Showing posts with label Matthias Corvinus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthias Corvinus. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Corvinian manuscripts on view in Budapest

The Polybios-Corvina at the exhibition. Photo: National Széchényi Library 
Four precious manuscripts from the famed library of King Matthias Corvinus, the Bibliotheca Corviniana are on view for a short time at the National Széchényi Library in Budapest. The four manuscripts are the ones which were returned to Hungary by Sultan Abdülaziz in 1869, so the exhibition is titled: The Sultan's Gift. Four Corvinian Manuscripts from the Serai.

The exhibition takes us back not only to the period when King Matthias (1458-1490) established the first major Humanistic library of Europe outside Italy, but also to the 19th century, when Hungarian aristocrats and scholars carried out a long-term struggle to reclaim at least a few volumes from the library of Matthias Corvinus. Works in the library numbered 2500 at the death of the king, while several manuscripts were still unfinished for him in Florence (these entered the library of the Medicis). Soon after his death, this library began to lose volumes - first western Humanists started taking volumes, as gifts from King Wladislas II (who was less interested in books). Then during the period when Hungary started battling the Ottoman Empire, and was beset by internal strife (between the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and the capture of Buda in 1541), this process accelerated. A lot of the volumes were then taken to Istanbul when the castle of Buda fell to the Turks. As a result of this long process, by the early 19th century, not a single Corvinian manuscript was known within Hungary. The first manuscript to return to Hungary (more specifically, to Transylvania), was a Tacitus volume acquired by Sámuel Teleki for his library at Marosvásárhely in 1805 (the manuscript today is at the Beinecke Library of Yale University). Several attempts after this were unsuccesful to acquire a Corvina manuscript for the nation's capital, Buda. Although the Dialogues of Ludovicus Carbo, a rather modest early Corvinian manuscript, was donated to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1840, this failed to create significant interest (but now it is available in a digital facsimile edition, with commentary). Finally, attention was focused to Istanbul, in hopes that some of the manuscripts can be identified there. In 1862, Ferenc Kubinyi, Arnold Ipolyi and Imre Henszlmann finally identifed some manuscripts in Istanbul, at the library of the imperial palace. Then in 1869, on occasion of the opening of the Suez canal, the sultan gave four volumes to Emperor and King Franz Joseph I. The ruler then duly gave the manuscripts the National Museum (from which they entered the National Library along with other manuscript material). The in 1877, Sultan Abdul Hamid II decided to donate a further 35 manuscripts to Budapest, which entered the University Library (it soon turned out that only about 13 of these manuscripts originate from the library of King Matthias - for more information, read the study of Csaba Csapodi on the history of the library).

The title page of the Trapezuntius-Corvina. National Széchényi Library 

The present exhibition features the four manuscripts returned to Hungary in 1869. The manuscripts are the following (with link to digital facsimiles):

Cod. Lat. 234: The Historiae of Plolybius, a Florentine codex dating between 1450-1470
Cod. Lat. 241: Plautus: Comediae, a Florentine codex from before 1459
Cod. Lat. 121: A Neapolitan manuscript of Augustinus' De civitate Dei
Cod. Lat. 281: The Rhetorica of Trapezuntius, a Latin translation of the work in a manuscript made in Buda in the 1480s.

The binding of the Augustinus-Corvina, photo taken during
 installation. Source: National Library Facebook-page
The exhibition was organized in connection with the Budapest Book Festival, the guest of honor of which is Turkey. Becauses of this, a few Turkish manuscripts are also on view, as well as the early 16th century genealogical roll of Turkish emperors (Genealogia Turcorum imperatorum) by Felix Petancius. The books are only on view until May 6th. The curator of the exhibition is Edina Zsupán - she is also featured in a well-documented article about the installation process (in Hungarian).

To receive more information on the Corvinian manuscripts, please take a look at these pages of my website and blog: New research on the Corvinian Library (with links to full-text publications), and my page on digitized Hungarian manuscripts, with direct links to over 100 Corvinian manuscripts. You can also get a lot of more photos on the Facebook page of the library.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Renaissance art in Hungary: An exhibition in Florence

Andrea del Verrocchio: Alexander the Great
Washington, National Gallery of Art
The exhibition Matthias Corvinus and Florence - Art and Humanism at the Court of the King of Hungary is now on view at the Museo di San Marco in Florence (10 October 2013 - 6 January 2014). The 2008 Budapest exhibition dedicated to the same period in the framework of the Renaissance Year, and the conference held in 2007 at Villa I Tatti lead to the idea of an exhibition to be organized in Florence, to show the impact of Florentine Renaissance at the court of King Matthias (1458-1490). The exhibition was jointly organized by the Budapest History Museum and the Museo di San Marco. 

