Thursday, February 26, 2015

Corvinian manuscripts digitised

The very exciting digitisation process at the Vatican Library is going ahead at full speed, and the Library has made available online two manuscripts from the famous Bibliotheca Corviniana, the library of King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490). The manuscripts are the following:


Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Urb. lat. 110

The Missal of Matthias Corvinus, 1488-1489

The manuscript was made for King Matthias in the Buda workshop. The coat of arms of Matthias and his wife Beatrice of Aragon can be found on several pages.
It is a richly illustrated volume, with stylistic connections to Lombardy.
See also the catalogue page with bibliographic references. 




















Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
Missale fratrum minorum secundum consuetudinem Romanae curiae

This is a Franciscan Missal commissioned by King Matthias, and given to a Franciscan friar named Thomas (so technically, this is not a Corvinian manuscript, as it was not part of the Biblioteca Corviniana). The book was illuminated by an Austrian painter active in Vienna.




















With the two books above, the number of Corvinian manuscripts online now exceeds 100. On this occassion, I decided to move my checklist of digitised manuscripts over to this blog - you can reach it any time from the menu above. The version on my website is now obsolete - links have been checked and fixed on the version here in the blog. I also added links to two manuscripts digitised at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Museum of Fine Arts closes for three years

Photo of the Romanesque Hall at the Museum of Fine Art © MTI
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest will be closed for the renovation of the building from 16 February 2015 until the end of 2017. During this period a highlight-selection from the Museum’s collection will be on view in the Hungarian National Gallery (in Buda Castle). The Museum will reopen in 2018 with brand new exhibitions and new spaces. The most important part of this renovation process will be the restortion of the so-called Romanesque Hall of the Museum, which had been closed since 1945. Since then, the space has been used as a storage space for the fantastic collection of plaster casts of medieval and renaissance sculpture, accumulated in the early years of the Museum's history. 


The Romanesque Hall at the time of the opening of the building (1906)


The plasters casts will be restored and put on display in a newly created museum space at the 19th century fortress of Komárom (see this article, with visualizations of the plans). Some other will be moved to the newly created National Museum Restoration and Storage Center, which is being developed on the site of a hospital, located behind the museum - see the plans in this article.


The state of the Romanesque Hall before the war


In addition, several other spaces of the museum will be restored, and new underground areas will be created for the storage of artworks and for a new space for large temporary exhibition. The entire heating and air-conditioning system of the museum will be redone, as well. This Hungarian language article in Népszabadság has more details. The renovation of the museum and the other developments mentioned above are all part of the controversial Liget Budapest project, which is aimed to create several new museum in City Park (read more on it). During the years of closure, the Museum of Fine Arts will continue to organize exhibitions in the Hungarian National Gallery, which was joined to it a few years ago. Highlights from the permanent collection will also be shown there.

See also this video about the Romanesque Hall from Szépművészeti Múzeum on Vimeo.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Medieval news update

During the last five years, I wrote on various subjects on this blog, including the discoveries of treasure hoards and wall paintings, interesting exhibitions and new publications, museum collections and organizational changes and many others. The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to re-visit some of these topics, and to give a quick update on some of the news I reported. Here, then, is a medieval news update, focusing on some of the most popular topics on the medieval Hungary blog.

Wiener Neustadt treasure hoard published



Back in 2011, I reported on the discovery of a significant medieval treasure hoard found in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. The objects - over 200 in total - have since been cleaned and restored, and are now presented in a lavish new publication issued by the Austrian Office of Monument Preservation (Bundesdenkmalamt).

The book describes the discovery of the treasure, and provides an exhaustive survey of the objects, including a detailed techical analysis of the materials, as well as studies on the art historical and cultural significance of the treasures. A catalogue of all the objects and an extensive photographic documentation is also included in the book. On the publisher's website you can browse the beginning of the book, and there are also a number of photos available (this is the source of the image above). A smaller publication, a brief introduction to the treasure, has also been published.

