Showing posts with label sculpture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sculpture. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New exhibitions at Pannonhalma

For several decades now, the Benedictine Archabbey at Pannonhalma has also served as an important exhibition venue. Perhaps most memorable for medievalists was the 2001 exhibition dedicated to Benedictines in Medieval Hungary, and titled Paradisum plantavit. For a long time, there has been a permenant exhibition space in the abbey as well, but only a very small part of the abbey's collection was on view. This year, a new abbey museum and visitor center opened at Pannonhalma, in the former manor building belonging to the abbey. This museum is the home of a new permanent exhibition of the abbey, and includes an exhibition of medieval stone carvings from Pannonhalma, as well as a good selection from the collections of the abbey. The new space created an opportunity to display some elements of the medieval building which were previously not visible, such as elements from the 13th century cloisters of the abbey (which was rebuilt in the late 15th century). The collections of the abbey include goldsmith works, important manuscripts, a good ensemble of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects, among other artworks. The new exhibition was arranged by Imre Takács, noted medieval art historian and the curator of major exhibition at Pannonhalma in 1996 and 2001. This collection can be browsed online as well - in a database which at the moment seems to be available only in Hungarian.

Stone carvings from Pannonhalma at the new museum

Fragments of the 13th century cloister

In 2014, visitors also get a chance to visit two intertwined exhibitions. Since March 2014 the exhibition Icons and Relics: Veneration of Images between East and West (March 21 – November 11,2014) can be visited in the in the “old” exhibition hall of the monastery. Another exhibition opened in July in the newly opened Abbey Manor Visitor Centre and Museum. Titled Image and Christianity: Visual Media in the Middle Ages (July 10 – November 11, 2014), which focuses on western European liturgical art. To cite the curator, Péter Bokody: "The aim of the exhibitions is to show to the viewer the various forms and media of image-worship in medieval Christianity. The exhibition Icons and Relics presents the intertwined history of image-worship in the East and West through a comparison of the cult of images and the cult of relics, together with the genesis of the painted panel. The exhibition Image and Christianity focuses on the same development from the perspective of the visual media in the Middle Ages, where the spread of the painted panel in the West is interpreted in the context of mosaics, stained glass, murals and book illumination. The point of intersection between the two is the Latin Sack of Constantinople in 1204, since both the intensified forms of image-worship and the visual medium of the painted panel became central in Western Christianity after that."

The exhibition "Icons and relics"

Glimpse into the exhibition "Image and Christianity"
In addition to important loans from the major museums of Hungary, the exhibitions also features a number of international loans (primarily from Austria and Croatia), providing a nice overview medieval artworks in the service of liturgy. The highlights of the exhibition Icons and Relics are the 12th century head reliquary of Saint Coloman (Benedictine Abbey, Melk), and 14th century reliquaries from Zadar. In the exhibition Image and Christianity the various medieval visual media are presented by 12th century mosaics (Museo Torcello, Torcello), 15th century stained glass windows (Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz), 14th century fresco fragments (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), 15th century painted panels (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest), and 11th-15th century codices, as well as ivory carvings and other works. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

800 Years of Ják Abbey

Fresco of St. George at Ják, c. 1256 
This weekend - the weekend after Saint George's Day - mark the 800th anniversary of the foundation of the Benedictine monastery of Ják. It is known that the monastery was established by Márton "the Great" comes from the Ják kindred some time before 1223 (when its abbot was first mentioned). Circumstantial evidence puts the date of this foundation to the year 1214. The abbey church was dedicated to St. George, who was a favoured saint in Hungary during the late Árpádian period, and one particularly liked by the Ják kindred. The abbey church, built in late Romanesque style, was finally dedicated in 1256. Construction thus lasted for a few decades, and was not without interruption. The church is one of the most monumental examples of early thirteenth century monasteries erected by noble families in Hungary - other examples include Lébény or Türje. It was built as a three-aisled basilica, with a massive western part with two towers and a gallery between them. Construction started on the northern side, then continued on the southern side in the second phase. After a change of plan it was decided to vault the entire church, and it was in this phase that the western area was also built. This phase of the work - during the 1230s - is characterised by strong connections with the building workshop of Bamberg cathedral. In the end, the church was not fully finished as planned - work was interrupted either by the Mongol invasion (1241-42), or by the death of Márton comes in 1250. The central and southern aisle of the nave was not vaulted, only covered with a flat wooden ceiling - but the church was considered finished by the 1256 consecration. The western portal of the church, as well as its additional carved decoration, and also its painted decoration make the church one of the most important 13th century monuments from Hungary. The rotunda standing next to the abbey church was also built in the 13th century, around 1260.
Ják abbey church. From Wikimedia Commons