At this point I can only quote the general presentation of the exhibition from the central website of the project. I plan to come back to the subject once I get a copy of the catalogue.

"Using works of art from a broad range of disciplines - painting, sculpture, ceramics and illuminated codices from various museums both in Europe and the United States - the exhibition sets out to illustrate Hungarian Humanism's roots in Italy and the crucial role played by the dissemination of the Florentine Renaissance style in the country's artistic development, a cultural legacy which has continued to underpin Hungarian culture up to the present day.

Giovanni Dalmata: Portrait of King Matthias
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest 
The exhibition reconstructs some of the contacts that played a crucial role in determining the Hungarian court's cultural and artistic choices. Thus it illustrates the trends in the king's taste, setting them against the backdrop of the Florentine context of his time, while also endeavouring, by drawing a number of parallels, to identify the possible influence on those choices exercised by Lorenzo the Magnificent and his entourage of thinkers and artists. In this context, special attention is devoted to the libraries of Matthias Corvinus and of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and pride of place is given to the precious illuminated codices commissioned by Matthias Corvinus for his library, now sadly dispersed. Some of these manuscripts, which remained unfinished in Florence on Matthias' death, were subsequently purchased by the Medici.

Some of the most outstanding loans include Matthias Corvinus' throne tapestry from the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest produced to a design by Antonio del Pollaiolo, a marble relief with the portrait of Alexander the Great from the National Gallery in Washington attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio, Matthias Corvinus' Bible from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana illuminated by Monte and Gherardo di Giovanni, the portraits of Matthias Corvinus and Beatrice of Aragon attributed to Giovanni Dalmata (Ivan Duknović) from the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest and Marliano's Epithalamium from the Biblioteca Guarnacci in Volterra, with a portrait of Matthias by an illuminator from the circle of Leonardo da Vinci." The exhibition also includes Franceso Laurana's exquisite portrait of Beatrice of Aragon from the Frick Collection.

Finally, a few words about the wonderful relief Alexander the Great by Verrocchio, which I selected as the first image for this post. This object best exemplifies the high level of artistic contacts between Florence and Hungary. Giorgio Vasari mentions "two heads of metal, likewise in half-relief; one of Alexander the Great, in profile, and the other a fanciful portrait of Darius; each being a separate work by itself, with variety in the crests, armor, and everything else." He goes on to explain: "Both these heads were sent to Hungary by the elder Lorenzo de'Medici, the Magnificent, to King Matthias Corvinus, together with many other things, as will be told in the proper place." The original bronze reliefs did not survive, but are known from a number of later copies and variants. This indicates that the model of the reliefs was kept at the studio of Verrocchio. The marble relief in Washington is regarded as one of the most faithful copies. The reliefs were more recently analyzed by Francesco Cagliotti in the Villa I Tatti conference volume on Italy & Hungary in the Renaissance. The full bibliography can be found on the website of the National Gallery of Art.

More information on the exhibition can be found on the website of the Museo di San Marco. You can also read about it in The New York Times and in Hungarian daily Népszabadság. A photo gallery of objects on view accompanies the article in La Nazione.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogueMattia Corvino e Firenze. Arte e umanesimo alla corte del re di Ungheria, a cura di Péter Farbaky, Dániel Pócs, Magnolia Scudieri, Lia Brunori, Enikő Spekner, András Végh. Firenze, Giunti, 2013.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Upcoming medieval exhibitions

In this brief post I would like to call attention to two upcoming exhibitions relevant for the art of medieval Hungary. The exhibitions will focus on the two most important rulers of 15th century Hungary: King Sigismund and King Matthias. There is still plenty of time to make plans to see these exhibitions! More information will be posted here as it becomes available.

