Friday, November 28, 2014

Central European Journal Anniversaries

There are several international journals dedicated to medieval art, just as there are many dedicated to Hungarian art historical research. In this post I would like to call attention to two journals which may be not as widely known, but both of which contain a large number of important studies about medieval Hungary, among other topics. As such, they are both highly recommended for anyone interested in latest research in this field. Both journals celebrate important anniversaries this year, with the publication of volume 20. As this number shows, both journals started after the fall of Iron Curtain, and represent the increased scholarly connections of East-Central Europe with western scholarship in medieval studies. I will briefly introduce both journals and their anniversary issues below.

Hortus Artium Medievalium 20 (2014)


As the publisher informs us, Hortus Artium Medievalium is the annual journal of the International Research Center for Late Antiquity and Middle Ages (Motovun, Croatia), established in 1993 (IRCLAMA). The journal has a particular interest in studying artefacts for the history of art, and to study the period from Late Antiquity to the end of the Gothic period in an interdisciplinary, international and diachronic fashion. An annual colloquium gathers appropriate specialists, from which the papers are drawn. The journal is edited in Zagreb, by Miljenko Jurkovic, whose work is supported by an international editorial board and an advisory board. The high level of the publication is also ensured by Brepols Publishers. The strongest focus of the journal is on the Late Antique and Early Medieval period, as well as on the Mediterranean area, but there are also articles on other subjects. Among these there are also a large number of articles on Hungarian subjects. Articles are published in Italian, French, German and English, depending on the subject matter and the author.

The 20th anniversary issue starts with an overview of 20 years of IRCLAMA, after which a number of thematic units follow. The volume is so large, that it was split into two parts by the publisher: volume 20/1 is 428 pages, while volume 20/2 stretches from page 429 to page 886. The thematic groups are the following:
  • Redefining urban space in late Antiquity and the Middle Ages 
  • Artistic transfers in the Middle Ages
  • The (R)evolution in Christian Religious Architecture and Liturgy 
  • Images of Christianity and the (Re)making of Christian Identity
  • Venice and the Adriatic in the Middle Ages
There are close to 100 articles in this double issue, if we count the introductory texts to each thematic units, and the studies are authored by a wide range of international scholars. There are also a number of book reviews. The journal is also made available online by Brepols, by subscripton (although some introductory texts are freely available). Here you can als3o browse older issues, which can also be ordered from the publisher.


Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU, Vol. 20 (2014)



The Department of Medieval Studies at the Central European University is an interdisciplinary center of postgraduate education and research located in Budapest. It gathers students from all over in Europe who are interested in studying the medieval past. The volumes of the Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU offer a series of articles on various aspects of the history of medieval Central and Eastern Europe and gives an overview of the articles of the department in the academic years. The journal is a very important forum for new research by young scholars in Central Europe, while also publishing articles by leading researchers of the period. The journal is interdisciplinary, and has a very strong focus on Eastern and Central Europe. Volume 20 of the annual celebrates 20 years of Medieval Studies at CEU. Like every year, there are a number of art historical studies in the journal - this time among other things on my favourite subject, medieval wall painting in Transylvania (by Anna Kónya).


Contents of new issues are generally listed on the department's website, but the journal is also freely available online, although the last five years are always password-protected. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Medieval art exhibitions in late 2014

We already had a chance to enjoy numerous medieval exhibitions this year - see for example my overview of exhibitions dedicated to various Holy Roman emperors -, but 2014 will close with a wonderful series of major exhibitions dedicated to the Middle Ages. I have collected information and links about the most important ones that came to my knowledge. Dear Readers, as you can see there is lots to choose from - feel free to let me know in a comment if you are planning to see some of these exhibitions. I will try to make it to Prague for the Benedictine exhibition, and will also have a chance to see two of the most famous medieval manuscripts during the Christmas holiday in New York. Here are some more details about the exhibitions, with texts copied from the various exhibition websites:

Open the Gates of Paradise - The Benedictines in the Heart of Europe, 800-1300


Prague, National Gallery (Waldstein Riding School and the Clementinum Gallery).
November 7, 2014 - March 15, 2015