The church was restored several times, most extensively between 1896-1906. The massive stone spires of the towers, and the vault of the central aisle were added at this time. Literature on the church is extensive, especially in Hungarian and German.  You can find some photos on this website, including images taken before the late 19th century restoration.

More recently, the exterior of the church was cleaned. With the current festivities celebrating eight centuries of the Abbey, the goal of the organizers is to raise money for the restoration of the frescoes in the church, especially the fresco of St. George painted on the wall of the main apse. You can read my study on these frescoes, from a 2001 catalogue dedicated to Benedictines in medieval Hungary (the study is in Hungarian).

The western portal before 1896

Other online resources, mainly in Hungarian:
Photos in Wikimedia Commons and on the website of Pázmány Péter University.
Study and photos on the templom.hu website, data on the műemlékem.hu website.

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

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.





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).


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Martin and Georg of Klausenburg

Martin and Georg of Klausenburg: St. George
Prague, National Gallery 

I haven't had a lot of time to update my blog recently - but I thought I would post this for St. George's day. The image above depicts what may be the most beautiful statue made in the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Made by the brothers Martin and Georg of Klausenburg (Kolozsvár / Cluj) in 1373, the statue is the only surviving work from the production of their bronze workshop. Their other works - bronze statues of the Hungarian kings St. Stephen, Prince St. Emeric and St. Ladislas, as well as a large equestrian statue of St. Ladislas (all of these at Várad / Oradea) all got destroyed during the Ottoman wars, after the capture of Várad in 1660. The statue of St. George has been in Prague at least since the 16th century - but it is not known when and how exactly it got there. It is regarded as the first free-standing monumental bronze equestrian statue since antiquity. Information about its makers and the date was preserved on the now-lost shield (and is known from 18th century transcriptions):

A.D. MCCCLXXIII HOC OPUS IMAGINIS S. GEORGII PER MARTINUM ET GEORGIUM DE CLUSSENBERCH CONFLATUM EST

Today, a copy of the statue is still standing in the third courtyard of Prague Castle, near the cathedral of St. Vitus. The original has been in the National Gallery in Prague since the 1960s.

A lot has been written on the statue in recent years, especially in a series of articles published in the Bohemian art history journal Umeni. See in particular the studies of Klara Benesovska and Ivo Hlobil from 2007, or the study of Ernő Marosi published in the 1999 volume of the journal. The connections of the bronze statue to the art of Trecento Italy (especially the Cathedral of Orvieto), the naturalism of some of  its details, the historical context of the statue as well as its connections to other works by the brothers are all topics worthy of even further investigation.

Finally, by clicking here, you will find a few more photographs of the statue on the Fine Arts in Hungary website.



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). 



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”.

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!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Medieval stone carvings stolen from the Hungarian National Gallery

As it was revealead on Tuesday, two highly important Romanesque stone carvings had been stolen from the Hungarian National Gallery some time in early February. Both carvings were on view in the medieval lapidary of the Gallery, located on the ground floor of the building. There is no explanation as to how or when the theft took place.

The missing stones are the following:


A cornice fragment stemming from the church of Ják, dating from around 1230. The carving, decorated with the figure of a dragon (which originally joined another dragon), comes from the west portal of the abbey church of Ják, and was most recently published in the catalogue of the collection, written by Sándor Tóth (see my earlier post on this).

Hungarian National Gallery, Inv. no. 55.1037, sandstone, 24 x 26 x 15,5 cm







Left side fragment of a relief slab from the abbey church of Somogyvár, dating from around 1150. The stone carving belongs to the Rippl Rónai Museum of Kaposvár, it was on long-term loan in the National Gallery. The carving was published in the Pannonia Regia exhibition catalogue of the National Gallery in 1994.