Matthias Corvinus and Florence. Art and Humanism at the Court of the King of Hungary
Firenze, Museo di San Marco, 10 October 2013 - 6 January 2014

Marliano, Epithalamium, Milano, 1487
Volterra, Biblioteca Guarnacci, Cod. lat. 5518
The Museo di San Marco will host an exhibition entitled Matthias Corvinus and Florence. Art and Humanism at the Court of the King of Hungary, focusing on the splendid period of 15th century Humanism at the court of Buda and on the powerful personality of King Matthias Corvinus, a keen lover of books and patron of the arts who was a personal friend of Lorenzo the Magnificent and who sourced his illuminated codices in Florence. The exhibition also investigates the many Florentines who flocked to Hungary, such as the mysterious "fat woodcutter" lampooned by Brunelleschi or mercenary captain Pippo Spano, and helped to strengthen the ties between the two Renaissance centres.
The aim of this exhibition is to develop the theme of the relationship that King Matthias Corvinus established with Florence and its artists, its illuminators and indeed with the entire cultural circle of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The exhibition sets out to reconstruct some of the contacts that played a crucial role in determining the Hungarian court's cultural and artistic choices. Thus it will illustrate the trends in the king's taste, setting them against the backdrop of the Florentine context of his time, while also endeavouring, by drawing a number of parallels, to identify the possible influence on those choices exercised by Lorenzo the Magnificent and his entourage of thinkers and artists. In this context, special attention will be devoted to the libraries of Matthias Corvinus and of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and thus pride of place will be given to the precious illuminated codices commissioned by Matthias Corvinus for his library, now sadly dispersed.
The exhibition and the catalogue are curated by Magnolia Scudieri, Lia Brunori, Péter Farbaky, and Dániel Pócs.

More information is available in English or in Italian(summary taken from the Un anno ad Arte 2013 website)

The Council of Constance. 1414 – 1418. A Medieval World Event
Konstanz, Konzil, 27 April - 21 September 2014

From 2014 to 2018, the town of Constance celebrates the 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance, and invites Europe to Lake Constance again. The main event of the celebrations will be a Landesaustellung organized by the Badisches Landesmuseum of Karlsruhe and held at the Konzilgebäude (Council building) in Constance - the actual site of the Council meetings 600 years ago. Major works of Western art and civilisation from the time around 1400/20 and from the great museums of Europe will be on view at Constance. The fifteenth-century world event will come to life again, tangible in its historical significance and potency. The key figure of the Council was Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary and King of the Romans: a brilliant diplomat who managed to keep the entire western world, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caucasus, together until the Council could be successfully concluded. The exhibition will naturally showcase a number of important works connected to his personality, and will also feature and important selection of objects from Hungary.
The project leader of the exhibition is dr. Karin Stober.

A website has been set up for the series of events during the next four years, and also for the exhibition itself.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Niclaus Gerhaert at the Liebieghaus

Niclaus Gerhaert: Self portrait (?), c 1463
Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame, Strasbourg 

The Liebieghaus in Frankfurt dedicated a monographic exhibition to the late Gothic sculptor Niclaus Gerhaert of Leiden. Alongside Hans Multscher, Gerhaert is regarded as the most important artistic character developing the naturalistic formal language of Late Gothic sculpture. His career corresponds to the spread of artistic ideas from west to east: although it is not known whether he was actually born in Leiden (given as his origin in later sources), but he was likely trained in the artistic milieu of the Southern Netherlands, then in the 1460s worked on the eastern part of the Holy Roman Empire - more precisely in Strassburg - and was finally invited by Emperor Frederick III to Vienna and Wiener Neustadt, where he died in 1473. Although the corpus of works firmly attributed to him is rather small, his influence was enormous, and members of his workshop as well as his followers determined the development of Late Gothic sculpture in Central Europe. The art of both Veit Stoss and Tilman Riemenschneider would be  unthinkable without the influence of Gerhaert.

The exhibition currently on view in Frankfurt is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue edited by Stefan Roller. There are essays in the catalogue by a number of authors, following an introductory study by Roland Recht. This part is followed by catalogue entries, the first part of which include all the surviving works attributed to Niclaus Gerhaert (including those not in the exhibition), while the second part analyses the sculptures featured at the Frankfurt exhibition - arranged in groups of works from the environment of the master, and works showing his influence.

