Showing posts with label Sigismund. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sigismund. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Previously unknown image of Emperor Sigismund identified

Emperor Sigismund and the Electors,
German-language copy of the Golden Bull of Charles IV
Stadtarchiv Ulm A Urk. Ve. 1356 Januar 10, fol. 1v  

At an exhibition held last year at Neuburg an der Donau, the chief work in focus was a 15th-century Bible, the Ottheinrich Bible. Regarded as the earliest surviving illustrated manuscript of the New Testament in the German language, it was originally commissioned around 1430 by Ludwig VII, the Bearded, Duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt. It was illuminated by three Regensburg painters, but its decoration remained unfinished - only to be completed by the artist Mathis Gerung in 1530–31. The manuscript was later split up into eight volumes, and after a rather complicated history, now all of its parts are at the Bavarian State Library in Munich - on their website, you can browse the digitized volumes of the Bible. 
The exhibition, titled Kunst und Glaube, contained lots of interesting objects, as far as I can tell based on the catalogue. I was most interested in objects dating from the period of Ludwig VII of Bavaria (Duke of Bavaria-Ingolstadt between 1413-1447), a contemporary of King and Emperor Sigismund, and a noted patron of the arts. Perhaps the most well-known of his commissions is the small-scale model of this tombstone, made by Hans Multscher around 1435 (Munich, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum). This tomb was never executed in full size. The Ottheinrich Bible was also one of his important commissions, which remained unfinished. 

Double page from the Ottheinrich Bible, c. 1430 (vol. 2.)
One of the objects in this section was a fragmentary manuscript of the Golden Bull of Charles IV, which was illuminated by the workshop of the Ottheinrich Bible (the so-calle Matthäusmaler). The manuscript was executed in Regensburg, and its surviving fragment is kept at the Town Archives of Ulm (See catalogue record). The fragment was identified as dating from this period by professor Robert Suckale, who provided a study about the Ottheinrich Bible for the catalogue (and also contributed to the catalogue entry in question, cat. no. 5.18). The fragment consists of only three leafs, containing a German translation of the Golden Bull issued in 1356. On the verso of the first folio, a group portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor with the Electors is depicted (see above). As Sigismund was also the King of Bohemia from 1419, only six Electors are depicted around the Emperor. On fol. 2r, the fragment also includes the full page depiction of coat of arms of a certain Hans Kastenmayer of Straubing - an image very similar to those included on armorial letters issued by the imperial chancery at that time, and the fragment also contains a nice initial. 

Decorated page of the Ulm fragment

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, May 01, 2014

Exhibitions of Holy Roman Emperors

The big exhibition organized to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Council of Constance opened last weekend at Constance. One of the central figures of the exhibition is Emperor Sigismund, who was also the King of Hungary. However, Germany celebrates a number of other Holy Roman Emperors this year with major exhibitions - here is an overview.

Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) - First on the list is the first emperor of the Middle Ages, Charlemagne. He died in 814, so 1200 years ago. To commemorate this event, three major exhibitions will take place in Aachen in 2014, dedicated to the culture and courtly life of Charlemagne. The trio of exhibitions will be opened on 19th June 2014 by their official patron, the Federal President. They will run from 20th June to 21st September 2014 in three prestigious venues – the Coronation Hall in Aachen’s Town Hall, the Centre Charlemagne on the Katschhof, and the Cathedral Treasury – and will present the impact, art and culture of Charlemagne. You can find more information on the three exhibitions and the three venues, as well as on the Route Charlemagne Aachen on the exhibition website. You can also have a look at this press release announcing the exhibitions (pdf).

The second emperor to be commemorated is Louis IV, called the Bavarian (Ludwig der Bayer), who ruled from 1314 until 1347. 'Ludwig the Bavarian. We are emperor!’ will be the title of the upcoming Bavarian Regional Exhibition which will tell the fascinating story of the first member of the House of Wittelsbach to ascend the imperial throne in Regensburg. The occasion is the 700th jubilee of Ludwig’s coronation as King of the Romans in 1314 (he was crowned Emperor in 1328). For the first time a large exhibition will focus on this important ruler of the late Middle Ages. The exhibition grants the visitor an insight into the history of the Bavarian duke, German king and Holy Roman Emperor and the time between 1300 and 1350, during which Bavaria became the center of Europe. The exhibition will be at the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte in Regensburg, and will be on view from May 19th until November 2, 2014. The churches and smaller museums of the town will also serve as exhibition venues.

Finally, I would like to return to the exhibition in Constance (Konstanz),  which is on view from April 27 until September 21, 2014. 2014 marks the 600th anniversary of the beginning of the Council of Constance. The Council was a major event in church politics which made Constance the center of European politics and a meeting place of European cultures in the years 1414-1418. Baden-Württemberg commemorates the anniversary of the world event of the late Middle Ages with a Great State Exhibition. The exhibition was organized by the Badische Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe. The main figure of the Council was Emperor Sigimund, who ruled as King of Hungary from 1387, and was elected King of the Romans in 1411. He ruled until 1437, and was crowned Emperor only in 1433. The exhibition is on view in the actual building in which events took place in Constance. I will report on the exhibition and the accompanying publications in more detail soon (and you can also read my preliminary report). A website has been set up for the series of events during the next four years, and also for the exhibition itself.