"The purpose of this exhibition project is to introduce to scholars and general audiences the spiritual wealth and material culture of the Benedictine monasteries of the Early and High Middle Ages in Central Europe. The project is also intended to highlight the role of the Order of Saint Benedict in facilitating the acceptance of Christianity by the Central European nations, the adoption of Ancient Christian Mediterranean culture, and the process of the emergence and strengthening of states and statehood in Central Europe. Within this context, the term “Central Europe” is chiefly understood as the area occupied by the medieval states of Bohemia, Poland and Hungary, with the indispensable and entirely natural extension into the regions of the Holy Roman Empire. The exhibition will focus on prominent personalities of the Benedictine Order and its individual monastic centres, notably on the intermediary role they played in the cultural exchange between Western and Southern Europe, and the newly-Christianized Slavic and Hungarian territories."

The Magi. Legend, Art and Cult


Cologne, Museum Schnütgen
25 October 2014 – 25 January 2015

"In Cologne, the year 2014 will be devoted to the Magi, whose remains arrived in the cathedral city in 1164. During the Middle Ages, their relics transformed Cologne into a pilgrimage metropolis, and they became the patron saints of Cologne together with St. Ursula and St. Gereon. This is attested to by the Shrine of the Magi at Cologne Cathedral, Cologne’s coat of arms with the three crowns and numerous sculptures throughout the city.
The Museum Schnütgen has taken the anniversary as an opportunity to hold a large special exhibition. Throughout the centuries, the Magi have played a central role in art since the Three Wise Men were the first to recognise the Christ child as the Son of God. The exhibition will bring together ivories, sculptures, paintings, manuscripts and works of treasury art from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain that offer a particularly interesting interpretation of the subject and are artistically of especially high quality."

Saint Louis


Paris, Conciergerie
8 October 2014 - 11 January 2015

"A major exhibition entitled "Saint Louis" will be held in the Hall of Men-at-Armsat the Conciergerie from 8 October to 11 January 2015. This will be the culminating point of the events organised by the Centre des monuments nationaux to celebrate the 8th centenary of the birth of Louis IX in 1214.
At the age of 12, in 1226, Louis became King of France as Louis IX, in what went on to become one of the longest and most remarkable reigns in medieval France. He became a model and source of prestige for the kingdom and the Capetian dynasty, both as a king and as a saint subsequent to his canonisation just 27 years after his death.
Where better to understand Saint Louis and the issues that faced 13th-century France than in the Conciergerie, the royal residence on which he left his stamp and where he built his greatest masterpiece, the Sainte-Chapelle ? He was responsible for extending and embellishing the former Palais de la Cité, and for the time of the exhibition it will act as the showcase for 130 remarkable works which stand testimony to the intellectual energy and grace that invigorated Parisian art during his reign, and which are on loan from the collections of the greatest cultural institutions in France and abroad."

Sunday, November 09, 2014

New medieval exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery


Maria gravida, Vienna, 1409
see in high resolution 
I haven't had time to upload anything here for over a month - but a lot has happened in Hungary in the field of medieval art. I will try to catch up with a series of brief posts. First, I would like to report on the new medieval exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery, which was completely reinstalled and opened at the end of September. This part of the permanent exhibition focuses on painting and sculpture from Hungary and neighboring areas in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of the highlights of the collection can be seen here, including two statues of the Virgin of Child from Toporc, the two beautiful statues of female saints from Barka, or a painting originally showing the St. Joseph's Doubt (now cut down to only show the Virgin, see left). The exhibition was reinstalled to focus on the original liturgical context of these artworks, and therefore also includes a number of other liturgical objects - mainly goldsmith works on loan from the Hungarian National Museum. The new exhibition presents the material in a chronological-regional arrangement. The last section includes several complete altarpieces, thereby preparing the visitor for the next section of the permanent exhibition, where the monumental late Gothic altarpieces can be seen. That section has also been slightly rearranged recently, with the new installation of the main altar from Kisszeben.