In the following, I would like to focus on one aspect of the subject, the influence of Gerhaert in the Kingdom of Hungary. I stated above that the sculptor was invited to Vienna by Frederick III, the most formidable opponent of Hungary's king Matthias. Gerhaert was commissioned to work on the tomb of the Emperor (in the Stephansdom of Vienna) and also on that of Queen Eleonore of Portugal (in Wiener Neustadt). Work on the Vienna tomb was likely disrupted in 1473, at the death of the artist, and again in 1485, when the troops of Matthias moved in to occupy the town. By that time the tombstone was moved to Wiener Neustadt, only to be returned to Vienna in 1493, so three years after the death of King Matthias. The tomb was not completed until 1513. There are few other works firmly attributed to Gerhaert from his Viennese period: first among them is the tomb of Queen Eleonore at Wiener Neustadt, wife of Frederick III, who passed away in 1467 - at the time the master was invited by the Emperor. In Wiener Neustadt, there is also a painted limestone statue of the Man of Sorrows at the former Cathedral (the Diocese was established by Frederick in 1469). Apart from these stone monuments, there a few wooden statues from this period, as Niclaus Gerhaert was an equally versatile sculptor both in stone and wood. Two small statues of the Virgin in Child - one in the Metropolitan Museum, the other in private collection - round out this period of the artist. 

Head of St. John from Tájó 
In the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, it was his works of wood which exerted a considerable influence. Stefan Roller dedicated a study to the influence of of Gerhaert in Central Europe, and two objects  from Upper Hungary (the territory of modern Slovakia) are actually included in the exhibition. Altogether, four works are discussed: the Head of St. John the Baptist from Tájó (Tajov, Slovakia), the main altar of Kassa (Košice) and the Nativity group as well as a figure of the Virgin at the reading stand - both originally from the main altar of the parish church of Pozsony (Bratislava). 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Italy and Hungary in the Renaissance (Book review)

Back in 2007, a major conference was organized at Villa I Tatti (The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence), dedicated to Humanism and early Renaissance art in the Kingdom of Hungary. The conference aimed to give an overview of the field, focusing naturally on connections between Italy and Hungary. In August 2011, the long-awaited volume of the these studies has been published by Villa I Tatti, edited by Péter Farbaky and Louis A. Waldman. The conference, the research trip to Hungary which followed it, and the volume together represent the crowning achievement of the role of I Tatti as "a bridge between Hungary and Florence in the world of humanistic scholarship for three decades" - as emphasized by director Joseph Connors in the Foreword.

It also has to be pointed out that in 2008, an entire series of exhibitions and events were organized in Hungary in the framework of the so-called Renaissance Year. Three exhibitions, in particular, have to be mentioned here: the Budapest History Museum organized a large international exhibition dedicated to the rule of King Matthias in Hungary. Titled Matthias Corvinus, the King, the exhibition was accompanied by a large catalogue, also edited by Péter Farbaky with Enikő Spekner, Katalon Szende and András Végh (published in an English version as well). A large number of the participants of the 2007 Villa I Tatti conference also contributed to this catalogue - where naturally actual physical objects are in focus. The two publications thus nicely complement each other. Two smaller exhibitions focused on more special topics: the exhibition at the National Széchényi Library, titled  A Star in the Raven's Shadow, was dedicated to János Vitéz, archbishop of Esztergom, and the beginnings of Hungarian Humanism in the middle of the 15th century. The exhibition of the Museum of Applied Arts - The Dowry of Beatrice - examined the origins of Italian majolica at the court of King Matthias, focusing on the magnificent Corvinus-plates made in Pesaro. (To get the English-language catalogues, search for item nos. 58713 and 113069 at

15th c. fresco at the Palace of Esztergom

However, the conference organized at I Tatti  was the event met with most extensive response. This was largely due to two of the the papers presented at the conference and a press conference held by the Hungarian Cultural Minister in Rome, announcing the findings of these two papers. At the conference, Zsuzsanna Wierdl and Mária Prokopp presented their theory concerning one of the 15th century frescoes at the castle of Esztergom, attributing it to the young Botticelli - a subject I have written about elsewhere on this blog.

Naturally, there is much more to the book than these sensational claims. The volume makes the lectures presented at the conference available in an edited format. The description of the book at the Harvard University Press website gives a good overview of its main topic: