Showing posts with label new books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new books. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Books on Medieval Art in Hungary

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


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

The following description was provided by the publisher:

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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




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


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

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

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, 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.





Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Route of Medieval Churches

Baktalórántháza
Fresco of Christ
Two years ago, I already reported on the Route of Medieval Churches project, which focuses on medieval monuments in North-Eastern Hungary, and neighbouring regions of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary, which now lie in Romania and the Ukraine. The project has been going ahead during that time, and by now reached another important milestone. This means first of all the publication of an all-new volume, which focuses on medieval churches in the north-eastern region of medieval Hungary, much of which now lies in the Ukraine (the region of Carpatho-Ukraine). The book, titled Medieval Churches from the Tisza valley to the Carpathians has been published both in Hungarian and Ukrainian versions. It treats several well-known monuments, such as the 13th century rotunda of Gerény with its 14th century fresco cycle, as well as a number of newly discovered medieval monuments, including a large number of medieval wall paintings. All of this is the result of research carried out during the last three years, coordinated by the editor of the book, Tibor Kollár. The publication joins the earlier volume, which focused on medieval monuments of historic Szatmár county. PDF-versions of both publications can be downloaded - in Hungarian. It is worth to do so simply for the all-new illustration material contained in these volumes.


Another new result of the project is a completely rewamped new website, which is available in several languages. The website outlines the goals and results of the entire EU-funded touristic and research project, and gives detailed information about the medieval churches of the region. Start browsing in English - it is definitely worth it. Check out such famous gems as the church of Csaroda, long thought to be the most characteristic medieval church from the Arpadian period (before 1301), but now dated to the early 14th century. Have a look at it twin edifice in Transcarpathia, the church of Palágykomoróc - where last year frescoes painted by a workshop known from Csaroda were found. Explore the church of Ákos, the most significant Romanesque monastery church in Eastern Hungary, or the little-known church of Nagybégány.
But most of all, go an explore the region in person - thanks to this EU-project, there is plenty of information available to organize such a trip. As an inspiration, I am including here a few photos taken during my most recent trip in the region.

Ákos, late 12th century church

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Presentation of three books on medieval Slavonia

Three new books on medieval Slavonia will be presented next week at the Central European University of Budapest. All three books are registers, mostly dedicated to the early medieval artistic production and culture between the Sava and the Drava rivers. The first book, Register of Sites and Monuments of Earlier Medieval Art between the Sava and the Drava Rivers, covers 565 medieval sites in northern Croatia with short descriptions and bibliography. The Register of Archaeological Finds and Sites in Bjelovar-Bilogora County lists all the known cultural sites in Bjelovar-Bilogora County from prehistory to the Late Middle Ages. The volume entitled Discovered Plains is dedicated to medieval art (mostly architecture) in eastern Slavonia.

The books will be presented by József Laszlovszky (CEU), Miklós Takács (Institute of Archaeology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences) and Béla Zsolt Szakács (CEU/Pázmány Péter Catholic University).


The books to be presented are the following: 

VLADIMIR PETER GOSS: Registar položaja i spomenika ranije srednjovjekovne umjetnosti u međurjecju Save i Drave [Register of Sites and Monuments of Early Medieval Art between the Sava and the Drava River]

GORAN JAKOVLJEVIC: Registar arheoloških nalaza i nalazišta Bjelovarsko-bilogorske županije [Register of Archaeological Finds and Sites in Bjelovar-Bilogora County]

VJEKOSLAV JUKIC: Otkrivena ravnica: srednjovjekovna umjetnost istocne Slavonije [Discovered Plains: the Medieval Art of Eastern Slavonia]

The event will be at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, 2012 at CEU #409 (Budapest, V. Nádor u. 9.)

