Showing posts with label International Gothic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Gothic. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Restoration of the wall paintings of Torna / Turňa nad Bodvou

Detail from the Arrest of Christ (cleaned state, 2008)
One of the largest restoration projects in Slovakia was completed in 2014: the restoration of the wall paintings in the sanctuary of the medieval church of Torna (Turňa nad Bodvou). The frescoes, found in 2006, were uncovered starting from 2007, and their full restoration is now completed. I contributed as an external art historical consultant to this work, and wrote a preliminary study about the wall paintings for the scholarly documentation of the frescoes. Although my study has not yet been published, I am now providing here a brief overview of the frescoes and their restoration.

Torna is a medieval village in southern Slovakia, just north of the Hungarian border, not far from the town of Kassa/Košice. In 1357, the owners of the property received permission from the king to build a castle on top of the hill overlooking the village. The castle still dominates the landscape. It was the same family - the Tornai family - who had the parish church of the village built, in the second half of the 14th century. The last member of the family, János Tornai, passed away in 1406, his tombstone stands to this day in the sanctuary of the church. Although the sanctuary of church, intended as a family burial site for the Tornai family, was clearly completed before 1406, it was only decorated some time later, as I will discuss below.

First details to emerge (2006)

Until 2006, a nondescript neo-Gothic ornamental decoration covered the walls of the sanctuary, painted to harmonize with the neo-Gothic main altar of the church. The frescoes were first found on the back wall of the Gothic sitting niches on the south wall of the sanctuary. As research and recovery progressed, it became clear that the entire sanctuary (including the vaults) was once painted according to a unified system. Although the first details to emerge from this painted cycle were very promising, unfortunately it turned out that the decoration is largely lost: large surfaces of the original painted decoration were destroyed during the centuries. The original decoration survived mainly on the eastern walls (behind the altar), on the lower zone of the wall as well as on the window splays. What was once an elaborate narrative cycle on the uninterrupted north wall of the sanctuary, however, is now lost almost without a trace. 

Work in progress (2008)

Still, enough remains from the painted decoration to establish its original arrangement, and surviving scenes attest to the high quality of this decoration. The most significant part of the decoration was a large, multi-zone narrative cycle, depicting the Infancy and Passion of Christ. Only a few of the scenes can be identified today, including the Nativity, and from the Passion: the scenes of Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Arrest of Christ. The scene of the Nativity belongs to the type of representation, in which Mary prays before her newborn son, who is lying on the ground. The region of Gömör county contains a large number of comparable cycles depicting the Life and Passion of Christ - for example Gecelfava/Koceľovce or Ochtina/Ochtiná but the quality of the frescoes at Torna is much higher.

Detail of the Virgin Mary from the Nativity (cleaned state, 2008)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Art around 1400 - Current exhibitions

In 2012, a number of exhibitions were dedicated to the period around 1400, the period of the International Gothic. Some of these are still open - in fact, one is about to open this week. These exhibitions each focus on one geographical area - but together they demonstrate the richness and variety of this extremely creative period of European art history. When we were preparing the Sigismundus-exhibition of 2006, originally we planned to show some true European highlights of this period - the period when Pisanello, Ghiberti, the young Donatello, Masolino and Massaccio, Claus Sluter, the Limbourg brothers or Robert Campin were all active - but works from this period are simply too fragile and precious to gather in one exhibition. However, if someone gets a chance to visit all the exhibitions listed below, he or she could get a very good impression of the main trends of the period.

Gentile da Fabriano: Adoration of the Magi, 1423 
Let us start with the exhibition still on view for a few weeks at The Uffizi in Florence (until November 4). The exhibition titled The Gleam of Gold - The International Gothic Style in Florence, 1375-1440, intends to reconstruct the panorama of Florentine art in the wonderful and crucial period that extended roughly from 1375 to 1440. The exhibition, set out in chronological order, starts with the work of the greatest artists working in the tradition of the late 14th century. Another section focuses on the achievements of Lorenzo Ghiberti, one of the leading players on the Late Gothic scene in Florence who, in the early part of his career, trained virtually all of the city's most important artists in his workshop for the first Baptistry door. The exhibition ends with Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano, on display for the first time since its recent restoration. The exhibition is part of the 'Un anno ad arte' series, which has a separate website, with photos of key works on view. You can also read an overview of the exhibition here and in the New York Times.

Bernard Martorell: Trial of St, George,

Earlier this year (from 29 March to 15 July 2012), the Museo Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona held the exhibition Catalunya 1400 - The International Gothic Style. This was the first major exhibition on one of the most creative cycles in the history of Catalan art, around the turn of the 15th century. Beside great masterpieces by the most important Catalan artists of all time, the exhibition, showed the renewal of the miniature; presented the retable as the distinctive expression of Catalan painting; and it highlighted the importance of the arrival of European artists in Catalonia with the resulting French influence on Catalan culture. One of the stars of the exhibition were undoubtedly the the four panels with narrative scenes from the Retable of Saint George by Bernat Martorell, now in the Louvre. The exhibition includes at the same time a carefully chosen display of sculptures, items of precious metalwork and liturgical textiles.

You can get a PDF-format press overview of the exhibition here. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue.