Showing posts with label Gothic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gothic. Show all posts

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.

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, March 02, 2014

Gallery of Medieval Art at the National Museum in Warsaw

Photo: MNW





















The National Museum in Warsaw (MNW) has one of the largest collections of medieval art in the region, which has been on view in a new installation since the end of last year (the gallery opened on December 11, 2013). Last week I finally had a chance to spend again a few days in Warsaw, and went to see the exhibition. Then I went back for a more detailed look - there is so much to see that one visit is definitely not enough. The exhibition is located on the ground floor of the museum, and takes up about 800 square meters in three large halls. These rooms are full of the best of late medieval art from the territory of modern Poland, while also include a few other works from other parts of Europe.

The altarpiece from Grudziadz
The first room provides a rather dramatic entry for the entire exhibition. It is a wide hall, where two lines of statues divide the room as if in a three-aisled church, and at the center, directly opposite the entrance is one of the largest altarpieces in the museum. The dark environment contributes to the church-like feel of the hall. This first room displays the earliest works in the collection, including Romanesque sculpture, as well as what is called  the Inter-regional Art of Northern Europe in the 14th-15th centuries. There are a number of French and German statues here, but the most important works come from the territory of Silesia - which at the time was a possession of the Crown of Bohemia. The international connections are also illustrated by such works as the carving of Three Marys from a Crucifixion-group, carved in alabaster by the Rimini Master, and coming from a church in Wroclaw.
Beautiful Madonna from Wroclaw
 Among a number of late Gothic statues stemming from Wroclaw (Breslau), one can also admire the famous Beautiful Madonna from Wroclaw - made either there or in Bohemia at the end of the 14th century. The large altarpiece in the center of the arrangement comes from Grudziadz (Graudenz) in Pomerania, from a chapel of the Teutonic Knights. It is one of the most refined painted altarpieces of the International Gothic Style, dating from 1390 (or maybe somewhat later). The installation enables one to study all the paintings on the altarpiece, including the Passion-scenes of the first opened stage of the altar, and the Life of the Virgin scenes on the fully opened altar. Other works in the room - originating from Gdansk (Danzig) round out the rich demonstration of the International Gothic.

The next section of the exhibition (in the second, long exhibition gallery) focuses on Wroclaw and Silesia at the middle of the 15th century, with the St. Barbara Altarpiece from 1447 as the main work here. Proceeding chronologically, the next highlight is the Polyptych of the Annunciation with the Unicorn, a wlarge altarpiece from around 1480. As the visitor turns and enters the third long room, artworks from Silesia dating from the the decades around 1500 can be studied, among them the unpainted limewood relief of St. Luke Painting the Virgin by Jakob Beinhart. This sophisticated carving, based on a woodcut by Veit Stoss, demonstrates the very high level of artistic achievement in Wroclaw at the end of the 15th century.





St. Luke Painting the Virgin, by Jakob Beinhart

Monday, February 10, 2014

Main altar of Kisszeben on view again

Photo: Hungarian National Gallery / MTI Photo: Soós Lajos
The main altar of the church of Kisszeben (Sabinov, Slovakia) is on view again at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest. The altarpiece has not been put together since WWII - during the last few years, only parts of it were visible in the permanent exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery. A restoration project of several decades has come to an important milestone, when the central shrine of the altarpiece, as well as the paintings of a pair of movable wings were assembled and put on display. There is still work to be done (including the restoration of the superstructure), which is expected to be completed by next year - but for the first time in 70 years, visitors can appreciate the size and beauty of this whole winged altarpiece.


The main altar of the church of Kisszeben was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and is one of the largest and most lavishly decorated winged altarpieces of medieval Hungary (along with the main altar of the Church of St. Elisabeth at Kassa/Košice and the main altar of the parish church of Lőcse/Levoča). The altarpiece was executed in the period between 1490-1516, based on heraldic evidence and a date on one of the panels. The 24 panel paintings of the altarpiece tell the story of Saint John the Baptist, as well as the life of the Virgin. The three central statues of the altarpiece depict the Virgin Mary, accompanied by St. Peter and St. John the Baptist.

As part of a coordinated campaign to transfer medieval altarpieces in museum collections at the time of the Hungarian millenium, the altars of Kisszeben were transported to and exhibited in the newly built building of the Museum of Applied Arts. In addition to the main altar, this included two side altars from the same church. By the 1920s, the altarpieces were transferred to the Museum of Fine Art, where the main altar was put on display in the Marble Hall of the museum. During the war, the altar was dismantled and put in storage, suffering serious damage. It was transferred to the Hungarian National Gallery along with the rest of the Old Hungarian Collection in 1974. The restoration of the altarpiece commenced already in the 1950s, and continued in the National Gallery. Some of the restored parts of the altar - including the central statues - have been on display along with similar works of art for some time. Last week, the assembled altarpiece was formally put on display in the same gallery. In addition to the central part of the altar and one set of the wing paintings, several other paintings from the Life of St. John and the Life of the Virgin cycles are also on view. Moreover, statues originally in the superstructure of the altar can also be seen.