The official invitation is available on the website of the Medieval Studies Department of CEU. More information on the books is available at Romanika.net.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Romanika.net presents: Art History - The Future is Now

Romanika.net, a Croatian website dedicated to the project "The Romanesque between the Sava and the Drava Rivers and European Culture," published a new online book on medieval art. Titled Art History - The Future is Now, the book contains studies published in Honor of Professor Vladimir Peter Goss celebrating his 70th birthday, 45 years of publication, and 40 years of university teaching. The editors of the volume are Maja Cepetić, Danko Dujmović, Vjekoslav Jukić, Aleksandra Nikoloska.

The studies in the pdf volume are published in English or Italian language (also including some in Croatian and German), and their subject matter ranges from ancient portraiture to Romanesque architecture and sculpture to Italian Gothic art.  The first section represents contributions by the 'Masters and their Heirs Apparent', the second by the 'Young Lions'. The authors come from various countries (9 total) - and include one Hungarian, Béla Zsolt Szakács, who writes on Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome.  Among the authors there are Archeologists, Art Historians, Cultural Anthropologists, Linguists, reflecting Professor Goss’ true interdisciplinary orientation – of looking for the best in related fields. The book also contains a biography and bibliography of Professor Goss, as well as a study by Goss himself - reflecting on the present state and future of art and its history.

While calling attention to this new online publication, I would also like to recommend the romanika.net website in its entirety, as it reflects the interests of Professor Goss very well. The research project, to which this website belongs, surveys Romanesque sites between the Sava and the Drava rivers - the area now generally known as "Continental Croatia", which was part of the Kingdom of Hungary throughout the Middle Ages (equalling the northern part of Slavonia). The project is dedicated to "discovering the sites lost and forgotten long time ago, and thus creating outlines of a totally lost and forgotten cultural landscape. The main goal is to make the art of the Pre-Romanesque (both pre-Christian Slavic and Christian) and Romanesque in Croatia receive recognition and appreciation it fully deserves."

From this space and in the form of this brief post, I would like to salute Vladimir Goss, and wish him a lot of success in carrying this important project further! Sretan rođendan!


Maja Cepetić, Danko Dujmović, Vjekoslav Jukić, Aleksandra Nikoloska, eds.: Art History - the Future is Now. Studies in Honor of Professor Vladimir Goss. Rijeka, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2012. 433 pp. Available online at: http://www.romanika.net/art-history-the-future-is-now-studies-in-honor-of-professor-vladimir-p-goss/

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New book on Royal Seals of the Árpád Dynasty

A new book, written by Imre Takács on Royal Seals of the Árpád Dynasty was presented today at the Hungarian National Archives. The book is the first part of a new series, titled Corpus Sigillorum Hungariae Mediaevalis. The series aims to provide catalogue of Hungarian medieval seals - including royal seals, aristocratic seals as well as seals of towns, religious institutions and other organizations. The first volume is dedicated to seals issued by Hungarian kings of the Árpád Dynasty (1000-1301), and includes a total of 48 entries. The use of royal seals was first referred to in the foundation charter of the Abbey of Pannonhalma, issued in 1001. However, no surviving examples of the earliest royal seals - including seals of King Stephen I - are known, thus the series of examples starts with a humble lead bulla of King Peter (1039-1042, 1044-1046), followed by the seal of summons of Andrew I (1046-1060). Most spectacular are the great gold seals of 12th and 13th century kings - such as the gold bulla of King Emeric (1196-1204), seen on the cover of the book (and here to the left). The book also includes four seals of queens from the period, as well as a few seals issued by princes of the Árpád Dynasty.

In addition of a full catalogue of these seals (48 entries total), the book also contains an extensive introductory study by Imre Takács, dedicated to art historical questions. Subjects include 'type history and iconography', as well as questions of 'image and style'. The rich material in the comparative illustrations make clear that these miniature masterworks of goldsmith work are related not only to western European royal seals, but also to contemporary monumental sculpture. 

The full text of the book is included in an English translation as well, making the material accessible for the wider public.


Takács, Imre: Az Árpád-házi királyok pecsétjei - Royal Seals of the Árpád Dynasty. Corpus Sigillorum Hungariae Mediaevalis I. Budapest, Magyar Országos Levéltár (Hungarian National Archives), 2012. 192 pp.


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!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Facsimile of Budapest Concordantiae caritatis published

Death of the Virgin from the Budapest Concordantiae caritatis
As reported by the miniaturaitaliana.com blog, the facsimile edition of the Budapest Concordantiae caritatis (1413, Budapest, Central Library of the Ordo Scholarum Piarum, CX 2) has been published by Schöck Art Print. It is an exclusive, leather-bound limited edition facsimile edition.


As the publisher states: The Budapest Concordantiae caritatis is the most richly illustrated medieval manuscript in Hungary. The work contained in it is that of a fourteenth-century author, Ulrich von Lilienfeld, who between 1345-1351 was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Lilienfeld, Lower Austria. Concordantiae caritatis is a typological manuscript. Only eight copies of the Concordantiae caritatis known today contain illustrations and of these few the Budapest manuscript is worthy of a high position due to the high quality and completeness of its cycle of illustrations. As the colophon betrays, the text was written in 1413 by the Viennese burgher Stephanus Lang, in his own home. Seven artists, visibly in contact with each other but of varying education, participated in the illustration of the Budapest Concordantiae caritatis. Of them the most talented one can be linked with the circle of the Master of the Sankt Lambrecht Votive Picture, a group whose style became dominant in Viennese panel painting in the first third of the fifteenth century.


The text above was written by Anna Boreczky (National Széchényi Library), whose doctoral dissertation was dedicated to this hitherto little studied manuscript, and who edited the commentary volume to the facsimile. It is to be hoped that a more simple edition of the manuscript and the commentary volume will make this little-known treasury much more widely known. The facsimile edition - along with the edition of the Budapest Apollonius pictus, also edited by Boreczky - was presented today at the Hungarian Academy in Rome.

You can find some information (in Hungarian) about the manuscript on the website of the Piarist Order. You can also read the abstract of Boreczky's dissertation here.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Niclaus Gerhaert at the Liebieghaus

Niclaus Gerhaert: Self portrait (?), c 1463
Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame, Strasbourg 

The Liebieghaus in Frankfurt dedicated a monographic exhibition to the late Gothic sculptor Niclaus Gerhaert of Leiden. Alongside Hans Multscher, Gerhaert is regarded as the most important artistic character developing the naturalistic formal language of Late Gothic sculpture. His career corresponds to the spread of artistic ideas from west to east: although it is not known whether he was actually born in Leiden (given as his origin in later sources), but he was likely trained in the artistic milieu of the Southern Netherlands, then in the 1460s worked on the eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire - more precisely in Strassburg - and was finally invited by Emperor Frederick III to Vienna and Wiener Neustadt, where he died in 1473. Although the corpus of works firmly attributed to him is rather small, his influence was enormous, and members of his workshop as well as his followers determined the development of Late Gothic sculpture in Central Europe. The art of both Veit Stoss and Tilman Riemenschneider would be  unthinkable without the influence of Gerhaert.





The exhibition currently on view in Frankfurt is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue edited by Stefan Roller. There are essays in the catalogue by a number of authors, following an introductory study by Roland Recht. This part is followed by catalogue entries, the first part of which include all the surviving works attributed to Niclaus Gerhaert (including those not in the exhibition), while the second part analyses the sculptures featured at the Frankfurt exhibition - arranged in groups of works from the environment of the master, and works showing his influence.

