The Banffy Palace

The Bánffy Palace in Cluj – the building which houses the Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca – is the most important baroque edifice in the city and is one of reference for 18th century Romanian architecture, the architectural stone decoration being completed with a series of sculptures of great value, by Anton Schuchbauer. The building is a first category (A) building, according to the list of architectural and artistic heritage buildings of Romania.

The edifice was built between 1774 and 1785 by the German architect Johann Eberhard Blaumann, as private residence for count Bánffy György (later governor of Transylvania). Later, the building was given other functions: protocol residence, National Casino, apartment building with commercial spaces, industrial societies’ centres. In 1925 a cinema was built in the inner yard.

In 1956, the municipality of Cluj transferred the right of property to the Museum of Art, founded in 1951. Between 1960 and 1974 the palace underwent to a significant restoration process. The Museum moved in to the partially restored palace in 1962 and was opened to the public in 1965.

At the present time, the palace is public property of Cluj County and is under the administration of the Art Museum of Cluj-Napoca.

The Bánffy Palace is made up of four wings arranged around a rectangular interior yard. From the street, the access on the main side (from Union Square) is granted through a triple gallery, monumental, with access to the main rooms of the palace, in the west wing. This staircase with three ramps, each 2 metres wide, is the largest one of its kind in Transylvania.

The storied palace’s design follows the pattern of that time’s western European urban palaces: square design with an interior yard closed off by the four wings, attic type roof, the palace facades facing the outside and the interior cursives on multiple levels open to the interior yard, with arcades on the ground floor and colonnades on the first floor.

The central motif of the main facades attic is the Bánffy family crest, upheld by winged and crowned griffons. Around the crest, alternating with two urns each, there are statues of antique divinities by sculptor Anton Schuchbauer (Mars, Pallas Athena, Diana, Apollo, Perseus and Hercules); the statues’ arrangement respects the principle of symmetry, which is characteristic of the whole building.

The monumental proportions and the surfaces of the facades with the jutty of the main body of the building having on the first floor the balcony with the semi-circular rout, the statues of the divinities from the Antiquity, the elegant style of the woodwork and of the interior decorative elements give the palace a specific guise, which enrols in the European artistic trends of the epoch.

The original interior decorations have been kept in best condition on the first floor of the west wing. From bibliographic accounts we know that this is where the most prestigious part of the residence was: two rows of halls, with the five rooms oriented towards the square – the most representative spaces of the palace, having a rich decorations: wooden wainscoting and shutters painted white, with decorations carved in relief and gilded, very elegant.