Thursday, November 23, 2017

Online Catalogue of the Christian Museum of Esztergom

Reliquary bust from Cologne. Around 1350
The Christian Museum of Esztergom is the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary and is one of the oldest public collections in the nation. It was established in 1875 by Archbishop and Prince Primate János Simor (1813-1891) and was based on his private collection. The intention of the Archbishop was to make known to the general public old and new treasures of art, and thereby cultivate the aesthetic taste of the visitors. Archbishop Simor purchased works of art primarily from legacies and during his travels abroad. He also had parts of medieval altarpieces collected from the territory of the Archdiocese of Esztergom. Following Primate Simor’s death in 1891, the Museum’s collections grew significantly when the bequest of Arnold Ipolyi, Bishop of Nagyvárad/Oradea (1823-1886), which consisted mainly of late medieval Italian, German, Austrian and Hungarian paintings and sculptures, finally arrived to Esztergom in 1920. The resulting museum is the third most significant historic picture gallery in Hungary, on account of its Hungarian, Italian, Netherlandish, German and Austrian paintings.

As one of the results of a research project financed by the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA PD 104215), an exhaustive online summary catalogue of the Hungarian, German and Austrian Late Medieval Collection of the Christian Museum was published online. This is one of the most famous parts of the collections, containing among others the altarpiece from Garamszentbenedek, painted by Thomas de Coloswar in 1427, or four panels depicting scenes from the Passion and painted by the enigmatic Master MS in 1506. Already in the middle of the 19th century, both János Simor and Arnold Ipolyi recognized the significance of these medieval works of art, most of which were not in use any more. Simor brought to the museum painted fragments of winged altarpieces that had been dismantled, primarily from the Benedictine Abbey of Garamszentbenedek (Hronsky Benadik). Sculptures in the museum mainly come from the Ipolyi collection, along with the majority of medieval Austrian and German works of art.

The Calvary altarpiece of Thomas of Coloswar, 1427 
The research project and the online catalogue was realized by Emese Sarkadi Nagy, who explained to me that in the present catalogue there was no intention to separate objects originating from the Hungarian Kingdom from those of the German and Austrian territories. This is partly due to the fact that these groups of objects can be considered as a unit, based on numerous art historical and stylistic relations that can be observed among them. Mid-15th century Netherlandish art had a very strong impact on the painting and sculpture of German and Austrian regions as well as in Hungary, and the migration of masters among these regions is also a well-known phenomenon. Moreover, most of the works coming from nineteenth-century collections have lost their original, medieval context and thus the original provenance of a number of objects is uncertain. Attribution and localization based on stylistic analysis alone is often impossible  - for example it is hard to decide if a work of a Viennese-schooled master was created in Hungary or the work was imported at a later time. Therefore, the new online catalogue offers an overview of all (ca. 150) objects originating from these Central European regions. It is aimed not only for specialists, but also to the wider public; at the same time, it will hopefully represent a starting point for further research on the topic. Each entry is accompanied by an up-to-date bibliography and other information, as well as high-quality photographs (individual panels and statues of altarpieces are each photographed and described separately). So far, the catalogue is only available in Hungarian, but an English version is to be published online soon. The catalogue is accessible through the website of the museum at the following link: www.keresztenymuzeum.hu

Master MS: Crucifixion, 1506 

Key objects from the collection are also available in the general part of the website, with English descriptions, but for new and up-to-date information, as well as for the entire material, head to the online catalogue. Links below:

Sarkadi Nagy Emese: A Keresztény Múzeum középkori magyarországi, a német és osztrák tartományokból származó tárgyainak online katalógusa. Keresztény Múzeum, 2017. (Online catalogue of medieval objects in the Christian Museum originating from Hungary as well as German and Austrian territories. Christian Museum, Esztergom, 2017.)

The text above is based on the website of the Christian Museum and on a short report by Emese Sarkadi Nagy. Photos by Attila Mudrák © Christian Museum





Austrian painter, c. 1440: Triptych with the Death of the Virgin

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