In the following, I would like to focus on one aspect of the subject, the influence of Gerhaert in the Kingdom of Hungary. I stated above that the sculptor was invited to Vienna by Frederick III, the most formidable opponent of Hungary's king Matthias. Gerhaert was commissioned to work on the tomb of the Emperor (in the Stephansdom of Vienna) and also on that of Queen Eleonore of Portugal (in Wiener Neustadt). Work on the Vienna tomb was likely disrupted in 1473, at the death of the artist, and again in 1485, when the troops of Matthias moved in to occupy the town. By that time the tombstone was moved to Wiener Neustadt, only to be returned to Vienna in 1493, so three years after the death of King Matthias. The tomb was not completed until 1513. There are few other works firmly attributed to Gerhaert from his Viennese period: first among them is the tomb of Queen Eleonore at Wiener Neustadt, wife of Frederick III, who passed away in 1467 - at the time the master was invited by the Emperor. In Wiener Neustadt, there is also a painted limestone statue of the Man of Sorrows at the former Cathedral (the Diocese was established by Frederick in 1469). Apart from these stone monuments, there a few wooden statues from this period, as Niclaus Gerhaert was an equally versatile sculptor both in stone and wood. Two small statues of the Virgin in Child - one in the Metropolitan Museum, the other in private collection - round out this period of the artist. 

Head of St. John from Tájó 
In the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, it was his works of wood which exerted a considerable influence. Stefan Roller dedicated a study to the influence of of Gerhaert in Central Europe, and two objects  from Upper Hungary (the territory of modern Slovakia) are actually included in the exhibition. Altogether, four works are discussed: the Head of St. John the Baptist from Tájó (Tajov, Slovakia), the main altar of Kassa (Košice) and the Nativity group as well as a figure of the Virgin at the reading stand - both originally from the main altar of the parish church of Pozsony (Bratislava). 



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:





Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Inaugural Lecture of András Kovács at HAS

András Kovács at Szászrégen (Reghin), 2009

65 year old art historian András Kovács will deliver his inaugural lecture to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences tomorrow, on October 20th (he is an external member of the Academy). The title of his lecture, to be delivered in Hungarian, is: The Gyulafehérvár palace of the Princes of Transylvania.

András Kovács's primary field of research is the architecture of 16th-17th century Transylvania. Based on a careful reading of the sources (many not even studied before) and a detailed analysis of existing building and their ruins, he fundamentally altered our knowledge of this period - the new overview of the field is now provided by his magisterial survey of the period (Késő reneszánsz épí­tészet Erdélyben 1541-1720, which is available online, either chapter by chapter or as a full pdf-version). He also wrote on medieval architecture, in particular about the cathedral of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia).



András Kovács is professor of Art History at the Babeș-Bolyai University at Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár), and during the last twenty years he has raised a new generation of Hungarian art historians in Transylvania. His pupils have just dedicated a volume of studies to him: the 23 studies represent that high level of scholarship and keen attention to detail that he always required of himself and of his students. (Liber discipulorum: Tanulmányok Kovács András 65. születésnapjára. Edited by Zsolt Kovács, Emese Sarkadi Nagy, Attila Weisz. Kolozsvár, 2011.) This in itself shows the success of his work, not to mention everything that he did in order to preserve historic monuments and to organize the field of Hungarian-language art historical research in Romania. An (incomplete) list of the publications of András Kovács can be consulted on the University's website as well as in the Transindex database (with some further works available online), and also on the website of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

With this brief post, I, too would like to congratulate András Kovács, and look forward to hearing his lecture tomorrow!






Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reims, Naumburg - and Hungary?

This week an international art history conference is commencing in Naumburg, in conjunction with a major exhibition dedicated to the Naumburg Master. The exhibition - which is still on view until the beginning of November - is accompanied by a monumental catalogue, published in two volumes, and in over 1500 pages. Titled “The Naumburg Master - Sculptor and Architect in the Europe of Cathedrals“, the Saxony-Anhalt State Exhibition focuses on "the sculptors and stonemasons associated with the name “Naumburg Master“ [who] had an outstanding reputation throughout medieval Europe." The main topic of the catalogue is the French origin of the so-called Naumburg Master, with special emphasis on the impact of the Reims cathedral workshop on Central Europe (there is an entire chapter dedicated to the effects of Reims, with 9 studies - see the contents here). This is not a review, and the following is only based on a cursory study of the book. 