The new exhibition, which provides a greatly improved space for the objects and a clear narrative for visitors, is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in medieval art. Organized by curator Györgyi Poszler, the exhibition also includes a number of works previously never shown, This was made possible by the continuous work of restorers during the last few decades. Readers familiar with Hungarian are encouraged to consult a new publication by the Hungarian National Gallery, which is dedicated to the most important restorations carried out between 1957-2011. The publication is available online from this link. In addition, you can see selected objects from this part of the collection on the website of the Hungarian National Gallery. The exhibition of Renaissance stone carvings (the area of which was unfortunately partially taken over by the museum shop) was also reinstalled - but the medieval stone carvings are still not on view (following the theft three years ago).

Here are some images of the new exhibition, provided by the Hungarian National Gallery.








Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permanent exhibition of 9-10th Hungary opens at Hungarian National Museum

Dress ornament from Zalavár (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)
A new, long-missing section of the permanent archaeological and historical exhibition of the Hungarian National Museum opened yesterday. The exhibition - which is the continuation of the rooms dedicated to the history of Hungary from prehistory to the Migration period - is focusing on Hungary during the 9th and 10th centuries, and consists of two parts. The first part is dedicated to the 9th century, especially to the western, Transdanubian region - the area of the Roman province of Pannonia - which was part of the Carolingian empire. The exhibition displays for the first time a large selection of the sensational discoveries made at the Zalavár excavations. Finds from the churches and palaces of this important late Carolingian center - including some of the oldest stained glass fragments from Europe, as well as a complete bell foundry - make up perhaps the most interesting part of the new exhibition. The second part contains objects from the period of the Hungarian (Magyar) Conquest of the Carpathian basin, and finds from the 10th century, the period before the formal establishment of the Christian Kingdom of Hungary.

Ornamental discs from the Hungarian Conquest period (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)

Taken together with the preceding part of the exhibition, this is the largest archaeological exhibition in Hungary, and one which is also quite informative and well-installed. Monitors with 3D-reconstructions and other interactive elements make the exhibition even more interesting for younger visitors as well. Ágnes Ritoók of the Hungarian National Museum acted as chief curator of the project, coordinating the work of two teams. This new exhibition is accompanied by two separate publications: one, written by Béla Miklós Szőke, is dedicated to Zalavár and the Carolingian period in Hungary, the other - the work of László Révész - is about the Conquest period. Both books were also published in English - so you can expect to read more about them on this blog soon.

Cap ornament from Beregszász (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)

The website of the National Museum has some technical problems, so I am linking here to the Facebook page of the Museum. The photos in this post come from there.



Sunday, August 31, 2014

In memoriam Miklós Mojzer

Miklós Mojzer in 2006 
Miklós Mojzer, the former director of the Museum of Fine Arts, passed away last weekend in the 83rd year of life (1931-2014).
Miklós Mojzer was an outstanding scholar of medieval and Baroque art. Born in 1931, he had studied in Budapest, and began his career at the Christian Museum in Esztergom. In 1957, he started working in the Museum of Fine Arts, in the collection of Old Hungarian Art, in the department headed by Dénes Radocsay. In 1974, when the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque works of Hungarian Art - the Old Hungarian Collection - was trasferred to the Hungarian National Gallery, he went with the collection, and soon became head of the department (1977-1989). In this period, he supervised the creation of the most important exhibitions of old Hungarian art, including the magnificent exhibition of late medieval altarpieces in the former throne room of the Hungarian royal palace, home of the National Gallery. In 1989, Miklós Mojzer became the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, where he served three terms, until his retirement in 2004. He was a true museum expert, familiar with technical details of historic paintings, exhibition organization and publications, and above all, always a true gentleman.

As a researcher of medieval art, Miklós Mojzer mainly researched and published on late medieval panel painting. His bibliography was compiled for the 2011/2 volume of Művészettörténeti Értesítő, which was a Festschrift published for his 80th birthday (another bibliography was compiled at Museum of Fine Arts). An earlier Festschrift, published by the National Gallery for his 60th birthday, is available online in the Hungarian Digital Museum Library. A subject he had dealt with most recently was the painter known as Master MS, creator of a highly important altarpiece at Selmecbánya (Banská Štiavnica / Schemnitz, SK) at the beginning of the 16th century. This was a subject which occupied him over and over for decades.