Update: link to a better photo of the whole altar. I should also mention that the two side altars from the church - one with the Annunciation and another dedicated to St. Anne - are also on view in the same room of the Hungarian National Gallery.



Photo: Hungarian National Gallery / MTI Photo: Soós Lajos

Monday, November 11, 2013

Altarpiece by The Master of Lichtenstein Castle reunited in Vienna

Crowning of thorns, detail.
Esztergom, Christian Museum 
The Belvedere Museum in Vienna is presenting the exhibition Vienna 1450 - The Master of Lichtenstein Castle and his Time, in the Orangerie. The Belvedere is the first museum to devote an exhibition to this outstanding Vienna-based artist who was given the invented name Master of Lichtenstein Castle – a great anonymous painter who numbered among the most important Central European artists of his generation. As the Belvedere website informs: "The precious panels by the Master of Lichtenstein Castle are now reunited for the first time and displayed in the context of important comparable works from international collections. The unidentified painter went down in the annals of art history as the Master of Lichtenstein Castle, named after the knight’s castle near Reutlingen in Baden-Württemberg. The presentation of two monumental altar panels, which in the mid-nineteenth century ended up in Lichtenstein Castle, built by Count William of Württemberg and accommodating a rich art collection, rapidly contributed to the fame of the works. Since then, the œuvre of the great anonymous painter has grown to the impressive number of 23 panels, which were literally torn apart and widely dispersed before 1825, so that the knowledge about their original context got lost. Preserving as many as six panels, the Belvedere now owns the largest holdings of works by this master. The exhibition VIENNA 1450 - The Master of Lichtenstein Castle and his Time is the first effort to reunite the precious panels from Lichtenstein Castle and museums in Augsburg, Basel, Esztergom, Moscow, Munich, Philadelphia, Stuttgart, Tallinn, Vienna, and Warsaw and introduce a documentation of the reconstructed altar."

The exhibition is on view at the Belvedere until February 23, 2014, and is accompanied by a catalogue.

The exhibition also includes two panels of the anonymous master, preserved at the Christian Museum in Esztergom: The Flagellation and the Crowning of Thorns. The images are not available on the website of the museum, so the links will take you to Europeana, where the images are available via the Institut für Realienkunde. You can also find a few other pictures of the Master via Europeana. The six panels in the Belvedere collection are available in the Digitales Belvedere database. I am looking forward to seeing them all together in Vienna!

Photo: Belvedere

Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Church of St. Elizabeth at Kassa/Košice - Review of a monograph

Kassa, Church of St. Elizabeth, southern facade 

In recent years, western scholars have shown a much welcome interest in the art of medieval Hungary. In the past the vast majority of studies were published by Hungarian scholars in Hungarian only, thus having little influence beyond the Hungarian-speaking world. Recognizing the problem, art museums in Hungary some time ago began publishing works in at least one other language besides Hungarian – a relevant case in point is the catalogue of the 2006 Sigismund-exhibition, published in German and French versions as well. Recently, more and more monographic works have been published in English or German – primarily by Hungarian, Slovak and Romanian scholars, but also in increasing number by people for whom this is not native territory. The most recent sign of this is the monograph of Tim Juckes on the church of St. Elizabeth in Kassa (Košice, Kaschau, SK), which is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation defended at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. He has already published a number of studies about the subject, but now the results of his research are published by a major publisher in the form of a 292 page long monograph. Hopefully, this publishing activity – including the future work of Tim Juckes as well – will eventually lead to a point where this part of Europe will no longer be a terra incognita on the map of medieval Europe.

West facade of the church in the 1846 monograph of Henszlmann
One of the challenges in Hungarian medieval art history is the fragmentary evidence. To get a clear picture a considerable amount of reconstruction is needed. The term “reconstruction” applies in every sense of the word, as much of medieval Hungary and its built heritage were obliterated by the occupation of a large part of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks in 1541. Even greater destruction took place at the time of the sieges of re-conquest in the seventeenth century and during the rebuilding and modernization that took place after. Although the Church of St Elizabeth in Kassa escaped the destruction of the Turkish wars, the original monument was all but obliterated during the late 19th century purist renovation. Thus even here, the first task of the art historian is to virtually reconstruct the original building – this time back to its true medieval stage, which was quite different from that constructed in 1877. 

There is no question that the church of St. Elizabeth, the second building of the parish church of Kassa, is one of the most important surviving medieval churches in the Kingdom of Hungary. The importance of the church has been long recognized: it was the subject of the first book ever written on Hungarian medieval art: Imre Henszlmann’s 1846 study on the medieval churches of Kassa. When Henszlmann first wrote about the building, the late Gothic style of its construction period was seen as an aberration from the classical Gothic standards or, at best, as a preparatory phase for the Renaissance. This led to two mistakes: an early dating of the building which had very little to do with historical reality, and also a drastic rebuilding at the end of the 19th century, according to “true principles of Gothic architecture” (1877-1896). This view of late Gothic art changed only in the early twentieth century with the recognition of the autonomous development in Northern art and with the emergence of the concept of the Sondergotik in German-Austrian scholarship. At this time Kassa, which in 1920 ended up outside the borders of modern Hungary, also received more and more attention, as one of the better preserved medieval urban centres, by both Hungarian and Slovak scholars.
Plan of the church before the restoration