I think that a broader examination of direct connections of Central European artistic centers with the main sites of High Gothic art in France would have been necessary. In this context I definitely would have liked to see at least a few passages about medieval Hungary. Due to dynastic, personal and other, as yet untraced connections, a number of Hungarian monuments from the 1220s and 1230s are directly connected to the most fashionable monuments of French High Gothic. A few examples: in the early Gothic Cistercian Abbey church of Pilis, the tomb of Queen Gertrude (killed in 1213) was erected in the 1220s by a master hailing from Chartres or Reims. The tomb is one of the earliest examples anywhere of the combination of the Roman type sarcophagus and the medieval gisant. Another tombstone from Pilis, this time of a knight, gives the impression of being a two-dimensional, drawn version of the most fashionable High Gothic statues at Chartres. At about the same time, Villard de Honnecourt was also in Hungary (and likely at Pilis), coming directly from Reims - but it is not known what exactly he did here.


Pannonhalma, Porta Speciosa
Detail from the archivolt
Furthermore, the final section of the Benedictine Abbey church of Pannonhalma, consecrated in 1224, would have been unimaginable without the cooperation of builders and stone carvers trained in Champagne (Reims). The Porta Speciosa there (also completed by 1224) was also carved by this group of masters coming from Reims. The masters who worked on the vaulting of the nave as well as the building of the southern wall and portal must have been in residence in Hungary at the same time as their compatriots were working on the Capella Speciosa in Klosterneuburg.

Other churches of that exact period, such as the Church of St Stephen protomartyr in Esztergom or the Cathedral of Kalocsa also followed French Gothic prototypes. Now, much of this is largely destroyed (except for Pannonhalma) - but stone carvings, statue fragments survive in large number. Much of this material has been published extensively in German, English and French, in international catalogues and journals, as well as in many Hungarian publications. Authors such as Ernő Marosi, Imre Takács and Tibor Rostás wrote extensively on the “French connection”.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Medieval wall paintings discovered at Magyarlóna

Cover of the book on Magyarlóna
 

The village of Magyarlóna (formerly known as Szászlóna, now Luna de Sus, Romania) is a characteristic village of the Kalotaszeg region of Transylvania, near Kolozsvár (Cluj). The village was first mentioned in 1332 as Lona, and has a medieval church dating from roughly this period. This Calvinist church has always been noted for its rich set of painted wooden furniture, including an 18th century painted coffered ceiling by Lőrinc Umling (1752). However, its medieval origin was also plain to see: even if its vaults did not survive, the Gothic south portal and the medieval windows of the sanctuary survived. However, until 2009, no real research has been carried out in order to find more of the medieval features of the building. As soon as this work started, significant medieval frescoes have been found on the walls of the nave.







Last year, a book was published about the church and the cemetery around it. Edited by Gergely Nagy (President of the Hungarian National Committee of ICOMOS) and his wife, Klára Szatmári, the book summarizes the history of the village and its church (Klára Szatmári - Gergely Nagy: Magyarlóna református temploma és temetője. Veszprém-Budapest, 2010) . The book was written at the same time as research on the building started - and the first results of this are already reflected there. This research was carried out by art historian Attila Weisz, who first identified traces of the wall paintings. At this point a restorer, Loránd Kiss was brought in to uncover and conserve these paintings. 

Magyarlóna, interior view towards East 

Work continued this year, and so far the following has been revealed: There are frescoes in the nave of the church, on either side of the triumphal arch. The scenes on these walls have been arranged in three rows. On the northern side, the upper two rows, while on the southern side, the lower two rows have been uncovered so far. The top row contains scenes from the legend of a Virgin Martyr, perhaps St. Margaret of Antiochia.  As only one scene has been uncovered so far from what must have been an extensive cycle, identification at this point is not yet possible. The second row appears to contain one large composition of the Annunciation, with the figures of archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary arranged on either side of the triumphal arch (similar to the arrangement found at Disznajó). The lower row holds images of saints, one of whom is definitely a bishop. Further images are being uncovered on the intrados of the triumphal arch, and it has also been established that likely the entire north wall is painted.

