Showing posts with label Bibliotheca Corviniana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bibliotheca Corviniana. Show all posts

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.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

New books on Hungarian medieval art

As this blog  is aimed for an international audience, I  generally only write reviews of  books published in English or other western languages. However, in this post I would like to call attention to a few books published mostly in Hungarian last year.


János Eisler: Kis könyv a Szent Koronáról (Small book on the Holy Crown of Hungary). Budapest, 2013

This monograph, written by an art historian - a long-time curator of the Museum of Fine Arts - is a welcome addition to the literature on the Crown of St Stephen. Not too much in detail has been written about this unique object in recent years - a basic bibliography is available on my webpage dedicated to the Hungarian coronation insignia. Unfortunately, the subject of the crown has been hijacked by authors far removed from the framework of scholarship, putting forward one crazy theory after the other about the supposed age and power of the crown. János Eisler, however, concerns himself with the actual historical, political and theological questions of 11-12th century Hungary: the period when the crown was created. I am looking forward to reading it.
More details on the publishers website.



Középkori egyházi építészet Erdélyben - Medieval Ecclesiastical Architecture in Transylvania, vol. 5. Edited by Péter Levente Szőcs. Satu Mare, 2012.

This is the fifth volume in a series of conference proceedings, edited by Péter Levente Szőcs, and published by the County Museum of Satu Mare. As was the case with the previous volumes, the subject matter ranges from Romanesque architecture to late gothic church furnishings, in this case from four-lobed Romanesque churches to the rood screen of the parish church of Szeben/Sibiu and the wall paintings of Segesvár/Sighisoara. One study I found particularly interesting is Radu Lupescu's analysis of the western portal of the Church of St. Michael in Kolozsvár/Cluj, featured on the cover of the book. The studies are published in various languages: Hungarian, Romanian, English and French, with summaries generally in English. The list of studies can be consulted here. The book was published with the support of a EU-funded Hungarian-Romanian cross-border research project, about which you can read on the project website (Patronimium2).



A szórvány emlékei (Monuments of the diaspora). Ed. Tibor Kollár. Budapest, Teleki László Alapítvány, 2013.

This is another, much more lavishly produced book on medieval architecture in Transylvania. The book aims to publish medieval churches which had been abandonded by their original builders (Hungarians and Transylvanian Saxons) in southern Transylvania, due to historical circumstances. In addition to architecture, the book also focuses on medieval wall-painting, mainly on newly discovered monuments. The books makes available a whole new set of material for researchers of medieval art, not just in the studies but also in the large number of brand new photographs. The book was edited by Tibor Kollár, who became known as the organizer and editor of a series of books on Hungarian medieval architecture. The contents of the present volume are listed (in Hungarian) on the publishers website. My study in the book can be read here (a summary is available right here on the blog).





Közös tér - Közös örökség. Common space - Common heritage. Edited by József S. Sebestyén. Budapest, 2013.

This bilingual book documents the results of a long-term project funded by the Hungarian government, aimed at restoring monuments of mainly medieval Hungarian architecture from regions outside of the borders of modern Hungary. In ten years an amount of roughly 7,5 million dollars was spent on restoring approximately 300 architectural monuments related to Hungarian cultural history. Subsidies were mainly directed towards archeological studies, professional conservation, restauration and preservation efforts, but also included at times funding earmarked for making future use of monument buildings possible. This book, which grew out of an exhibition series, present this work, seeking to offer a glimpse into the wealth of architectural monuments bearing witness to the cultural history of centuries past.



Dániel Pócs: Didymus-corvina - Hatalmi reprezentáció Mátyás király udvarában (The Didymus Corvina - Representation of power at the court of king Matthias Corvinus). Budapest, 2013.

Dániel Pócs, one of the researchers who participated in the organization of last years Florentine exhibition dedicated to art at the court of Matthias finally published a book based on his doctoral dissertation, the subject of which is political iconography at the court of Matthias. The starting point of his analysis is one of the most splendid manuscripts commissioned by the king, the Didymus Corvina (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, MS M.496). The book is an important addition not only to Corvina-studies, but also to art history of the Matthias period in general. An earlier study of Pócs on the manuscript is available in English as well: Pócs, Dániel: "Holy Spirit in the Library. The Frontispiece of the Didymus corvina and neoplatonic theology at the court of king Matthias Corvinus", in: Acta Historiae Artium, 41, 1999/2000, pp. 63-212.



See some of  the other books I reviewed or reported on previously:


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Poland to digitise medieval manuscripts

Wroclaw, University Library, R 492 
As Medievalist.net reported, Wroclaw University Library in Poland is teaming up with IBM to digitize nearly 800,000 pages of European manuscripts, books, and maps dating back to the Middle Ages. This will include over 1100 medieval manuscripts. Until now, these documents were accessible to only a handful number of students and scientists. Through this digitization project, the Wroclaw University Library can now provide access to this material to anyone via Internet. The project is already in full swing - in the database of the library, currently 674 medieval manuscripts can be accessed. The material is also available via the Europeana portal.

The news gave me a chance to update my list of digitised Corvina-manuscripts (which is a service I maintain, as the official Digital Corvina Library website seems to be defunct). I was able to add a Greek-language Corvina manuscript to the database, which can be browsed in the Digital Library of Wroclaw University (Horologium, R 492). Along with another volume in Toruń, at the Nicolaus Copernicus University Library, as far as I know only these two Corvinian manuscripts preserved in Poland are available online.


To see further Corvinian manuscripts online, navigate to the manuscripts page of the website on the Art of Medieval Hungary!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Italy and Hungary in the Renaissance (Book review)

Back in 2007, a major conference was organized at Villa I Tatti (The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence), dedicated to Humanism and early Renaissance art in the Kingdom of Hungary. The conference aimed to give an overview of the field, focusing naturally on connections between Italy and Hungary. In August 2011, the long-awaited volume of the these studies has been published by Villa I Tatti, edited by Péter Farbaky and Louis A. Waldman. The conference, the research trip to Hungary which followed it, and the volume together represent the crowning achievement of the role of I Tatti as "a bridge between Hungary and Florence in the world of humanistic scholarship for three decades" - as emphasized by director Joseph Connors in the Foreword.

It also has to be pointed out that in 2008, an entire series of exhibitions and events were organized in Hungary in the framework of the so-called Renaissance Year. Three exhibitions, in particular, have to be mentioned here: the Budapest History Museum organized a large international exhibition dedicated to the rule of King Matthias in Hungary. Titled Matthias Corvinus, the King, the exhibition was accompanied by a large catalogue, also edited by Péter Farbaky with Enikő Spekner, Katalon Szende and András Végh (published in an English version as well). A large number of the participants of the 2007 Villa I Tatti conference also contributed to this catalogue - where naturally actual physical objects are in focus. The two publications thus nicely complement each other. Two smaller exhibitions focused on more special topics: the exhibition at the National Széchényi Library, titled  A Star in the Raven's Shadow, was dedicated to János Vitéz, archbishop of Esztergom, and the beginnings of Hungarian Humanism in the middle of the 15th century. The exhibition of the Museum of Applied Arts - The Dowry of Beatrice - examined the origins of Italian majolica at the court of King Matthias, focusing on the magnificent Corvinus-plates made in Pesaro. (To get the English-language catalogues, search for item nos. 58713 and 113069 at www.artbooks.com).

Temperance,
15th c. fresco at the Palace of Esztergom

However, the conference organized at I Tatti  was the event met with most extensive response. This was largely due to two of the the papers presented at the conference and a press conference held by the Hungarian Cultural Minister in Rome, announcing the findings of these two papers. At the conference, Zsuzsanna Wierdl and Mária Prokopp presented their theory concerning one of the 15th century frescoes at the castle of Esztergom, attributing it to the young Botticelli - a subject I have written about elsewhere on this blog.

Naturally, there is much more to the book than these sensational claims. The volume makes the lectures presented at the conference available in an edited format. The description of the book at the Harvard University Press website gives a good overview of its main topic:





Saturday, September 18, 2010

Corvinian manuscripts at the Laurenziana

Couple of weeks ago I wrote about new research on the Bibliotheca Corviniana, and mentioned a few digitized manuscripts not listed on the Bibliotheca Corviniana Digitalis website.

Now I would like to call attention to another wonderful resource, the digitized manuscripts at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. You can read an overall description of the manuscript collection of the library here, while the following description of the digitization comes from the website of the project:

"The project foresees the complete digitization of 3,900 manuscripts belonging to the Plutei collection and of the 18th century catalogues which describe them. On conservation grounds it will be possible that a limited number of manuscripts will not not be digitized. The project is scheduled to finish by December 2010."

The library holds over 30 codices which were originally ordered by King Matthias. Many of these manuscripts were still unfinished at the time when news of the king's death reached Florence (1490). The volumes have been incorporated into the Medici collections. It seems that most of them were only fully decorated and finished for Pope Leo X, at around 1513. Most of these volumes were illustrated by Attavante degli Attavanti. These manuscripts thus never made it to the library at Buda - but colophons, dedicatory inscriptions and other data indicate that they were originally copied for Matthias. There are also a few other Corvinian manuscripts in the library, which got there at various points. Unfortunately the most important Corvinian manuscript in Florence, the three-volume Bible of King Matthias (Plut.15. 15-17), has not been digitized. Illuminated by the brothers Gherardo and Monte di Giovanni and by Attavante, the unfinished volumes entered the collection of Lorenzo de' Medici around 1490, just like the Marsilio Ficino volume illustrated below.

Plut.73.39, M. Ficino: De triplici vita, fol. 80r.
Dedicated to Matthias, with his emblems in the margins
The coat of arms of Matthias painted over with the Medici coat of arms.
Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New research on the Bibliotheca Corviniana (updated)

The Bibliotheca Corviniana, the library put together by King Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) was one of the largest libraries of medieval Europe. A humanist library, comprised largely of the works of classical authors, as well as modern historical and scientific works, the collection included a vast number of beautifully illuminated manuscripts. The library was dispersed soon after the death of the king, and today just over 200 volumes of it have been identified.

Frontispiece of the Didymus Corvina
 (New York, Pierpont Morgan Library)


In 2005, the Bibliotheca Corviniana was added to the list of the UNESCO Memory of the World heritage. Perhaps not coincidentally, there has been a renewed interest in the library during the last decade, resulting in a number of exhibitions as well as popular and scholarly publications. These include among other the following:



Digitization