuable for the fact that it has been preserved and is used to this day.
The Riga Castle (built in the 14th century) was chosen as the official residence of the President, a largely representational post in Latvia. In 1923, the first Latvian President Jānis Čakste (1859–1927) announced a tender for the Hall, which was to introduce Latvian culture to foreign ambassadors seeking accreditation. The panel of judges, which included well-known artists and architects, awarded the commission to Cīrulis, author of the design proposal titled “Rebirth” (Atdzimšana). The interior was completed in 1929.
For Cīrulis this was the first large interior ensemble he worked on. He designed the entire space: the wall and ceiling paintings, lamps, furniture and textiles – curtains, rugs and furniture covers. In addition, he participated in the realization of the design, doing some of the painting himself. The furniture possesses rural heft, but it is adorned with fine Latvian ethnographic ornaments, both carved and inlaid, and stylized in the Art Deco manner. The furniture also includes Cīrulis’ variation on stulpiņš, the Latvian ethnographic seat.
Cīrulis received the Culture Foundation Award (1925, 1929); the Grand Prix at the World Fair in Brussels (1935) for madarojumi, a special printing technique he had invented, and a gold medal for stained glass design at the World Art and Technology Fair in Paris (1937).
Cīrulis’ education, albeit fragmentary, was extensive. To a great degree he was self-taught, studying both Latvian ornaments and gaining knowledge and perfecting his skills at studios and schools in Rīga, St. Petersburg and Paris. He was a very versatile and prolific artist, who recognized and was in step with contemporary trends and was alive to both social and political demands for a combination of modern expression, which, at the same time, was recognizably Latvian. At the beginning of the 20th century, production from Cīrulis’ ceramic studio, done in the spirit of national romanticism, were very popular. Cīrulis designed the elements identifying the individual Latvian Riflemen’s battalions and was the author of the first postage stamp of the Republic of Latvia. He also created the national heraldry – the coats of arms of Latvian cities. After the coup of president Kārlis Ulmanis in 1934, Cīrulis became the official ambassador of the Latvian expression of the regime. Cīrulis’ furniture and interior designs were copied and popularized in the media; well-to-do individuals and state offices alike commissioned furniture sets.
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