Wall paintings on the south side of the triumphal arch 

Magyarlóna thus joins a number of other churches in the immediate region where significant fresco decoration has been uncovered. The neighboring village of Szászfenes (Floreşti) has a large set of badly-preserved frescoes, while better-preserved frescoes have been partially uncovered at Magyarvista (Viştea), and the frescoes of Magyarfenes (Vlaha) have been known since the 1930s. The date of these frescoes varies, although most were painted around 1400 (you can read my Hungarian-language study on this group of frescoes at academia.edu). The frescoes of Magyarlóna are definitely earlier, and were likely painted during the first half of the 14th century - thus at the same time as the earlier of two sets of frescoes at Magyarvista. All these villages belonged to the estate of the bishopric of Transylvania, the center of which was at the nearby castle of Gyalu (Gilău). This factor perhaps accounts for the rich painted decoration of these small village churches - although the role of nearby Kolozsvár cannot be underestimated, either. More research needs to be carried out partly in order to uncover more of the painted cycles, and partly to better understand their iconography and internal connections. For starters, a new edition of the book on the church is being prepared, which will include a preliminary report on these frescoes.

Wall paintings on the south side of the triumphal arch 

This post could not have been written without the help of my friends, Attila Weisz and Loránd Kiss, as well as Gergely Nagy, who were kind enough to share information on these discoveries and to provide photographs. You can read more about the book (in Hungarian) here. To get to know other aspects of the the heritage of the village, chack out traditional Hungarian folk music recorded there by Zoltán Kallós in the 1960s - just search here for Magyarlóna.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Late Medieval Goldsmith Works in the Kingdom of Hungary

A new book by Evelin Wetter has been dedicated to late medieval goldsmith works from the historical Kingdom of Hungary. The book was published in the series Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, published by the GWZO at the University of Leipzig. The series consists of art historical volumes about the time of the Jagiellonian dynasty (broadly interpreted as Central Europe during the 14-16th centuries). Of the eight books published so far in the series, this is the first one dedicated entirely to medieval Hungary.

Evelin Wetter currently works at the Abbeg Stiftung in Riggisberg, and is a noted expert on late medieval liturgical textiles and goldsmith works. She has published extensively on these subjects, and contributed to various major Central European projects, such as the 2003 exhibition on Gothic Art held in Bratislava, or the 2006 Sigismundus-exhibition in Budapest. The present book is based on her Habilitationsschrift at the University of Leipzig.

Reliquary bust of St. Ladislas from Várad cathedral
Győr, Cathedral Treasury 
Titled Objekt, Überlieferung und Narrativ - Spätmittelalterliche Goldschmiedekunst im historischen Königreich Ungarn (Object, tradition, and narrative - Late medieval goldsmith's art in the historic Kingdom of Hungary), the book represents a major milestone in the research of Hungarian medieval goldsmith works. Unlike most other works published in this field, the book is not dedicated to details of technical questions, but rather focuses on the use and afterlife of the medieval objects. Significant chapters are dedicated to the survival and later use of liturgical objects and reliquaries, often in circumstances quite different from the time of their creation. Another focus of the book is the historiography, display and later interpretation of these objects. The chronological range of the book is thus from the early-15th century to the early 20th, while the territorial focus is largely determined by the survival of the objects, and is thus mainly Upper Hungary (roughly the present-day Slovakia) and Transylvania. The subject of the analysis includes such key works as the reliquary of St. Ladislas, as well as lesser-known objects, giving an overall view of the field. The often hard historical situations, the destruction of major medieval centers and the changing confessions of the population are equally treated, resulting in a complex analysis of Central European history. The chapters on 19th century historiography - especially in connection with such questions as filigree enamel - are similarly captivating. Another chapter is dedicated to profane goldsmith works, including those luxurious items which entered the Museum of Applied Arts from the Esterházy-treasury. The book is beautifully illustrated with 20 color plates and numerous black & white illustrations. All in all, the book represents a much-needed complex approach to the creation and afterlife of medieval Hungarian goldsmith works, and thus comes highly recommended.