However, the period of King Sigismund (1387-1437) did not enter the focus of research until 1937, when Henrik Horváth completed the first extensive intellectual and artistic history of the age of Sigismund. After World War II, large-scale excavations and reconstruction work carried out in medieval towns such as Sopron and Buda demonstrated the cross-border connections that existed between various Central European centres. Examples include the role of members of the Prague Parler workshop on the church of Our Lady and the royal castle at Buda, or the influence of Viennese ateliers in towns in north-western Hungary like Pozsony [Bratislava, SK] and Sopron. It was only in the 1970s-80s that the importance of the Sigismund period was truly recognized. At that time, more and more attention was paid to the Kassa’s international connections as well. Although the church and its history has been the subject of a lot of research, the medieval building of the church has never been the subject of a monograph until the present work by Juckes. Closest to a monograph is the series of studies by Ernő Marosi, which, however, never appeared in a book form. The selection of this topic by Juckes – likely suggested by the advisor of his dissertation, Paul Crossley – is thus much welcome.


In this new monograph, Tim Juckes first surveys the documentary evidence and the historiography of the church of St. Elizabeth, before embarking on a new analysis of the building and its history. The structure of the book is clear and logical: it helps us to understand the medieval building, virtually restoring it from beneath the layers of 19th century transformations. The first chapter provides an overview of the 19th century rebuilding of the church as well as a brief survey of previous scholarly literature and opinions on the structure. After this the time machine is turned on, and we travel back to the 14th century, to study the history of the town and its parish church, based on a careful analysis of written sources, urban topography, patronage and building lodge. We then start to move forward, following the chronology of construction.





Thursday, August 29, 2013

Italian Trecento Panel Discovered in Hungary

A previously unknown Italian Trecento panel painting went on display today at the Damjanich János Múzeum at Szolnok. The exhibition was opened by Mária Prokopp, Professor Emeritus at Eötvös Loránd University, a noted expert of early Italian painting. Dr. Prokopp provided the following information about the panel to the Medieval Hungary blog:
The panel was discovered in 2010 by the art historian of the Szolnok Museum, László Zsolnay, at the parish church of Kunhegyes. He was able to trace the history of the painting, which comes from a small chapel near Kunhegyes, at Tomajpuszta. This Neo-Gothic chapel has been erected by the Nemes family, and was completed in 1892. The Trecento panel was donated to the chapel around 1900. It stood there until 1945 - after which the chapel was sacked and fell into ruin. From the furnishings of the chapel, only this altarpiece was saved, which was taken to Kunhegyes and forgotten - until it was found by Zsolnay. On the back of the panel, there are two seals proving the legal export of the panel from Italy and its origin from Florence. It was established that the panel comes from the church of Santa Maria a Ricorboli in Florence. Ricorboli is now a suburb of Florence, just south of the Arno. The medieval church there was demolished around 1900, and its original furnishings were sold at the time, to raise money for the new church, built between 1906-1926 (which today still preserves a panel painting of the Virgin and child, attributed to Giotto and his workshop).


Trecento panel from Kunhegyes - Photo by Magyar Nemzet, mno.hu

The panel painting is the right section of a large polyptych, in a modern (Neo-Gothic) frame, and depicts two saints. The one on the right, facing towards the center of the former altarpiece, is St. Dominic. The other saint is a knight, who has been tentatively identified by dr. Prokopp as St. Nemesius, while László Zsolnay proposes that he represents St. Sebastian (with a bunch of arrows in his hand). Other parts of the altarpiece have so far not been identified. It is quite clear that the painting comes from the circle or workshop of Andrea Orcagna, the leading master in Florence after the Black Death of 1348. Mária Prokopp proposed a possible attribution to Jacopo di Cione, while Angelo Tartuferi, curator of medieval art of The Uffizi attributed it to Giovanni del Biondo, when asked by Zsolnay (Tartuferi has since become the new director of the Galleria dell'Accademia). However, the current condition of the painting makes the task of attribution difficult.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Exhibition Dedicated to Queen Gertrude


The Ferenczy Museum in Szentendre has recently moved into a new building in the center of the town, and this week an interesting temporary exhibition opened there. The focus of this exhibition is the royal Cistercian abbey of Pilis, as well as Queen Gertrude, wife of King Andrew II, who was buried there after she had been murdered 800 years ago. Stone carvings and archaeological finds from the monastery excavated at the site of the ruined monastery are preserved in the museum's collection. 

The exhibition, titled „THE QUEEN TO KILL YOU MUST NOT FEAR WILL BE GOOD...“ Commemorate Gertrude of Merania, 1213-2013 is on view at the Barcsay Room of the Ferenczy Museum until December 31, 2013.






Dr. Judit Majorossy, the curator of the exhibition and Head of Research at the Ferenczy Museum provided the following text for the Medieval Hungary blog. This guest post is illustrated by photos of the exhibition, also provided by the museum.


