Showing posts with label Botticelli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Botticelli. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Once more on "Botticelli in Esztergom"

It has recently been stated by the Hungaarian government that new financial sources have been provided for the completion of the restoration of the medieval castle complex in Esztergom, in particular that of the early Gothic castle chapel and the adjoining spaces, which are decorated with frescoes. The 14th century frescoes of the chapel as well as the late 15th century frescoes of the so-called 'Studiolo' have been under restoration since 2000 - an impossibly long time. With the new funds, the end maybe is in sight - the chapel will be accessible again as early as next Spring, while the frescoes of the Studiolo will be on view again in 2015.

Recently, most attention has been given to these Renaissance frescoes, following the sensational claim made by restorer Zsuzsanna Wierdl and art historian Mária Prokopp in 2007 that the figure of Temperantia from a series of the Virtues was painted by the young Botticelli, who was in Hungary during the 1460s. Although disputed soon after the announcement, the authors keep repeating this claim, which has been published in various places - including the acts of the 2007 conference on Italy and Hungary in the Renaissance, held at Villa I Tatti in Florence. I reported on this claim and some response it received in an earlier post. According to an article published this week in Hungarian daily Népszabadság, the authors claim that their attribution of the fresco to Botticelli has gained acceptance and has not been refuted until now. In fact, they now believe that all surviving figures of the Virtues can be attributed to Botticelli. Well, Népszabadság may not be an authoritative source on questions of attribution - but it is definitely wrong on the issue of responses to the Botticelli-attribution. Let's see a few publications on the subject!

Conditions at the Esztergom 'Studiolo' during recent years
First, I would like to call attention on the publications of Mária Prokopp and Zsuzsanna Wierdl. The attribution to Botticelli was first presented at the Villa I Tatti conference held in 2007 - the conference volume has since been published, with texts by both authors on the subject. The authors have also published a Hungarian-language book on the subject, and their arguments have been summarized in a number of other publications, for example in Rivista di Studi Ungheresi in 2012. If you would like just a quick overview, read the article by Mária Prokopp, published in Hungarian Review. In addition to stylistic and historical arguments, the attribution rests on the interpretation of the letters MB incised in the frescoes, supposedly referring to  "(Alessandro di) Mariano, detto Botticelli".

Monday, December 31, 2012

Most popular posts on Medieval Hungary

The end of the year marks the end of my third year of blogging. Along the way, I have posted 120 posts on various topics related to Hungarian medieval art, which generated over 90.000 page views to this date. My blog was featured in several online journals - for example in Vidimus or in Peregrinus, and several posts have been picked up by other blogs and online news media. I will give a sampling below of the most popular posts on the Medieval Hungary blog, giving a brief update about their topics as well.

The Digital Journal and both picked up the report on the discovery a grave from the period of the Magyar Conquest. Found neat the village of Bugyi, the sabretache plate discovered in the grave has since been cleaned and restored, and showed at a traveling exhibition (titled "Not without a trace...") organized by the Pest County Museum system. It was also included in an exhibition first organized at the Houses of Parliament in Budapest, which was aimed at showing the most spectacular recent archaeological finds, in order to pressure lawmakers to not weaken cultural heritage laws. Although this attempt was unsuccesful, the exhibition itself was successful, and is now travelling around the country. The exhibition is accompanied by a very nicely produced website, which is only available in Hungarian. Below you can find a picture of the sabretache plate in its conserved state.

10th century sabretache plate from Bugyi-Felsővány

Moving on to later centuries, most interest was generated by my report on the discovery of 14th century frescoes right in the middle of Budapest, in the Inner City Parish Church of Pest.  The news was picked up by Medieval News and other online sources. My brief report on the find, consisting of two blog posts (see part I and part II) was later summarized for the newsletter of the International Center of Medieval Art (April 2011 issue), while my report on Hungarian azurite, found in the background of the painting, was picked up by National Geographic Hungary (May 2011). I also reported on some publications about the murals in a third blog post.

Detail of the Virgin and Child at the Inner City Parish Church, Pest 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Botticelli in Esztergom?

Esztergom, Studiolo of palace
Photo via artmagazin 
I did not want to write this post. A great discovery has been announced a few years ago (frescoes painted by Botticelli have been identified in Esztergom!) but I still remain skeptical. Also, as I have been unable to study these frescoes personally during the last few years, and having never worked on Botticelli, I don't really have a very strong art historical argument to put forward here or in a more scholarly publication. In the end I decided to simply list a few facts here.

1. The medieval royal - later archiepiscopal - palace of Esztergom has been ruined and buried during the Turkish wars of the 16th-17th centuries (see this earlier post). The remains of the palace have been uncovered between 1934-38 in a large-scale archaeological campaign. Two large sets of frescoes were found on the walls of the building: a mid-14th century fresco-cycle in the chapel, painted by Riminese masters (in my opinion), and fragments of an early Renaissance cycle in one of the rooms of the palace. The room has been identified as the Studiolo of the archbishops of Esztergom, and the four surviving figures of the Renaissance fresco cycle as allegories of four virtues.

2. Starting in 2000, a new restoration campaign, led by Zsuzsanna Wierdl was started on the frescoes of Esztergom. Many later retouches, discolored repairs have to be removed, while structural problems of the entire building although had to be solved. This work is still not finished, in fact it largely stopped about two years ago, due to lack of funding. It is to be hoped that it will be continued this year, as the frescoes remain largely inaccessible (link to Hungarian article about funding).

The four Virtues at Esztergom, before restoration 

3. At a conference (pdf) held at Villa i Tatti, Florence in 2007, restorer Zsuzsanna Wierdl and art historian Mária Prokopp presented their findings, announcing that the figure of Temperance at Esztergom was painted by Sandro Botticelli in the 1460s, commissioned by archbishop Johannes Vitéz. The Hungarian cultural minister, who happened to be in Rome at that time, announced that Botticelli frescoes have been found in Hungary, and the international and Hungarian press was enthusiastic (link to Reuters article, to serve as an example). Participants at the conference were less enthusiastic, and lively debate continued as the conference embarked on an excursion to Hungary. Pro and contra arguments were published in the Hungarian press - particularly lively was the rebuttal of the theory by Louis A. Waldman, assistant director of Villa I Tatti, and a noted expert of the period. Waldman's argument was published in an interview in a Hungarian weekly, Élet és irodalom. Other experts, most notably Miklós Boskovits expressed their doubts (summary in this Hungarian article). The acts of the Florentine conference - co-edited by Dr. Waldman - are to be published in the near future.

Fortitudo in Esztergom and a detail from Botticelli's Birth of Venus (Uffizi)
Comparison by Zsuzsanna Wierdl, Studiolo