Decorative flask from the Esterházy Treasury
Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest 


Bibliographic data:
Evelin Wetter: Objekt, Überlieferung und Narrativ. Spätmittelalterliche Goldschmiedekunst im historischen Königreich Ungarn (Studia Jagellonica Lipsiensia, Bd. 8). Ostfildern: Thorbecke, 2011. Hardcover, 312 pp. ISBN: 978-3-7995-8408-1

P.s.: Notice the similarity of the cover image to my sidebar image? Yes, it is the same object, the chalice of Benedek Suki, today at the Cathedral Treasury of Esztergom - photos by Attila Mudrák.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Route of Medieval Churches in Szatmár county

Csengersima,  parish church 
A major research project, aimed at surveying and documenting the churches of medieval Szatmár country, was completed last week, and its results are now largely available on the web. As the territory of medieval Szatmár country is today divided between Romania and Hungary, the research project was a joint Hungarian-Romanian one, funded by the EU. The project documented a large number of medieval churches, including some only known from excavations. The area preserved some important medieval buildings, such as the Romanesque basilica of Ákos (Acâş), but most surviving buildings are small medieval parish churches.

The project consists of the following main elements: Mapping out a thematic route of medieval churches in the Hungarian-Romanian border area (in historic Szatmár county), which is the first common thematic route of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg and Satu Mare counties. This route is supported by very useful and informative material: maps, brochures and on-site information. The route includes 30 medieval churches - 20 of them located in the Hungarian county of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, while another 10 in the Romanian country of Satu Mare. 


A brand new website was also developed, which contains all the necessary information about the route and the churches. This website is available in Hungarian, Romanian and English versions. English readers should maybe start on this page. The website - even though the English-language texts are only summaries of the Hungarian versions - provides ample information in English on the medieval buildings of the region, and is thus highly recommended.
Csenger, parish church 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New blog on Medieval Poland + Master Paul of Levoča

I would like to report that a new art blog - quite similar in nature to my own venture - was started with a focus on medieval Poland. The blog provides brief news about new books, exhibitions and discoveries in the field of medieval art and medieval studies in Poland. You can find the bilingual (Polish/English) blog at this address: http://medievalpoland.blogspot.com/

I am immediately lifting one news item from the blog, concerning a new book which is of course quite relevant for the study of art in medieval Hungary as well. To quote the Medieval Poland blog (with one correction and):

"The Cracow publishing house DodoEditor has released Zoltán Gyalókay's monograph on the Master Paul of Levoča. The late medieval sculpture of Master Paul of Levoča certainly deserves more attention in international scholarly literature. His workshop has produced altars for churches Szepes (Spis) county and neighboring regions. The high craftsmanship of his works and the influence they had on contemporary artists has been studied by Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak scholars. This monograph represents the author’s long-term study of the artist’s oeuvre."

I might add that the sculptor worked in Lőcse (germ: Leutschau, now Levoča, Slovakia) at the beginning of the 16th century, where he was responsible for carving statues and reliefs for the main altar, among other things. His workshop also supplied altarpieces for other towns in Upper Hungary. The website of St. James's church provides an overview of the medieval furnishings of the parish church of Lőcse - in addition to the main altar of St. James, also check out the altar of the Nativity.

You can read more on the book on the website of the publisher, while a brief summary is available on the AHICE website (click here for direct link to pdf summary). Of course it is hoped that the book will also be available in a German/English or even Hungarian version!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New book on the frescoes of Johannes Aquila

Johannes Aquila was a painter from the town of Radkersburg in Styria, working in the last quarter of the 14th century. Frescoes by him (or by his workshop) survive in altogether five churches in the area which used to be the border region of Styria and Hungary. Today two of those places: Mártonhely (Martjanci) and Bántornya (Turnisce) are in Slovenia. His earliest known work is in the small church of Velemér, dating from 1378. Latest works of Johannes Aquila's workshop are closer to his hometown in Austria:  at the church of the Augustinian hermits in Fürstenfeld. One interesting secular fresco cycle at Radkesburg was also painted by the workshop (at the Pistorhaus). The style of his workshop is characterized by a mixture of Italian and Bohemian elements.

