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).

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. Jékely,
    I want to present you new book about medieval wall paintings in Liptov, Slovakia. Content of this publication consists of iconography, symbology and historical-artistic context in which medieval murals in Liptov were created. From the last monograph of Katarína Biathová, there was nothing published about medieval murals from Liptov. The book is written in Slovak language, but summary is in English and Hungarian too. You can find more information here:
    Best regards

    Štefan Valášek, Institute of Art History, Jagiellonian University in Kraków