Showing posts with label Prokopp Mária. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prokopp Mária. 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".

Thursday, June 23, 2011

First publications on the murals of the parish church of Pest

The 14th century fresco of the Virgin of Child, discovered last year in the sanctuary of the Inner City Parish Church of Pest (in downtown Budapest) created quite a stir. I suppose it always creates some stir when a a fresco appears older than the wall it is painted on. The sanctuary of the parish church of Pest has always been dated to around 1400, while the fresco clearly dates from  some time in the 14th century. This then of course calls for a re-evaluation of the construction history of the church, something which is quite hard to do without more extensive on-site research. Already, debate is raging on concerning the date of the newly discovered frescoes (also, some questions have been raised about the restoration as well). A detailed examination of the building and all its fresco decoration, however, is yet to be carried out.

The Hungarian journal Műemlékvédelem published several articles on the building, summarizing the results of previous art historical and architectural research, also publishing restorer Éva Derdák's overview of the uncovering and restoration of the mural (Műemlékvédelem, vol. LIV, 2010/6). The journal is not available online, but you can see the contents of the issue here. Tünde Wehli wrote an article for the journal on the newly discovered frescoes. After briefly describing the frescoes, she proceeds to bring analogies to the image of the Madonna. Most of these come from the north of the Alps, from France and Central Europe (esp. Bohemia), although Wehli acknowledges the Italian origins of several motifs of the fresco (such as the shape of the throne). In the conclusion of her article, Tünde Wehli dates the fresco to the last quarter of the 14th century - a date which requires a relatively modest modification in the building's chronology.

More recently, Mária Prokopp also wrote on the frescoes. She is a noted expert of the Italian connections of Hungarian medieval painting (I wrote on her theory of Botticelli in Esztergom). Her article was published in Múzeumcafé, which is a flashy magazine about museums, and is not really known for serious studies on medieval art. Prokopp's article can be read in the online version of Múzeumcafé vol. 5, 23 (2011 június/július), and also here. A somewhat more detailed version of Prokopp's article is available in the journal Magyar Sion (2010/2, full text available here). Prokopp's study also appeared in the journal of the Budapest History Museum (Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 36, 2010),  in what can be considered as its definitive version to this date. A pdf-version of the Hungarian-language article is available here; there is a brief German summary at the end. Prokopp cites mainly Italian analogies from the beginning of the Trecento, and thus dates the fresco of the Virgin and child to around 1320-1340 (the fresco of the bishop she considers even earlier, from the end of the 13th century). In explaining the significance of the frescoes, she analyses the historical importance of the church as well.

I've had no time to write anything more than some blog-length pieces on the fresco so far. My brief report on the find (essentially the same as my first two blog entries - see part I and part II) was summarized for the newsletter of the International Center of Medieval Art (April 2011 issue), while my report on Hungarian azurite was picked up by National Geographic Hungary (May 2011). Hopefully I'll get to write more about it soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The secret of the casket

Photos by Melange Galéria, Budapest 
A small Italian Renaissance casket went on display earlier this month in a Budapest gallery. The display was opened by Mária Prokopp, university professor and a noted expert of Italian Renaissance painting. So far not much is known about the intriguing object, the website of the gallery only says this much about it:
"This is the first public appearance of this precious Renaissance casket, which had been serving as a medicine case in the household of an elderly lady for the last 30 years."

The small casket (about 50 cm wide) is decorated with a well-composed Renaissance painting on the front, and two coat of arms on the shorter sides. The main scene seems to be some kind of triumphal or marriage procession - and is in very bad condition. Some small areas have already been cleaned, to reveal the original bright colors. The details are very fine, like in a manuscript illumination. The coats of arms on the sides seem rather general - an eagle and a lion. On the back side, there is an inscription fitting for the object, which reads: "Quod ut custoditorum me nemo sciat" (No-one shall know what is guarded by me).

It is clear that the casket is in need of restoration and detailed examination. It is hard to say more about it, until that happens. A series of photographs can be seen on the website of the gallery, plus here is a detail of the painting from the front of the casket. Renaissance experts - feel free to comment!

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