Johannes Aquila is most famous for not only signing his work, but also for painting his self-portrait. The self-portrait can be seen next to his signature, in a praying position (similarly to depictions of patrons) both at Velemér (1378) and at Mártonhely (1392). These are regarded as the oldest European self-portraits by a painter, and you can read more about in an article by Daniel Spanke (Spanke, Daniel, "Die ältesten Selbstbildnisse Europas? Zur Bedeutung der Malerdarstellungen Johannes Aquilas von Radkersburg in Velemér (1378) und Martjanci (1392) für eine Frühgeschichte des Porträts," Zbornik za umetnostno zgodonivo 34 (1998), 141-159, available in a pdf format).

A new book has just been published on this highly important painter, written by Terézia Kerny with photographs by Zoltán Móser (Kerny, Terézia - Móser, Zoltán: Képet öltött az Ige - Johannes Aquila freskói. Budapest, Kairosz, 2010). The book will be presented by Mária Prokopp on Tuesday, January 25 at Litea Literature & Tea Bookshop. The book is in Hungarian, but hopefully will be published in other languages as well.

I cannot post my own photos of the frescoes here, because the last time I visited these churches I still used slides - and those have not been scanned yet. To the left, you can see the self-portait of Johannes Aquila from Mártonhely (Martjanci), and you can find several other photos online, especially of Velemér:

Photos of the church, with Quicktime virtual reality views of the interior; more photos at the Fine Arts in Hungary website.

For more photos, visit the IMAREAL database of the Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters at Krems (search for Künstler: Johannes von Aquila [um 1400 tätig], or for Standorte: Turnisce and Martjanci. Does not seem to work in Chrome).


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catalogue of Romanesque Stone Carvings

Red marble head of a king
from Kalocsa cathedral
Hungarian National Gallery 

The Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest has one of the most significant collections of medieval stone carvings in Hungary. The collection includes the highest quality stone carvings from cathedrals such as Veszprém, Kalocsa and Pécs, as well as fragments from  the abbey churches of Dömös or Pilis and many other places. The material is on display on the ground floor of the National Gallery, in the former royal palace of Buda. 

As the first volume of the gallery's collection catalogues, the catalogue of Romanesque stone carvings has been published late last year. The catalogue was written by Sándor Tóth, university professor at ELTE Budapest, and mentor of generations of medievalists (including the author of this blog). During the last years of his life, Sándor Tóth had a part-time job at the Old Hungarian Collection of the National Gallery, the main purpose of which was the completion of this catalogue. Tóth Sándor sadly passed away in 2007, but by that time the manuscript of this book was largely completed. The manuscript was prepared for edition by Árpád Mikó, head of the collection. 




Relief fragment from Kalocsa
Hungarian National Gallery 
The book contains a long introductory study, which essentially gives an overview of Hungarian Romanesque sculpture of the 11-12th centuries. This is followed by 46 catalogue entries, and the publication of some relevant documents about the collection. In addition to hundreds of black and white photos, the best pieces are also illustrated in color. Even though the book is only available in Hungarian, it is an invaluable resource for anyone working on Central-European Romanesque art, and is thus highly recommended. One can only hope that more medieval volumes cataloguing the Gallery's collections will appear in the near future. 




Tóth Sándor: Román kori kőfaragványok a Magyar Nemzeti Galéria gyűjteményében. A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria szakkatalógusai I.1. Edited by Árpád Mikó. Budapest, 2010. Pb., 200 pages.

To learn more about Sándor Tóth, read In Memoriam Tóth Sándor (1940-2007), by Ernő Marosi here (Hungarian-language pdf from Ars Hungarica 2007/1).

To browse highlights from the collection of the Hungarian National Gallery, click here.