Sunday, July 20, 2014

Treasury of Gyöngyös parish church opens to public

The Treasury of the medieval parish church of Gyöngyös, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, reopened for visitor at the beginning of July. The Treasury - one of the richest in Hungary, after the treasuries at Esztergom and Győr cathedrals - has important medieval holdings as well. Most important in this respect are the seven late medieval chalices made around 1500, probably in a workshop in Upper Hungary, all decorated with a special filigree ornament.

The recent history of the treasury is quite interesting: the treasures were hidden in 1944, and were only recovered in 1967. The objects were later put on display, but a number of them got stolen in 2012. These five Baroque objects were soon recovered by the police, but unfortunately, in a dismembered state. However, as of now, all of the objects are on view in the newly created exhibition room in the parish building, the so-called Szent Korona House. In addition to the chalices, the Treasury also includes a number of other medieval objects, as well as a large number of Baroque liturgical objects, including reliquiaries, monstrances and church vestments. A number of paintings, sculptures and a significant library round out the collection. Visitors can also see two specialised conservation workshops (for goldsmith works and for textiles). More information can be found on the new website of the parish (which is still being developed). You can also read more about the recent history of the treasures in this article (in Hungarian).










Source of images: here and here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

News from Hungarian Museums

Medieval and Renaissance tapestries on view at Esztergom


Calvary
Tournai, late 15th century
Esztergom, Christian Museum 

An exhibition of tapestries has been on view at the Christian Museum in Esztergom since May.  The Museum holds a significant collection of tapestries, and together with the co-organizer - the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest - they have put on display a good selection of early tapestries.The present exhibition entitled ‘Historical and Contemporary Tapestries in Hungary’ is presents the past and present of European woven tapestry, illuminating the connections also. From the perspective of a medievalists, the first section of the exhibition is the most interesting, which is titled ‘Flemish Tapestries with Biblical and Mythological Themes from the Museum of Applied Arts and the Christian Museum’. Here one of the genre’s most significant traditions – the Flemish – is represented by Oudenaarde and Tournai tapestries kept at the Christian Museum and by the 18th-century Brussels tapestry ‘Mercury Hands Over the Infant Bacchus to the Nymphs’, a work preserved at the Museum of Applied Arts. It is through this work that the rest of the exhibition - showing contemporary works - is connected to historic tapestries, via the "Web of Europe" project. The exhibition can be visited until the end of August, and is accompanied by a catalogue.


Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest purchases an early Renaissance carving



The blog of Hungarian museum journal MúzeumCafé reported that the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest had purchased an important French early Renaissance carving at an auction last week (June 5). The stone relief was once part of the famed collection of Rudolf Bedő, and was auctioned at Kieselbach Gallery and Auction House. Another medieval sculpture from the collection - a Burgundian Madonna - was also offered for sale. This news comes just a few months after the long overdue re-opening of the permanent exhibition of the Old Sculpture Collection of the museum (see my report from December) - the piece is clearly a welcome addition to this important collection.







I will list a few smaller exhibitions here as well - with link to Hungarian-language reports

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Exhibitions of Holy Roman Emperors

The big exhibition organized to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance opened last weekend at Constance. One of the central figures of the exhibition is Emperor Sigismund, who was also the King of Hungary. However, Germany celebrates a number of other Holy Roman Emperors this year with major exhibitions - here is an overview.


Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) - First on the list is the first emperor of the Middle Ages, Charlemagne. He died in 814, so 1200 years ago. To commemorate this event, three major exhibitions will take place in Aachen in 2014, dedicated to the culture and courtly life of Charlemagne. The trio of exhibitions will be opened on 19th June 2014 by their official patron, the Federal President. They will run from 20th June to 21st September 2014 in three prestigious venues – the Coronation Hall in Aachen’s Town Hall, the Centre Charlemagne on the Katschhof, and the Cathedral Treasury – and will present the impact, art and culture of Charlemagne. You can find more information on the three exhibitions and the three venues, as well as on the Route Charlemagne Aachen on the exhibition website. You can also have a look at this press release announcing the exhibitions (pdf).




The second emperor to be commemorated is Louis IV, called the Bavarian (Ludwig der Bayer), who ruled from 1314 until 1347. 'Ludwig the Bavarian. We are emperor!’ will be the title of the upcoming Bavarian Regional Exhibition which will tell the fascinating story of the first member of the House of Wittelsbach to ascend the imperial throne in Regensburg. The occasion is the 700th jubilee of Ludwig’s coronation as King of the Romans in 1314 (he was crowned Emperor in 1328). For the first time a large exhibition will focus on this important ruler of the late Middle Ages. The exhibition grants the visitor an insight into the history of the Bavarian duke, German king and Holy Roman Emperor and the time between 1300 and 1350, during which Bavaria became the center of Europe. The exhibition will be at the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte in Regensburg, and will be on view from May 19th until November 2, 2014. The churches and smaller museums of the town will also serve as exhibition venues.