Nikolaus Hofer, hrsg.: Der Schatzfund von Wiener Neustadt. Horn - Wien, Verlag Berger, 2014. 496 pp., ISBN: 978-3-85028-636-7



Goldsmith works from the Herzog collection on view at the Hungarian National Museum


Another treasure collection, goldsmith objects once in the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, surfaced at a New York auction a few years ago, as I reported also in 2011. It has now been revealed that the mysterious buyer of the objects at the sale was the State of Hungary, and the objects have been placed in the National Museum. After three years, in late 2014, the collection has been put on view in a special exhibition at the museum (which is open until January 25, 2014). No catalogue has been published, and there is no information available on the website of the museum - but a photo gallery is available on the website of the Hungarian state news agency, hirado.hu, by clicking on the image on this page. A total of 32 pieces entered the museum, all of which at one time belonged to Mór Lipót Herzog, who passed away in 1934. The pieces have been recorded earlier as wartime victims of looting, and their whereabouts were unknown until the New York sale.

Transylvanian goldsmith works from the former Herzog collection - Hungarian National Museum, on view until January 25, 2015. For more information (in Hungarian), visit Obeliscus, an online journal on the early modern period.




Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Restoration of the wall paintings of Torna / Turňa nad Bodvou

Detail from the Arrest of Christ (cleaned state, 2008)
One of the largest restoration projects in Slovakia was completed in 2014: the restoration of the wall paintings in the sanctuary of the medieval church of Torna (Turňa nad Bodvou). The frescoes, found in 2006, were uncovered starting from 2007, and their full restoration is now completed. I contributed as an external art historical consultant to this work, and wrote a preliminary study about the wall paintings for the scholarly documentation of the frescoes. Although my study has not yet been published, I am now providing here a brief overview of the frescoes and their restoration.

Torna is a medieval village in southern Slovakia, just north of the Hungarian border, not far from the town of Kassa/Košice. In 1357, the owners of the property received permission from the king to build a castle on top of the hill overlooking the village. The castle still dominates the landscape. It was the same family - the Tornai family - who had the parish church of the village built, in the second half of the 14th century. The last member of the family, János Tornai, passed away in 1406, his tombstone stands to this day in the sanctuary of the church. Although the sanctuary of church, intended as a family burial site for the Tornai family, was clearly completed before 1406, it was only decorated some time later, as I will discuss below.


First details to emerge (2006)

Until 2006, a nondescript neo-Gothic ornamental decoration covered the walls of the sanctuary, painted to harmonize with the neo-Gothic main altar of the church. The frescoes were first found on the back wall of the Gothic sitting niches on the south wall of the sanctuary. As research and recovery progressed, it became clear that the entire sanctuary (including the vaults) was once painted according to a unified system. Although the first details to emerge from this painted cycle were very promising, unfortunately it turned out that the decoration is largely lost: large surfaces of the original painted decoration were destroyed during the centuries. The original decoration survived mainly on the eastern walls (behind the altar), on the lower zone of the wall as well as on the window splays. What was once an elaborate narrative cycle on the uninterrupted north wall of the sanctuary, however, is now lost almost without a trace. 

Work in progress (2008)

Still, enough remains from the painted decoration to establish its original arrangement, and surviving scenes attest to the high quality of this decoration. The most significant part of the decoration was a large, multi-zone narrative cycle, depicting the Infancy and Passion of Christ. Only a few of the scenes can be identified today, including the Nativity, and from the Passion: the scenes of Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Arrest of Christ. The scene of the Nativity belongs to the type of representation, in which Mary prays before her newborn son, who is lying on the ground. The region of Gömör county contains a large number of comparable cycles depicting the Life and Passion of Christ - for example Gecelfava/Koceľovce or Ochtina/Ochtiná but the quality of the frescoes at Torna is much higher.

Detail of the Virgin Mary from the Nativity (cleaned state, 2008)

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.