"In the Middle Ages queens were particularly suitable for considering them as instigators of evil, not only due to their gender but also due to their often foreign origin. If there was discontent against the government, often not the kings were blamed but the bad consultants and, in this respect, queens were believed the most influential above all. In addition, if some queens exceeded their charity role by their husbands and behaved as active, strong women, they frequently became scapegoats. Most of the accusations of tyranny and nepotism can be attributed to their usurpation of male roles."

There were very few events in the course of medieval Hungarian history before the Mongol invasion (1241/1242) that triggered such a big stir in the contemporary European historiography as the murder of Gertrude of (Andechs-) Merania, the first wife of King Andrew II (1205–1235) from the Arpad dynasty. In the light of the present state of research the story of this infamous assassination seems to be clarified, but on the other hand, it is rather still complex.

Gertrude was killed on the 28th of September 1213 in an aristocratic conspiracy, after being the Queen of Hungary for ten years. She came to Hungary as a member of an ambitious Bavarian princely family. Behind the unpopularity of this dominant royal wife in Hungary one might suppose the political headway and influence of the German courtiers in her environment (the usual entourage of a foreign royal consort) that weakened the power of the domestic dignitaries. As a consequence, some noble Hungarians – Reeve Peter the son of Turoy, Simon of the Kacsics clan, and Simon of the Bar-Kalan clan, the son-in-law of the former palatine Banc ban – taking advantage of the ruler's absence being on a campaign in Halychya (the historical Galicia on the territory of present day Ukraine and Poland) and attacked the queen and her retinue supposedly in the royal Pilis forests during a festive hunting. Gertrude was brutally murdered, while her brother Berthold, archbishop of Kalocsa (1207–1218) and a special guest, Leopold VI, Duke of Austria (1198–1230) could hardly escape.


In the light of the contemporary sources, the real motives of this cruel act are unclear and contradictory. In addition, these motives were over-explained in the later Hungarian national history writing and romantic xenophobia. The accusation against Gertrude of helping the violation of Banc ban’s wife by her brother might be a few-decade later popular explanation of the events that was then carried on, while Gertrude’s responsibility for the inner courtly conflicts or the image of a weak-handed Andrew II must be re-evaluated and shaded.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Europa Jagellonica - Exhibiting the Heritage of the Jagiellonian Era



The Europa Jagellonica exhibition has recently finished its run, closing at the third venue, in Potsdam. I had a chance to see the show in Kutná Hora, as well as in Warsaw, and have seen all the publications accompanying it. In the following, I will provide a brief overview and review of this major European project.
As the website of the project informs, the international exhibition EUROPA JAGELLONICA is a joint Czech-Polish-German project and the first exhibition on the European dynasty of the Jagiellonians during the period around 1500, which was of great significance for Europe.

This project has been in the making for a long time. Organized by the Centre for History and Culture of East Central Europe at the University of Leipzig (GWZO), the basis for this project was the interdisciplinary and international research project, "The Significance of the Jagiellonian Dynasty in Art and Culture of Central Europe 1454–1572", which was carried out from 2000 to 2005. Dr. Jiří Fajt (GWZO) is the chief curator of the project, and Dr. Susanne Jaeger (GWZO) is responsible for the coordination. After several unsuccessful attempts, the exhibition finally got the green light as well as European funds, and was realized together by the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. Hungary - which was originally supposed to have been part of project - did not become an organizing partner and a venue in the end, but contributed several loans to the exhibition.
Detail of the exhibition at Kutná Hora
The exhibition is quite different at all three venues. Even in the planning phase, it was decided that each venue will have a special focus: in Kutná Hora it was silver mining and economic history, in Warsaw the significance of the Jagellonians for Poland, while in Potsdam, the local theme is the marriage policy of the dynasty, and contacts with the Holy Roman Empire. In addition, there are other changes of thematic focus from venue to venue, as well as somewhat different sets of objects. The Jagiellonian period in focus of the exhibition is summarized by the organizers: 
"The time frame covered by the exhibition starts with the coronation of Jogaila (Władysław Jagiełło) in 1386 as King of Poland. Thanks to prudent political alliances, the Jagiellons ascended to the thrones of Bohemia and Silesia in 1471 and of Hungary in 1490. The resulting commonwealth of nations – Europa Jagellonica – spanned vast territories with a total area surpassing two million square kilometres, from the Baltic to the Black and Adriatic Seas. At the same time, strategic marital unions arranged for Polish princesses expanded the family’s influence to include the Reich states – Brandenburg, Braunschweig, Bavaria and Saxony. This unique amalgamation in Central Europe left its mark on not only the political atmosphere there but on the economies of the individual nations, the intellectual culture and social mentality of the day, and the arts. [The exhibition] will highlight the period’s unique circumstance of cultural diversity amidst unity – the coexistence of regional cultures and the formation of a common tradition. From such a perspective, the old Jagiellonian commonwealth becomes a fascinating reference point for reflections on modern times."

Further information about the project is available at several sites, first of all on the website of GWZO. Various flyers of the exhibition - including one in English - are available online from here. The original central websites of the project - www.europajagellonica.com and www.europajagellonica.eu - are no longer online, however, the www.europajagellonica.de provides information on the project. The websites of the various venues also provide information and photos of the exhibition: GASK in Kutná Hora, the Royal Castle and the National Museum (MNW) in Warsaw and the Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte in Potsdam all have some information.