Finally, I would like to return to the exhibition in Constance (Konstanz),  which is on view from April 27 until September 21, 2014. 2014 marks the 600th anniversary of the beginning of the Council of Constance. The Council was a major event in church politics which made Constance the center of European politics and a meeting place of European cultures in the years 1414-1418. Baden-Württemberg commemorates the anniversary of the world event of the late Middle Ages with a Great State Exhibition. The exhibition was organized by the Badische Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe. The main figure of the Council was Emperor Sigimund, who ruled as King of Hungary from 1387, and was elected King of the Romans in 1411. He ruled until 1437, and was crowned Emperor only in 1433. The exhibition is on view in the actual building in which events took place in Constance. I will report on the exhibition and the accompanying publications in more detail soon (and you can also read my preliminary report). A website has been set up for the series of events during the next four years, and also for the exhibition itself.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

800 Years of Ják Abbey

Fresco of St. George at Ják, c. 1256 
This weekend - the weekend after Saint George's Day - mark the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Benedictine monastery of Ják. It is known that the monastery was established by Márton "the Great" comes from the Ják kindred some time before 1223 (when its abbot was first mentioned). Circumstantial evidence puts the date of this foundation to the year 1214. The abbey church was dedicated to St. George, who was a favoured saint in Hungary during the late Árpádian period, and one particularly liked by the Ják kindred. The abbey church, built in late Romanesque style, was finally dedicated in 1256. Construction thus lasted for a few decades, and was not without interruption. The church is one of the most monumental examples of early thirteenth century monasteries erected by noble families in Hungary - other examples include Lébény or Türje. It was built as a three-aisled basilica, with a massive western part with two towers and a gallery between them. Construction started on the northern side, then continued on the southern side in the second phase. After a change of plan it was decided to vault the entire church, and it was in this phase that the western area was also built. This phase of the work - during the 1230s - is characterised by strong connections with the building workshop of Bamberg cathedral. In the end, the church was not fully finished as planned - work was interrupted either by the Mongol invasion (1241-42), or by the death of Márton comes in 1250. The central and southern aisle of the nave was not vaulted, only covered with a flat wooden ceiling - but the church was considered finished by the 1256 consecration. The western portal of the church, as well as its additional carved decoration, and also its painted decoration make the church one of the most important 13th century monuments from Hungary. The rotunda standing next to the abbey church was also built in the 13th century, around 1260.
Ják abbey church. From Wikimedia Commons

The church was restored several times, most extensively between 1896-1906. The massive stone spires of the towers, and the vault of the central aisle were added at this time. Literature on the church is extensive, especially in Hungarian and German.  You can find some photos on this website, including images taken before the late 19th century restoration.

More recently, the exterior of the church was cleaned. With the current festivities celebrating eight centuries of the Abbey, the goal of the organizers is to raise money for the restoration of the frescoes in the church, especially the fresco of St. George painted on the wall of the main apse. You can read my study on these frescoes, from a 2001 catalogue dedicated to Benedictines in medieval Hungary (the study is in Hungarian).

The western portal before 1896

Other online resources, mainly in Hungarian:
Photos in Wikimedia Commons and on the website of Pázmány Péter University.
Study and photos on the templom.hu website, data on the műemlékem.hu website.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Corvinian manuscripts on view in Budapest

The Polybios-Corvina at the exhibition. Photo: National Széchényi Library 
Four precious manuscripts from the famed library of King Matthias Corvinus, the Bibliotheca Corviniana are on view for a short time at the National Széchényi Library in Budapest. The four manuscripts are the ones which were returned to Hungary by Sultan Abdülaziz in 1869, so the exhibition is titled: The Sultan's Gift. Four Corvinian Manuscripts from the Serai.