Kaposvár, Rippl Rónai Museum, Inv. no. MCXC, white marble, 32 x 21 x 9 cm




 





It seems clear that objects such as these cannot be sold on the open market. It is hoped that the carvings will be recovered soon. The images here are from the official Hungarian database of stolen artwork, maintaned by the National Office of Cultural Heritage.

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.







Sunday, January 09, 2011

Conference about Pécs cathedral

The medieval building of Pécs cathedral was completed during the 12th century. The building, although rebuilt several times, essentially survived until the late 19th century, when it was drastically remodeled ('restored') in Neo-Romanesque style. Directed by the architect Friedrich von Schmidt, this construction took place between 1882-1891. The remodeling brought to light much of the original Romanesque sculptural decoration of the cathedral, the remains of which were all removed from the building, and placed in a lapidarium. The carvings have been moved from one place to another during the last 100 years, until they finally found a home in the newly constructed Cathedral Museum, which opened in 2004. This museum contains the richest collection of Romanesque sculpture in Central Europe - and these sculptures are of extremely high quality. The material includes the narrative cycles from the walls of two stairways leading down to the crypt, fragments of the altar of the Holy Cross and the western portal of the cathedral, among many other carvings. Unfortunately, the beautiful Gothic carvings found among the ruins of chapels north of the cathedral are not on view (for more info, see the website of the Sigismundus-exhibition).


Romanesque narrative reliefs from Pécs cathedral
Pécs, Cathedral Museum
No modern catalogue of the material is available - in fact, there is simply no current publication available on this material in any language. There isn't even a small guidebook to the museum, where actually not even all the labels have been properly written. Pécs is a world heritage site (because of the Early Christian necropolis of the town, located in the area around the cathedral) and was the European capital of culture during 2010. Still, nothing happened around the cathedral museum. The Cathedral Museum has no real website, and there is barely any information available on the sculptures online. (This website has some photos and information in Hungarian. This website, made for university students, also contains some photographs and a useful bibliography).


Angel
Pécs, Cathedral Museum

On January 14, 2011, a public workshop will be dedicated to new research on Pécs cathedral, organized by the University of Pécs. At this occasion, the work of a research group established last year and coordinated by Endre Raffay will be presented. You can read the program here (in Hungarian).

Results of the research of an older generation of scholars - notably Melinda Tóth - remain largely unpublished. Maybe a younger generation of scholars is needed to publish much-needed information and evaluation of Hungary's most important Romanesque monument.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Medieval holdings of Budapest museums

I often find myself trying to explain the system of Budapest's major art museums to foreigners. Although it is a clear system, it can still be confusing at times. For example, you can find important medieval artworks in all major museums of the capital. In this post, I will give a brief overview of the system, and list the most important medieval holdings of Budapest museums.

1. Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum)

This is Hungary's oldest public museum, founded in 1802. The present building of the museum, designed by Mihály Pollack, opened in 1847. Originally, all kinds of collections were housed here, a lot of which formed the basis of later museums. Today, it is basically a museum dedicated to the history of Hungary. The museum houses a large number of medieval objects from the territory of historic and modern Hungary. Various objects - including stone carvings, pottery, etc. - are held in the Archaeological Department and are on view in the Medieval Lapidary. Departments of the Historical Repository hold all kinds of medieval objects - furniture, textiles, weapons and ceramics. Of particular note is the Collection of Metalwork, with the best selection of Hungarian goldsmith works. Highlights of these collections are on view in the permanent exhibition. Until 2000, the Coronation regalia were kept here, too - today only the Coronation mantle remains in the Museum. The museum has a useful website, with lot of English language content - although not every page is translated from Hungarian. Start browsing here.

2. Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum)


Founded in 1872 and modeled after the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Applied Arts was the second major public museum in Hungary. It is housed in an Art Nouveau building designed by Ödön Lechner, opened in 1896. The collections of the museum include all fields of decorative arts - metalwork, furniture, ivories, textiles, ceramics. This is the only major national museum in Hungary where objects of Hungarian origin are side-by-side with other European works. When it comes to medieval objects, the collection is stronger in general European art (most Hungarian objects can be found in the National Museum). Particular highlights include medieval ivories, important goldsmith works from the Esterházy-treasury, chasubles and other medieval textiles, etc. Some of the highlights are on view in the permament exhibition of the museum, but the website only provides information on them in Hungarian. You can still browse the collection and picture galleries of highlights here. The museum's permanent exhibition of the history of furniture is located in the Nagytétény mansion on the outskirts of Budapest, and includes a number of medieval and renaissance objects.

3. Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum)

Officially founded in 1896, the Museum of Fine Art is based on the Esterházy-collection, purchased by the Hungarian state in 1871, and on numerous other acquisitions carried out during the last decades of the 19th century. The main building of the museum opened in 1906. The museum is basically dedicated to monuments of western art, including Egyptian and ancient art, stretching all the way to the present day. Focus is on paintings, drawings and sculpture (for other fields, see the Museum of Applied Arts above). Hungarian works have been transferred to the Hungarian National Gallery (see below). In terms of medieval art, The Collection of Old Master Paintings is particularly strong in Italian Trecento works as well as German/Austrian Late Gothic paintings. There are a number of outstanding medieval drawings in the collection as well, and there is a large collection of medieval sculpture - the latter presently not on view. For information and highlights, visit the website of the museum. In 2006, the Museum of Fine Arts organized and housed the great international exhibition dedicated to Emperor Sigismund.

4. Hungarian National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria)

The National Gallery was created in 1957, with the intention of providing a separate museum dedicated to Hungarian art. It is primarily based on material transferred from the Museum of Fine Arts. When the new museum was transferred to its present building - in the former royal palace of Buda - the Old Hungarian Collection was also transferred there. This is a rich repository of Hungarian medieval art, consisting of medieval stone carvings and sculpture, panel paintings and a large number of complete altarpieces. The collections can be browsed on the website of the museum.

5. Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Museum)

The main site of this museum  - the Castle Museum - is also located in the building of the former royal palace of Buda (this site opened in 1967). Lower levels of the museum incorporate the remains of the medieval royal palace. The museum is an archaeological and historical collection - similar to the Hungarian National Museum - focusing on the territory of Budapest. As the Buda side of present-day Budapest was the medieval seat of Hungarian kings, the museum is particularly rich in medieval objects, most of them archaeological finds. The famous statue-find from the period of King Sigismund is also on view here. New excavations keep adding significant material to the collections. The English version of the website is not quite complete, but you can read about the permanent exhibitions here. In 2008, the museum organised and housed the exhibition titled Matthias Corvinus, the King.

6. Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum)

Started in 1872 as a unit of the Hungarian National Museum, and becoming an independent institution in 1947, the Museum of Ethnography moved into the former Palace of Justice in 1873. It might be surprising that I am listing it here, as the museum has no medieval collection - but it does include a number of medieval objects in its collections of European furniture, ceramics and textiles. The website of the museum is available in English, but the collection database is only in Hungarian. The Ethnological Archives also contain a lot of material about medieval buildings and wall-paintings.


I did not add pictures of actual medieval objects to this post - but you will find plenty to look at by following the links above. Of course, it is best to come and see these museums for yourself! If you would like to know even more about museums in Hungary, visit the central website for Hungarian museums.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Villard de Honnecourt in Hungary

Villard's drawing of a window from Reims,
with announcement of his trip to Hungary 
The Academic doctoral defense of Imre Takács (see my previous post) made me think about Villard de Honnecourt's trip to Hungary. Takács's dissertation is about the early decades of the 13th century, when Hungary was one of the first areas outside Ile de France where French Gothic architectural and sculptural features appeared. The royal palace of Esztergom - especially the palace chapel - is a significant early Gothic building, built during the rule of King Béla III (1172-1196) next to the cathedral. The palace was not quite finished when in 1198 Béla's son, King Emeric handed it over to the archbishop of Esztergom - thus maybe the chapel was only finished after this date. Not Esztergom, but the royal abbey of Pilis is at the center of Imre Takács's dissertation. This Cistercian Abbey - located roughly between Esztergom and Buda in the Pilis hills - was founded by the king in 1184. In 1213, Queen Gertrude, the wife of Andrew II was murdered, and the queen was buried at Pilis Abbey, which - at least the eastern part - was surely completed by that time.