Kutná Hora exhibition


The exhibition was the most complete in Kutná Hora. Organized at a perfect venue, the Gallery of the Central Bohemian district (GASK), located in the former Jesuit monastery right next to the church of St. Barbara, the whole town was in effect part of the exhibition. The newly renovated building provided a great location for the exhibition, and it was comfortable to walk through the exhibition. The full list of the sections of the exhibition were unfolded here, which was easy to follow - although contained a few repetitions in my opinion.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Art around 1400 - Current exhibitions

In 2012, a number of exhibitions were dedicated to the period around 1400, the period of the International Gothic. Some of these are still open - in fact, one is about to open this week. These exhibitions each focus on one geographical area - but together they demonstrate the richness and variety of this extremely creative period of European art history. When we were preparing the Sigismundus-exhibition of 2006, originally we planned to show some true European highlights of this period - the period when Pisanello, Ghiberti, the young Donatello, Masolino and Massaccio, Claus Sluter, the Limbourg brothers or Robert Campin were all active - but works from this period are simply too fragile and precious to gather in one exhibition. However, if someone gets a chance to visit all the exhibitions listed below, he or she could get a very good impression of the main trends of the period.

Gentile da Fabriano: Adoration of the Magi, 1423 
Let us start with the exhibition still on view for a few weeks at The Uffizi in Florence (until November 4). The exhibition titled The Gleam of Gold - The International Gothic Style in Florence, 1375-1440, intends to reconstruct the panorama of Florentine art in the wonderful and crucial period that extended roughly from 1375 to 1440. The exhibition, set out in chronological order, starts with the work of the greatest artists working in the tradition of the late 14th century. Another section focuses on the achievements of Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the leading players on the Late Gothic scene in Florence who, in the early part of his career, trained virtually all of the city's most important artists in his workshop for the first Baptistry door. The exhibition ends with Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano, on display for the first time since its recent restoration. The exhibition is part of the 'Un anno ad arte' series, which has a separate website, with photos of key works on view. You can also read an overview of the exhibition here and in the New York Times.


Bernard Martorell: Trial of St, George,
 1435

Earlier this year (from 29 March to 15 July 2012), the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona held the exhibition Catalunya 1400 - The International Gothic Style. This was the first major exhibition on one of the most creative cycles in the history of Catalan art, around the turn of the 15th century. Beside great masterpieces by the most important Catalan artists of all time, the exhibition, showed the renewal of the miniature; presented the retable as the distinctive expression of Catalan painting; and it highlighted the importance of the arrival of European artists in Catalonia with the resulting French influence on Catalan culture. One of the stars of the exhibition were undoubtedly the the four panels with narrative scenes from the Retable of Saint George by Bernat Martorell, now in the Louvre. The exhibition includes at the same time a carefully chosen display of sculptures, items of precious metalwork and liturgical textiles.

You can get a PDF-format press overview of the exhibition here. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.






Sunday, October 07, 2012

On the trail of St. Elisabeth in Marburg

A few weeks ago I had a chance to walk around Marburg, the burial place and the center of the cult of St. Elisabeth of Hungary. Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary, of the Árpád dynasty and his wife Gertrude, from the family of the Counts of Andechs-Meran. In 1211, the four year old Elisabeth was taken to the Thuringian court, to be raised with his intended husband, Hermann of Thuringia. Soon after she left (in 1213), her mother was killed by rebellious Hungarian lords. As Hermann passed away as well, Elisabeth in the end was married to his brother, Ludwig (in 1221). The couple had three children, but Ludwig passed away on a crusade in 1227. By this time Elisabeth started following Franciscan ideas of poverty, and was strongly influenced by the ascetic Master Conrad of Marburg. In 1228, in the Franciscan house at Eisenach Elisabeth formally renounced the world, and became one of the tertiaries in Germany. In the summer of 1228 she built the Franciscan hospital at Marburg and then devoted herself entirely to the care of the sick. She passed away in 1231, at the age of only twenty-four.


Her ascetism, her charitable acts as well as many miracles at her gave quickly led to her canonization (1235), and one of the most beautiful Gothic chruches in Germany was soon built over her grave in Marburg by the Teutonic Knigths. Elizabeth became one of the most popular female saints of the entire Middle Ages, venerated especially in Germany, Hungary and Italy. You can read more about her life in the Catholic Encyclopedia, and you can read her legend as it was incorporated into the Legenda Aurea. Medieval images of her and her legend also abound in these regions. 2007 marked the 800 birthday of Elisabeth, and was marked by a series of exhibitions and events, the largest of them being the Landesausstellung at Wartburg. As I think both her life and the images depicting her are quite well-known, I will not go on about this subject - the purpose of this post was to share some images I took in Marburg, especially in the Elisabethkirche. You can see these below.



Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Buried Medieval Synagogue of Buda

View of the remains in 1964
Hungarian daily Népszabadság reported this weekend on the Schulhof Foundation for the Restoration of the Medieval Synagogue of Buda. The aim of the foundation is to uncover and reconstruct the medieval great Synagogue of Buda, which was found in 1964. This late Gothic Synagogue was built in 1461, and was destoyed in 1686, when the castle of Buda was taken back by the Christian army from the Turks. Although the medieval Jewish community of Buda had to leave the town in 1526 (when the army of Suleiman the Great first took the Hungarian capital), they were allowed to return during the period of Ottoman Turkish rule (1541-1686). In September 1686, when the Christian army broke through the Vienna Gate in the process of taking back the town, they started slaughtering everyone they encountered - Turks and Jews alike. The chronicle of rabbi Isaac Schulhof describes how the people of the town ran into the synagogue and tried to barricade themselves inside - but the Christians stormed the synagogue and slaughtered everyone inside. The building burned down, and was later covered over, becoming the tomb of those trapped inside for several centuries.



Remains of the building were found by László Zolnay in 1964. The Synagogue was a square building, which was divided into two aisles by a row of piers. The remains are about 4 meters below the present-day street level, so tall walls, as well as much of the piers once dividing the space survive. The vault supported by these piers already collapsed in the 16th century, but one keystone survives. After the removal of the bodies, the great synagoge had to be covered over again, in hopes of a future reconstruction. Stones from the piers were taken across the street, where a smaller and earlier synagogue was also found in the 1960s. This smaller prayer house was rebuilt from its ruins at the beginning of the 18th century as a residential house, and now it operates as a small museum, as part of the Budapest History Museum.

Drawing of one of the walls of the Synagogue


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Late 14th century frescoes discovered at Nitra cathedral


The cathedral of Nyitra (Nitra, Slovakia) is one of the oldest, most complex, and - until quite recently - least known cathedral building of medieval Hungary. Located north-east of Pozsony/Pressburg/Bratislava, the bishopric of Nyitra was founded before the Magyar Conquest, at 880. The bishopric was established at the seat of the Principality of Nyitra, on the eastern fringes of the Carolingian Empire. After the Conquest, the settlement became a ducal residence, and king Koloman I reestablished the bishopric some time before 1113. The cathedral was dedicated to St. Emmeram, as well as to the canonized local hermits, St. Zoerard and Benedict. The cathedral has a dual church: one dating from the Romanesque period, while the other Gothic, from the middle of the 14th century. However, the entire ensemble was rebuilt in Baroque style. The restoration and research of the buildings have been going on since 2007. Already, this research has yielded spectacular results: especially with the uncovering of a large Renaissance red marble tabernacle (with a frame of white marl from Buda), similar to the ones known from the parish church of Pest and from the cathedral of Pécs. Dated 1497, the Renaissance tabernacle at Nyitra is earlier than these, being a very significant example of Florentine-style early Renaissance carving in Hungary.

Tabernacle from 1497 at Nyitra (Photo: Roznava24)
As restoration of the church continued this summer, work progressed in the southern church building of the cathedral. This is the building with a Romanesque apse, which has been extended/rebuilt towards the west in the 14th century. This construction likely dates to 1378, when such work carried out by bishop  Dominic was recorded. Already at the beginninf of the year, parts of a Late Gothic fresco have been spotted behind a Baroque stone altar dating from 1662. Now, however, the entire altarpiece has been temporarily dismantled, and the entire fresco can be seen and studied. The find is of major importance: it comes from a cathedral church, and the centuries behind the altarpiece saved the fresco from any repainting or earlier restorations. The condition of the painted surface is thus fully intact - and this surface is of a considerable size. The quality of the paintings is also very high - along with the recently uncovered frescoes of Torna (Turňa nad Bodvou, near Košice) they are defitinely among the finest wall paintings from the decades around 1400 from Upper Hungary. The theme of the frescoes is a Marian cycle, with the Last Prayer and the Coronation of the Virgin.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Reconsecration of Pannonhalma Abbey Church


The medieval church of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma was restored over the last few months, and was solemnly reconsecrated today. The interior reconstruction of the 13th-century abbey church was carried out according to the plans of British architect, John Pawson. The reconstruction mainly focused on the main liturgical area of the church, the chancel and the monastic choir. The main goal of the alterations was to restore the simplicity of this space, and this meant the removal of the 19th century historicising decoration designed by Ferenc Storno (Storno similarly removed the earlier Baroque furnishing of the basilica, to make way for his own, 'historically correct' decorations - now his work suffered a similar fate). The Storno-reconstruction, which was completed in 1876, was the last major intervention inside the church. Storno's pulpit was moved to a chapel at Pannonhalma, while the 19th century stained glass windows - including the large rose window depicting the patron of the church, St. Martin - have been deposited at the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest. On the other hand, the painted glass panes of the side aisle remained there, and the vault frescoes of Storno were cleaned.