The exhibition takes us back not only to the period when King Matthias (1458-1490) established the first major Humanistic library of Europe outside Italy, but also to the 19th century, when Hungarian aristocrats and scholars carried out a long-term struggle to reclaim at least a few volumes from the library of Matthias Corvinus. Works in the library numbered 2500 at the death of the king, while several manuscripts were still unfinished for him in Florence (these entered the library of the Medicis). Soon after his death, this library began to lose volumes - first western Humanists started taking volumes, as gifts from King Wladislas II (who was less interested in books). Then during the period when Hungary started battling the Ottoman Empire, and was beset by internal strife (between the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and the capture of Buda in 1541), this process accelerated. A lot of the volumes were then taken to Istanbul when the castle of Buda fell to the Turks. As a result of this long process, by the early 19th century, not a single Corvinian manuscript was known within Hungary. The first manuscript to return to Hungary (more specifically, to Transylvania), was a Tacitus volume acquired by Sámuel Teleki for his library at Marosvásárhely in 1805 (the manuscript today is at the Beinecke Library of Yale University). Several attempts after this were unsuccesful to acquire a Corvina manuscript for the nation's capital, Buda. Although the Dialogues of Ludovicus Carbo, a rather modest early Corvinian manuscript, was donated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1840, this failed to create significant interest (but now it is available in a digital facsimile edition, with commentary). Finally, attention was focused to Istanbul, in hopes that some of the manuscripts can be identified there. In 1862, Ferenc Kubinyi, Arnold Ipolyi and Imre Henszlmann finally identifed some manuscripts in Istanbul, at the library of the imperial palace. Then in 1869, on occasion of the opening of the Suez canal, the sultan gave four volumes to Emperor and King Franz Joseph I. The ruler then duly gave the manuscripts the National Museum (from which they entered the National Library along with other manuscript material). The in 1877, Sultan Abdul Hamid II decided to donate a further 35 manuscripts to Budapest, which entered the University Library (it soon turned out that only about 13 of these manuscripts originate from the library of King Matthias - for more information, read the study of Csaba Csapodi on the history of the library).

The title page of the Trapezuntius-Corvina. National Széchényi Library 


The present exhibition features the four manuscripts returned to Hungary in 1869. The manuscripts are the following (with link to digital facsimiles):

Cod. Lat. 234: The Historiae of Plolybius, a Florentine codex dating between 1450-1470
Cod. Lat. 241: Plautus: Comediae, a Florentine codex from before 1459
Cod. Lat. 121: A Neapolitan manuscript of Augustinus' De civitate Dei
Cod. Lat. 281: The Rhetorica of Trapezuntius, a Latin translation of the work in a manuscript made in Buda in the 1480s.

The binding of the Augustinus-Corvina, photo taken during
 installation. Source: National Library Facebook-page
The exhibition was organized in connection with the Budapest Book Festival, the guest of honor of which is Turkey. Becauses of this, a few Turkish manuscripts are also on view, as well as the early 16th century genealogical roll of Turkish emperors (Genealogia Turcorum imperatorum) by Felix Petancius. The books are only on view until May 6th. The curator of the exhibition is Edina Zsupán - she is also featured in a well-documented article about the installation process (in Hungarian).

To receive more information on the Corvinian manuscripts, please take a look at these pages of my website and blog: New research on the Corvinian Library (with links to full-text publications), and my page on digitized Hungarian manuscripts, with direct links to over 100 Corvinian manuscripts. You can also get a lot of more photos on the Facebook page of the library.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Medieval Wall Paintings uncovered at Kövi/Kameňany

Saint Anne with the Virgin at Kövi
The village of Kövi (Kameňany, SK) lies in the vicinity of Rimaszombat (Rimavská Sobota) and Rozsnyó (Rožňava), just north of the modern border between Hungary and Slovakia. In the middle ages, the settlement had an important castle, the ruins of which can still be seen above the settlement of Gömörrákos (Rákoš). The castle was built by members of the Ákos clan in the late 13th century, and it was later owned by descendents of the family, the Bebek and Csetneki families. In 1367, it was described as a ruin, but was rebuilt by about 1400, when the Bebek family alone obtained possession of it.

The parish church of Kövi dates also from the late 13th or only 14th century, and it has been known for some time that its walls preserve important medieval wall paintings. Parts of them were uncovered in 1977, but this work stopped soon afterwards. During the last few years, starting from 2011, the uncovery of these frescoes began again, and research so far has already yielded very important results. The frescoes have been uncovered on the walls of the semi-circular apse of the church, particularly on the northern wall. Here a series of the apostles can be seen, while the insede wall of the triumphal arch is decorated with female martyrs. Higher on the arch, the Wise and Foolish Virgins can be seen. More recently, restorer Peter Koreň has uncovered additional frescoes on the north wall of the nave. Here an impressive composition the Virgin and Child with St. Anne (Mettercia) has been found, which shows the extended family of the Virgin. More frescoes are to be found in the attic of the church, above the Baroque vault built into the nave. Here details of a Last Judgement scene can be seen. Photos of the frescoes can be seen on the very useful Slovakian portal of medieval churches, Apsida.sk. However, a picture of the St. Anne can be seen first on this blog, along with other images uncovered in the nave (I thank the restorer for providing me with images).