To get to know more about Master MS, you can also have a look at this overview on the Fine Arts in Hungary website, but the best place to start is the bilingual exhibition catalogue published by the National Gallery in 2008. Miklós Mojzer naturally wrote the introductory study to this catalogue, but the results of his research concerning the identity of the painter were only published later, in a two-part article (the second part of which is available online). In this complex study he calls attention to the painter known with various names, but generally as Marten Swarcz, who had arrived to Cracow in 1477 along with Veit Stoss in order to work on the main altar of the Church of the Virgin Mary. Mojzer proposed that this painter can be identified with Master MS, and he must have been in Selmecbánya by 1506 to work on the altarpiece, from which today seven scattered panels are known (see the Visitation at the Hungarian National Gallery in high resolution). His research opened up new avenues in the study of this outstanding late Gothic master. 

Miklós Mojzer will be buried in Esztergom, on September 5, 2014. May he rest in peace. 

Master MS (Marten Swarcz): Resurrection, 1506. Esztergom, Christian Museum 


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Books on Medieval Art in Hungary

Luckily, I am able to report on more and more books published in English (or German) about the art of medieval Hungary. These books make the rich medieval heritage of Hungary available to a wide international audience - especially when we are talking about books published by western publishing companies. The books listed below deal with different aspects of medieval Hungary, and would be welcome additions to any serious library on medieval art.


The Medieval Royal Palace at Visegrád. Edited by Gergely Buzás and József Laszlovszky. Budapest, Archaeolingua, 2013

The following description was provided by the publisher:

Visegrád stands out among the medieval sites of Hungary and the royal palace complex can be regarded as one of the most important monuments for the artistic and architectural production of the royal court during the period of the late Middle Ages. The size and the complexity of the palace would in itself ensure that the Visegrád royal residence became one of the principal sites of Hungarian medieval archaeology.

The palace was continuously built, altered and enlarged for two hundred years, and emerged as a sophisticated complex of dwelling rooms, spaces of status display, ecclesiastical buildings (royal chapel and Franciscan friary), kitchens, workshops, storage buildings, gardens, loggias, balconies and fountains. Its ruination was also a long process that took three hundred years. Although this slow process caused immeasurable damage, it also helped to preserve the traces of medieval life in the monument, which in case of buildings continuously inhabited are usually swept away by modern use and later architectural changes. The Visegrád Palace, however, was not used by anyone after the Middle Ages. Its ruined buildings were not utilized for any other purpose, and so the later alterations were minimal. Its rediscovery, excavation and reconstruction has been a task of twentieth and twenty-first-century archaeology and heritage protection, and the monument provided an opportunity to study a medieval complex almost undisturbed. The excavations at the Visegrád Palace also served as one of the most significant steps in the development of medieval archaeology in Hungary.

This volume is the first comprehensive monograph on the archaeological investigations, objects, finds, reconstruction and restoration of the palace complex published in English. It is also a revised, extended and in some other parts compressed version of a volume published in Hungarian in 2010. It offers a summary of the previous and recent excavations since 1934 and the interpretation of the palace in its European archaeological and art historical context. It also contains the functional analysis of the palace complex and the discussion of the interactions between the residence and the Franciscan friary. Some chapters focus on the most important group of finds (pottery, stove tiles, worked bone material, etc.) along with their detailed catalogue.


Ivan Gerát: Legendary Scenes : An Essay on Medieval Pictorial Hagiography. Bratislava : Veda, 2014.

Published by the Institute of Art History in Bratislava, this beautifully illustrated book provides an overview of biblical and hagiographical scenes from late medieval painting from the northern regions of the Kingdom of Hungary, providing new insights into the art of the period.The introduction of the book gives an overview of the topic of the book:

"This book is devoted mainly to scenes from the lives of saints in panel paintings originally produced in the northern regions of the Kingdom of Hungary in present-day Slovakia. The form these pictures took and their rôle in cultural life was determined by various processes concerning the whole of Christian Europe. Research into these pictures necessarily crosses both modern and historical political boundaries. Around 1500 panel paintings enjoyed great popularity across Central Europe. Carefully elaborated pictures of violent or miraculous events from the lives of the heroes and heroines of the faith were placed primarily on the wings of altar retables. [...] Prior to the work of the Reformation, these pictures played a central rôle in religious and social life. They articulated many of the problems and tensions of the period, which was marked not only by internal disputes in the Christian countries, but also by growing conflict with the Ottoman Empire, which resulted in the resounding defeat of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1526 at the Battle of Mohács."