The ideas of Pawson are summarized in the following statement he made:  ‘The goal of the architectural scheme made for the reconstruction of the Basilica of the Archabbey of Pannonhalma is to develop a space suitable for harmonic reception of the community of monks and their liturgy, meeting the needs of the local community and visitors. This goal was achieved by getting rid of several makeshift elements appearing in the use of space, and the character of “storage of historic furniture” was also eliminated. The purpose of the interventions was a uniform space in the church where each part and element of space has its own role and significance, and functionally and visually contributes to the development of the space designed for prayer and meditation, which are considered the basic function of the place. The plan attempts to redefine the space of the church structured axially, ascending within its section, orienting towards the sanctuary, and finally to the rose window in order to emphasize the meaning of the space: the way of Christians. On the one hand, the key is a complex and deliberate process of catharsis; on the other hand it is a careful equilibration of the existing historic layers.’

Pawson's scheme for the reconstruction (source: johnpawson.com)
The monks of Pannonhalma took notice of Pawson when he built the Cistercian abbey church of Novy Dvur in Bohemia, and he received the commission along with a Hungarian architectural studio. Along with the reconstruction of the church, this year also marks the completion of the rebuilding and expansion of visitor service areas at Pannonhalma. in 2010 a new visitors’ center was opened on the hilltop near the abbey. In 2011, a new entrance for visitors was opened on the bastion on top of the hill of the abbey.

The Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma is one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary, founded in 996. It is a World Heritage site. The present church of Pannonhalma was built in early Gothic style at the beginning of the 13th century during the reign of Abbot Uros, and was consecrated most likely in 1224.

You can read more about the reconstruction on the website of the Hungarian Presidency of the EU.

Photo showing the removal of the 19th century stained glass windows from the eastern wall of the church


Friday, July 20, 2012

New books on art in medieval Hungary

I've recently written brief reviews of several English or German language books about the art of medieval Hungary - including the conference volume published by Villa I Tatti on Italy and Hungary in the Early Renaissance or Evelin Wetter's book on late medieval goldsmith works from Hungary. I am happy to report that two new books in English have been published on the subject - both will be treated in more detailed reviews later on. For now, I would just like to inform my readers about these important contributions, both by young researchers, to the study of medieval art in Central Europe.


The first book is part of the »Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia« series: Emese Sarkadi Nagy: Local Workshops - Foreign Connections. Late Medieval Altarpieces from Transylvania. Ostfildern, 2012. 


Here is the brief description: Altarpieces are complex works expressing the intellectual, economic and cultural life of a country. This comprehensive volume provides in-depth art-historical and historical analysis of various groups of winged altarpieces in Transylvania, especially the areas inhabited by Saxons. A complete catalog of the surviving Transylvanian altarpieces and lots of color pictures document this important chapter in European history and make this book an indispensable reference work.




The other book was published by Brepols Publishers: Tim Juckes: The Parish and Pilgrimage Church of St Elizabeth in Košice Town, Court, and Architecture in Late Medieval Hungary. Turnhout, 2012.


One of the most important building projects in late medieval Hungary was the reconstruction of the parish and pilgrimage church of St Elizabeth in Košice (present-day Slovakia). The burghers of this prosperous, free royal town decided to rebuild their main church shortly before 1400, and work continued, with several interruptions, into the late fifteenth century. Along with the ambitious and unusual design that emerged, far-reaching artistic connections with centres such as Prague and Vienna ensure the church’s exceptional value for architectural history – not only within Hungary, but in the Central European region as a whole.


It is this value as an art historical document that the present work seeks to exploit. It approaches the church’s fabric as a source of information about patrons, masons, and congregations, attempting to locate the dynamics behind design choices made. This necessitates a detailed reconstruction of the building enterprise itself, before the focus shifts to the impact of the St Elizabeth’s project both in northern Hungary and further afield (Transylvania, Lesser Poland), allowing the town lodge’s remarkable achievements be set in inter-regional context.


More information on both of these books is coming soon here on the Mediaval Hungary blog!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Medieval and Renaissance exhibitions in NYC

Even though New York obviously has no original medieval buildings (except for those built into The Cloisters), the City is home to wonderful collections of medieval art. The Metropolitan Museum houses the largest and best collection of medieval art in the US, much of it on display in the main building, while many more are on view at The Cloisters, the branch of the museum devoted to the European Middle Ages. The Morgan Library and the New York Public Library house hundreds of valuable medieval illuminated manuscripts. (To see how many objects from medieval Hungary these collections hold, have a look at my preliminary checklist). I had a chance to spend two days in New York this past week - instead of these permament collections, I seeked out some Medieval and Renaissance exhibitions, which I will briefly describe below.

St. Mark preaching - Ivory panel from the
so-called Grado Chair, 7th-8th c.
First on my list was the Byzantium and Islam exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum, which actually closes today. This large exhibition is part of a series of shows curated by Helen C. Evans and dedicated to Byzantine Culture (a series which acutually started with Kurt Weitzmann's 1977 exhibition titled The Age of Spirituality). The two earlier exhibitions - “The Glory of Byzantium” in 1997 and “Byzantium: Faith and Power” in 2004 - focused on later periods of Byzantine art (the Middle Byzantine period and the last centuries of the Byzantine empire, respectively), while the current exhibition goes back to the early centuries of Byzantium, exploring the vast southern part of the Empire. The focus is on the diverse cultural traditions (Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Jewish, etc.) and on the emergence of a new force in the region: Islam. The exhibition is arranged thematically, surveying first religious art of the Byzantine empire, then focusing on themes of secular art (such as commerce or dress), finishing with Islamic religious art. The website of the museum gives a very good overview of the material on view, and more in-depth information is provided by tthe accompanying blog.