The finds at Kövi are of great importance. Although the frescoes appear to be somewhat fragmentary, their high quality can be seen, especially in some of the faces. A full uncovery of the ensemble and a careful restoration of the frescoes would result in a spectacular monument. The locality is important, because it is in a church which is right next to the medieval castle, which was one of the administrative centers of the region. The patrons of the frescoes were most likely the lords of the castle, so members of the powerful Bebek family. In the present state of research, the frescoes can be dated to the late 14th century or to around 1400 - but it has to mentioned that the frescoes of the nave and sanctuary date from two different painting campaigns. Overall, they appear to be related not only to nearby Gömörrákos, but also to the frescoes of the somewhat more distant Torna/Turňa nad Bodvou, a settlement near Kassa/Košice, the frescoes of which have also been recently uncovered. The full restoration of the Kövi frescoes will definitely considerably alter our knowledge of medieval wall painting in the region. It has to be mentioned that the historical region of medieval Gömör County preserves the richest ensemble of medieval wall paintings from the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Along with the countless impressive painted monuments in the region - places such as Csetnek/Štítnik, Karaszkó/Kraskovo, Gecelfalva/Kocelovce, Gömörrákos/Rákoš, Ochtina/Ochtiná and others - research during recent years uncovered even more, such as the frescoes of sanctuary of Pelsőc/Plešivec. The churches can be visited along the Gothic Route of churches. It is to be hoped that within a short time, Kövi will become an important stopping point on this route.

Here are a few pictures of the frescoes in the sanctuary, where the high quality of the apostle frescoes can be observed:








Sunday, April 06, 2014

Raphael drawings in Budapest #raphaelhasan

Raphael: Head of an Angel.
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest 
Today is the birthday of Raphael, who was born in 1483. Only 37 years later, it was also on this day that he died and was laid to rest in the Pantheon). In the art history blogging community, this day is an occassion for remembering one of the pioneers of this field: Hasan Niyazi, who passed away unexpectedly last year. Hasan was mainly known as the author of the excellent art history blog Three Pipe Problem, but he was also dedicated to the study and research of the work of Raphael. Among his legacy in this field, I would like to mention his Open Raphael Project, which can hopefully be carried on somehow. Despite the fact that he was not an art historian by training, Hasan brought new insights to the field, and his clear reasoning based on evidence, logic and a background in the sciences led him to new results. Hasan was also tireless in connecting the authors of art history blogs to each other, and was a source of constant inspiration to others. He posted interviews on his blog, and often invited guest bloggers to contribute a post. He was always willing to help with comments, links or scanned articles sent via email. I will remain grateful to him for encouraging my efforts when I started this blog a few years ago. As a commemoration, art history bloggers are posting blog entries today on topics related to his interests - all of which are linked from his blog

I am sure Hasan Niyazi would have been interested in an exhibition which closed last week at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Budapest. Titled Triump of Perfection - Raphael, the exhibition presented Renaissance drawings and prints from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.

Raphael: Study of the Figure of Venus. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest preserves six drawings by Raphael: an early study for his first Perugian altarpiece, the Coronation of the Virgin, a study for Saint Jerome from his stay in Florence, the compositional sketch for the Disputa in the Vatican Palace, a powerful Angel Head for the Sala di Costantino, a unique preliminary drawing for the renowned Massacre of the Innocents engraved by Marcantonio Raimondi, and the silverpoint Venus, a superb masterpiece of the High Renaissance. The drawings are accessible in the collection database of the Museum, and I provided direct links to the records. 


Esterházy Madonna, detail

The exhibition also included works by the followers of Raphael, as well as copies made after his drawings, to illustrate the great influence of the master in the early 16th century. The list of works on display is accessible from the website of the museum, as is the first chapter of the catalogue, written by Zoltán Kárpáti and Eszter Seres.

Another famed work, which - being unfinished - provides an insight into the working process of Raphael, was also on display: the Esterházy Madonna. For this occassion an online presentation was made about the condition and restoration of the Esterházy Madonna. This treatment was necessitated by the infamous theft of the panel in 1983, along with six other masterpieces. The online presentation of this restoration and the technical examinations is something that our late friend Hasan Niyazi would have surely appreciated. I dedicate this brief post to his memory.


Update: As pointed out in a comment below by Zoltán Kárpáti, you can study high resolution photos and technical data of the Budapest Raphael drawings at the following link: www.raphael.printsanddrawings.hu

Raphael: Esterházy Madonna. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest