Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hungarian goldsmith objects enter the Metropolitan Museum

Chalice with filigree enamel
Hungary, 1462
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

One of the most important collection of Hungarian goldsmith works outside Hungary was assembled by financier Nicolas M. Salgó, former US ambassador in Budapest. Salgó collected all kinds of Hungarian art; his painting collection was donated to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in 2006, as you can read here.

Most important, however, is his collection of Hungarian silver, which was cataloged by an expert from the Hungarian National Museum, Judit H. Kolba. The handsome English-language catalog was first published in 1996, and is still in print (Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996): see here.

The collection includes two superb medieval chalices from Hungary, both coming from the Viennese collection of Nathaniel Rothschild. One of them, dating from 1462, can bee seen on the left. Both chalices are decorated with filigree enamel, a technique which came to prominence at the Hungarian court of King Sigismund during 1420s.

In 2010, much of the collection entered the Metropolitan Museum of art, as "Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo". No press release has been issued about the transfer of the objects, but most objects already appear in the collection database. 83 objects are listed in the collection of the department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. If you go to the main search page of the museum, entering "Salgo" will provide you with the full list of these - although not all objects are illustrated at this stage. You can find beautiful objects here, such as this 17th century coconut cup seen on the right.

The two medieval chalices, on the other hand, entered the Department of Medieval Art. Together with another such piece - a gift of J.P. Morgan - the Metropolitan Museum of Art now holds three Hungarian chalices with filigree enamel. The Salgó pieces are not in the collection database yet, but the nicer of them, a truly majestic filigree enamel chalice from 1462, has been published among recent acquisitions in the Fall 2010 issue of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (available online on the museum website and illustrated at the beginning of my post). An inscription preserved the name of the otherwise unknown patron of the chalice: Nicolas CynowecThe other chalice - the commissioner of which could also be identified based on the coat of arms on its base - is illustrated below, from the 2003 catalog of the collection. You can read more about these and other Hungarian medieval goldsmith objects in American collections on my website.

Chalice with filigree enamel
Hungary, middle of the 15th century
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

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