Friday, August 27, 2010

Medieval winged altarpiece to travel to London

After the London exhibition of the Liechtenstein collection was canceled, plans were quickly made to fill the void with an exhibition based on the holdings of Hungary's premiere art museum, the Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest). An article in the Guardian (15 May 2010) gives one some idea about the selection process: when the show's curator, David Ekserdjian inquired about the possibility of including a Leonardo drawing in the show, the response from Budapest was: "Why don't you have two." In addition to important pieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, several objects will be included from the Hungarian National Gallery, the museum dedicated to the history of Hungarian art. The result will be: Treasures from Budapest: European Masterpieces from Leonardo to Schiele (25 September, 2010 - 12 December, 2010).

Little if any art historical significance can be expected from such exhibitions - although in addition to providing viewing pleasure to their public, they presumably draw some attention to Hungary and the rich artistic collections of the country. In this context it was quite surprising to learn, that one of the pieces included in the upcoming exhibition is a complete medieval winged altarpiece, the main altar from the church of Liptószentandrás (today Liptovský Ondrej, Slovakia). The altarpiece, made in 1512 and illustrated below, survived fairly intact along with its intricate carved canopy.

It is very rare for medieval panel paintings, let alone complete altarpieces to travel to exhibitions - this piece, along with other altarpieces in display in the same room (the former throne room of the royal palace of Buda) - has not been lent before, at least not since 1982, the opening of this permanent display. Naturally, it is a very delicate and fragile piece.
The difficulty surrounding this loan and the danger it represents for the altarpiece has been discussed in detail on the art history blog of Gábor Endrődi, an expert of the period. His blog is in Hungarian - visit it at least for the images, even if you don't speak the language.

The complete list of loans - including other important medieval pieces - is available on the website of the Royal Academy.  You can also find more information on the exhibition there.


  1. "Why don’t you have two?" - We had not been able to take next pieces from the villages of Slovakia...

  2. Great blog , I really love your writing style that you are using for your posts and stuff,