At this period, a renewed impact of French Gothic (High Gothic, to be precise) can be detected in Hungary - especially at Pilis and at the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma. Crucial monuments include the tomb of Queen Gertrude and the famous Porta Speciosa at Pannonhalma, both dating from the 1220s. It is perhaps not coincidental that roughly at the same time, the famous Villard de Honnecourt visited Hungary. Just as we are not quite sure of his profession, it is similarly unclear what he did in Hungary or when exactly he visited. Evidence for his visit is included in his sketchbook: on fol. 10v, next to the drawing of an aisle window at Reims, Villard writes: "I had been sent into the land of Hungary when I drew it because I like it best." He also mentions on another folio the he "was once in Hungary, where [he] remained many days". Of all the things he saw there, he chose to draw a pavement, which he saw in a church - at a place he did not name.
On top, Villard's drawing of pavement
motifs he had seen in Hungary

Theories abound concerning the date and purpose of Villard's Hungarian visit. Pilis abbey emerges as a place he may have visited for several reasons:
One of the pavement motifs drawn by Villard in Hungary is known from Pilis Abbey.
The tomb of Gertrude, as well as the fragmentary tomb slab of a knight is in the same style (the characteristic Muldenfaltenstil) as Villard's drawings - leading Gerevich to believe that these were designed by Villard. 

Mentioning these and similar comparisons, Imre Takács also proposes a hypothesis for the historical context of Villard's Hungarian trip (published first in a study: “The French Connection: On the Courtenay Family and Villard de Honnecourt Apropos of a 13th-Century Incised Slab from Pilis Abbey,” Künstlerische Wechselwirkungen in Mitteleuropa, ed. Jirí Fast and Markus Hörsch, Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 11-21.). After the murder of Queen Gertrude (of Andechs-Meran), King Andrew II married Yolande de Courtenay, and Imre Takács emphasizes the role of the Courtenay family in Hungary. They were also the lords of the area where Villard was from. Takács proposed that the red marble tomb slab from Pilis was that of Robert de Courtenay, Latin emperor of Constantinople (1221-1228).

Drawing of a soldier from Villard's sketchbook
and fragments of the tomb of a knight
(Robert de Courtenay?) from Pilis

Takács also poses the following questions: “Is it possible that Villard … may have been traveling in the entourage of Emperor Robert on his way east in the winter of 1220? Could we not suppose in fact that Villard was a multi-talented individual in the Courtenay court and capable of carrying out “engineering” tasks, giving theoretical advice and making practical decisions? And finally, is it not possible that the quality of the drawing on the Pilis inscribed slab is so similar to Villard’s personal style, because he may actually have taken part in the work’s creation, if only in so much as making the sketches?”



Monday, September 06, 2010

D'or et de feu

A new exhibition is coming to the Musée de Cluny (officially Musée national du Moyen Age) in Paris, titled "D'or et de feu" (Out of Gold and Fire - Art in Slovakia at the end of the Middle Ages), and opening on September 16th. The exhibition aims to survey the Late Gothic heritage of Slovakia, an area which formed the northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Organized in cooperation with the Slovak National Gallery (Bratislava), the exhibition will showcase paintings, sculpture, goldsmith works from several collections in Slovakia. As apparent from the (sub)title and the press release (pdf), the exhibition will focus mainly on the 15th century, thus the periods of King Sigismund and King Matthias, as well as the Jagiellonian rulers Vladislas II and Louis II (contrary to the press release, Hungary was of course not "part of the powerful Habsburg Empire" at that time).

A catalogue for the exhibition is in preparation. The curator representing the Slovak National Gallery is Dusan Buran, who organized the 2003 exhibition on Gothic in Slovakia and edited its catalogue. He is responsible for the permanent collection of this part of the Gallery.

More information on the exhibition will be posted here as it becomes available. You can follow the preparations on Twitter, courtesy of Musée de Cluny.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Medieval winged altarpiece to travel to London

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

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