While the earlier exhibitions mainly focused on highlights of Byzantine art - icons, luxury manuscripts, goldsmith works - and on the connections of Byzantium with western Europe and Latin Christianity, this exhibition was quite different. The exhibition looked to the Eastern and Southern neighbours of Byzantium, and raised a number of very interesting and novel questions about cultural transfer and the co-existence of different traditions. Naturally, the show also includes a number of truly spectacular items: such as the famous Rabbula Gospels from 586 or the wonderful ivories of the so-called Grado Chair. The narrative was clear, and the display - as always at the Met - was wonderfully arranged. Overall, however, I was not quite as impressed with this exhibition as with the 1997 "Glory of Byzantium" - the wonderful display of icons from the Monastery of St. Catherine at Mt. Sinai remains a vivid memory to this day from the earlier exhibition. Due to political circumstances, no loans arrived from Egypt this time. These objects, however, are included in the catalogue - their presence would have definitely made the whole exhibition different.

Head of a man.
Bohemian, 1360-1380 

Currently, there is one more exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum focusing on Medieval and Renaissance art: titled Dürer and Beyond, it displays Central European Drawings, 1400–1700. It starts with a few beautiful Bohemian drawings, well-known from the Prague: The Crown of Bohemia exhibition (2005). In other parts of the museum, there are additional special displays, including the Rylands Haggadah (mid 14th c., Catalonia), Renaissance illuminations from the Robert Lehman Collection, and a handful of Northern Italian paintings from the Accademia Carrara at Bergamo.





Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Medieval University of Pécs

General view of the site north of the cathedral
Photo: muemlekem.hu 
Hungary's first university was founded in 1367 at Pécs, with faculties of philosophy, law and medicine (no theology). The university was created by the bishop of Pécs, Vilmos (William), with royal support and by a decree of Pope Urban V. The university was short-lived: already in 1395, King Sigismund created a new insitution at Óbuda, and the school at Pécs stopped working some time in the early 15th century (the University of Óbuda was unsuccessful, too). It is believed that the buildings of the University were located on the north side of cathedral, where in the 12-13th centuries the bishop's palace was erected. Indeed, excavations carried out there in 1980s unearthed a large Gothic building, built on the remains of an earlier, Romanesque structure. The topography of this area, however is rather complicated: among other structures the remains of a 14th-century chapel: the so-called Gilded Chapel of Our Lady (mentioned as such in a charter of Pope Boniface IX in 1401: capella deaurata beate Marie Virginis), founded by Bishop Nicholas (1346-1360). Remains of the chapel and the university dissapeared during the Ottoman Turkish conquest and the wars ensuing (Pécs was occupied in 1543).

The chapel and other remains on the north side of the cathedral were unearthed by Mária Sándor between 1978-1987). Among the most important finds on the site were the extraordinarily fine statues stemming from the former chapel. After this for many decades, the remains of the buildings stood under temporary roofs, while the sculptural fragments from the chapel languished in storage at the local county museum. There were many attempts to make the site accessible, but there was never any money for it - not even during preparations for 2010, when Pécs was European Capital of Culture (when a new visitor center was built for the Early Christian ruins, also located near the cathedral).

Fragment of a stone retable from the Gilded Chapel of Our Lady
 Last year, however, something finally happened - there was a brief new archaeological campaing to clarify some questions, and it was announced that the site will be opened to the public by this year. Along this process a lot of additional medieval architectural fragments have been recovered in the area, especially inside the later walls encircling the complex.

The area is now managed by the Hungarian State Holding Company, and a significant amount was set aside for the erection of a new protective building for the remains of the university and the chapel. In June it was announced that that the university building is ready for visitors, apart from some minor internal restoration tasks. The walls of the medieval fortress structure surrounding the cathedral complex have also been strengthened and a new walkway is being created around them. The opening of this area is scheduled for September, 2012. With this step finally the whole cathedral complex will be accessible to visitors, together with the very rich holdings of medieval sculpture and other remains. I wrote briefly before about the cathedral and the adjacent Cathedral Museum, which holds the Romanesque sculptures from the cathedral. The new area will make accessible the equally significant Gothic remains of Pécs.

Glimpse inside the new museum building at the site
Photo: muemlekem.hu 



Additional reading:
Reports on a research project coordinated by Mária Sándor in 2001-2006, dedicated to the remains of the university and the chapel (with bilbiography).
The MA Thesis of Veronika Csikós, submitted at CEU Budapest in 2008, can be downloaded from the website of the University. The thesis deals with the statues of the Gilded Chapel of Our Lady.


More information is available in Hungarian at the following sites:

Report on the discovery of carved stones last year, in the online heritage magazine, Műemlékem.hu.
Report on the new excavations at the chapel, on the online journal for medieval archaeology (Archeologia - Altum Castrum Online Magazin), maintained by the Visegrád Palace Museum (with a more detailed report by Gergely Buzás, a PDF-file with lots of images).