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.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Tale of Two Lovers and an Unknown Image of Emperor Sigismund

Pisanello: Portrait of Emperor Sigismund, 1431-33 
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Emperor Sigismund was one of the most frequently depicted historical personalities of the 15th century. His real and disguised portraits can be found in countless panel paintings, frescoes and miniatures. Entire volumes - such as the Chronicle of the Council of Constance by Ulrich Richental or the Recollections of Eberhard Windecke - are filled with images of Sigismund. You can browse some of these portraits on the website of the 2006 exhibition on King and Emperor Sigismund. Despite this wealth of images from every part of the Holy Roman Empire from Siena to Görlitz, it seems that French and Netherlandish illuminators of the second half of the 15th century really had no clue as to what Sigismund looked like. He is often depicted in historical manuscripts, especially in images of the disastrous Battle of Nicopolis (1396). See, for example the lavishly illustrated copy of Sebastien Mamerot's Chronicle of the Crusades, Les Passages d'Outremer, completed by Jean Colombe around 1474, and held at the Bibliotheque nationale de France and recently issued in a facsimile

A particularly amusing example in this respect is the so-called Pageants of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, which can be studied in this 1908 edition. Completed in 1485, this manuscript is the only illustrated biography of a late medieval secular figure, and features the Earl's various encounters with rulers, including Sigismund. Pageant 35 (on page 138 of the Roxburghe Club facsimile) for example shows the Earl and Sigismund exchanging gifts, and Sigismund is depicted as a fairly young, beardless figure, with a fancy three-tiered crown (see below). More information on this manuscript is available on the website of the British Library.

The visit of Sigismund to England
The Beauchamp Pageants, 1485
London, British Library
I went through a lot of effort to gather such images for the 2006 Sigismund exhibition and its catalogue, but no doubt several manuscripts escaped my attention. I would like to mention just one of these, which is currently on view at the Getty Center's exhibition on Fashion in the Middle Ages. The book is a French manuscript from around 1460-1470, containing the popular Tale of Two Lovers by Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (a story he wrote in 1444, obviously before he became Pope Pius II). The story of the two adulterous lovers is set in Siena, at the time of Emperor Sigismund's visit and lengthy stay there on his way to his imperial coronation in Rome (1432). The story is dedicated to Kaspar Schlick, imperial chancellor of Emperor Sigismund (and later of Emperor Frederick III), who is also the main character - Euryalus - of Aeneas’ tale.

You can read an English translation of the entire story on this website; I am quoting the beginning of the story from there, too:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Konzilstadt Konstanz

Last week I traveled to Konstanz (Constance), Germany, to participate in a meeting to prepare a major exhibition dedicated to the Council of Constance. This event, which took place between 1414 and 1418 was the most important ever to take place in that town, and it was also the high point of the career of King Sigismund. He had been king of Hungary since 1387, but after his 1410 election as King of the Romans he became a major player on the European political scene. You can follow the route he took to get to the Council, and also through Western Europe to negotiate at the website of the 2006 Sigismundus-exhibition.
In order to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the Council, five years of events are planned for 2014-2018, each dedicated to a specific theme. A special event has been set up to coordinate these events, and you can find a lot of information on their website. The local paper also wrote about the preparation of the exhibition, as you can read here.

While there, I had a chance to see the newly restored frescoes of the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (former Augustinian church). Sigismund and his court stayed in this monastery during the Council, and he commissioned these frescoes in 1417. Of course he had his patron saint, St. Sigismund, depicted - resulting in a famed portrait of the king himself (see above). The German Wikipedia entry on the church is quite useful, and you can also see some of my photos of the frescoes below.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Reviews of the Sigismundus exhibition catalogue

One of the most important medieval art history exhibitions organized in Hungary was the one dedicated to King and Emperor Sigismund in 2006

Shown first in Budapest and later in Luxembourg, the exhibition was accompanied by a catalog published in Hungarian, German and French. Several other publilcations were also published in conjunction with the event, including the acts of a conference held a year before. The full list of publications can be seen on the website of the exhibition. A few photos of the exhibition are available on my website.

The exhibition catalogue, titled Sigismundus - Rex et Imperator: Kunst und Kultur zur Zeit Sigismunds von Luxemburg, 1387-1437, was edited by Imre Takács, with the assistance of Zsombor Jékely, Szilárd Papp, and Györgyi Poszler. It was published Philipp von Zabern of Mainz (ISBN 978-3-8053-3626-0).
Over the years, a number of detailed reviews have been written of this exhibition catalog. I am listing a few of them below. Some reviews also discuss the conference volume, edited by Michel Pauly - François Reinert and titled Sigismund von Luxemburg: Ein Kaiser in Europa. Tagungsband des internationalen historischen und kunsthistorischen Kongresses in Luxemburg, 8-10. Juni 2005.

In addition, there is a long review by Štefan Oriško in, Ars (Bratislava), 39 (2006/1), 31-52 (abstract here) and also by Matthew Palmer in Acta Historiae Artium, 48 (2007), 341-349, neither of which is available online. 

An important review by Klara Benešovská is not only about the Sigismundus exhibition, but also about another important venture dedicated to the Luxemburg dynasty, the exhbition
Prague - The Crown of Bohemia, shown in New York and Prague. It was published in Perspective, La revue de l'INHA 2008/1, 138-145. For more on the Luxemburg dynasty, you should also read the review of the conference volume Prague and Bohemia, edited by Zoë Opačić, in The Medieval Review. This period, one of the high points of Central European Art, will also be the subject of an international colloquium organized in Maribor, Slovenia, early next year.