Kinga German: Sakramentsnischen und Sakramentshäuser in Siebenbürgen.  Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2014.

Kinga German's book provides an analysis and overview of 145 Late Gothic sacrament houses and sacrament niches from Transylvania, along with a catalogue of all these monuents. The analysis deals with the function of these micro-architectural elements in the context of Eucharistic worship in later medieval Transylvania. The book - based on the author's doctoral dissertation - provides the first detailed survey of these monuments. 

A look at the contents and the inside of the book is available on the website of the publisher (pdf).




Ana-Maria Gruia: Religious Representations on Stove Tiles from the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Cluj-Napoca, Mega, 2013.


This book, which is based on the author's doctoral dissertation defended at the Central European University in Budapest provides an iconographical analyisis of late medieval stove tiles from the Kingdom of Hungary. It is the first detailed analysis of the subject, arranged according to themes, and accompanied by a catalogue of several hunders of monuments.

The author has previosly also published a number of articles on the subject, especially in Studia Patzinakia - see for example in vol. 5, 2007 (pdf).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New exhibitions at Pannonhalma

For several decades now, the Benedictine Archabbey at Pannonhalma has also served as an important exhibition venue. Perhaps most memorable for medievalists was the 2001 exhibition dedicated to Benedictines in Medieval Hungary, and titled Paradisum plantavit. For a long time, there has been a permenant exhibition space in the abbey as well, but only a very small part of the abbey's collection was on view. This year, a new abbey museum and visitor center opened at Pannonhalma, in the former manor building belonging to the abbey. This museum is the home of a new permanent exhibition of the abbey, and includes an exhibition of medieval stone carvings from Pannonhalma, as well as a good selection from the collections of the abbey. The new space created an opportunity to display some elements of the medieval building which were previously not visible, such as elements from the 13th century cloisters of the abbey (which was rebuilt in the late 15th century). The collections of the abbey include goldsmith works, important manuscripts, a good ensemble of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects, among other artworks. The new exhibition was arranged by Imre Takács, noted medieval art historian and the curator of major exhibition at Pannonhalma in 1996 and 2001. This collection can be browsed online as well - in a database which at the moment seems to be available only in Hungarian.

Stone carvings from Pannonhalma at the new museum

Fragments of the 13th century cloister

In 2014, visitors also get a chance to visit two intertwined exhibitions. Since March 2014 the exhibition Icons and Relics: Veneration of Images between East and West (March 21 – November 11,2014) can be visited in the in the “old” exhibition hall of the monastery. Another exhibition opened in July in the newly opened Abbey Manor Visitor Centre and Museum. Titled Image and Christianity: Visual Media in the Middle Ages (July 10 – November 11, 2014), which focuses on western European liturgical art. To cite the curator, Péter Bokody: "The aim of the exhibitions is to show to the viewer the various forms and media of image-worship in medieval Christianity. The exhibition Icons and Relics presents the intertwined history of image-worship in the East and West through a comparison of the cult of images and the cult of relics, together with the genesis of the painted panel. The exhibition Image and Christianity focuses on the same development from the perspective of the visual media in the Middle Ages, where the spread of the painted panel in the West is interpreted in the context of mosaics, stained glass, murals and book illumination. The point of intersection between the two is the Latin Sack of Constantinople in 1204, since both the intensified forms of image-worship and the visual medium of the painted panel became central in Western Christianity after that."

The exhibition "Icons and relics"

Glimpse into the exhibition "Image and Christianity"
In addition to important loans from the major museums of Hungary, the exhibitions also features a number of international loans (primarily from Austria and Croatia), providing a nice overview medieval artworks in the service of liturgy. The highlights of the exhibition Icons and Relics are the 12th century head reliquary of Saint Coloman (Benedictine Abbey, Melk), and 14th century reliquaries from Zadar. In the exhibition Image and Christianity the various medieval visual media are presented by 12th century mosaics (Museo Torcello, Torcello), 15th century stained glass windows (Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz), 14th century fresco fragments (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), 15th century painted panels (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest), and 11th-15th century codices, as well as ivory carvings and other works.