|Villard's drawing of a window from Reims,|
with announcement of his trip to Hungary
At this period, a renewed impact of French Gothic (High Gothic, to be precise) can be detected in Hungary - especially at Pilis and at the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma. Crucial monuments include the tomb of Queen Gertrude and the famous Porta Speciosa at Pannonhalma, both dating from the 1220s. It is perhaps not coincidental that roughly at the same time, the famous Villard de Honnecourt visited Hungary. Just as we are not quite sure of his profession, it is similarly unclear what he did in Hungary or when exactly he visited. Evidence for his visit is included in his sketchbook: on fol. 10v, next to the drawing of an aisle window at Reims, Villard writes: "I had been sent into the land of Hungary when I drew it because I like it best." He also mentions on another folio the he "was once in Hungary, where [he] remained many days". Of all the things he saw there, he chose to draw a pavement, which he saw in a church - at a place he did not name.
|On top, Villard's drawing of pavement|
motifs he had seen in Hungary
Theories abound concerning the date and purpose of Villard's Hungarian visit. Pilis abbey emerges as a place he may have visited for several reasons:
One of the pavement motifs drawn by Villard in Hungary is known from Pilis Abbey.
The tomb of Gertrude, as well as the fragmentary tomb slab of a knight is in the same style (the characteristic Muldenfaltenstil) as Villard's drawings - leading Gerevich to believe that these were designed by Villard.
Mentioning these and similar comparisons, Imre Takács also proposes a hypothesis for the historical context of Villard's Hungarian trip (published first in a study: “The French Connection: On the Courtenay Family and Villard de Honnecourt Apropos of a 13th-Century Incised Slab from Pilis Abbey,” Künstlerische Wechselwirkungen in Mitteleuropa, ed. Jirí Fast and Markus Hörsch, Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 11-21.). After the murder of Queen Gertrude (of Andechs-Meran), King Andrew II married Yolande de Courtenay, and Imre Takács emphasizes the role of the Courtenay family in Hungary. They were also the lords of the area where Villard was from. Takács proposed that the red marble tomb slab from Pilis was that of Robert de Courtenay, Latin emperor of Constantinople (1221-1228).
|Drawing of a soldier from Villard's sketchbook|
and fragments of the tomb of a knight
(Robert de Courtenay?) from Pilis
Takács also poses the following questions: “Is it possible that Villard … may have been traveling in the entourage of Emperor Robert on his way east in the winter of 1220? Could we not suppose in fact that Villard was a multi-talented individual in the Courtenay court and capable of carrying out “engineering” tasks, giving theoretical advice and making practical decisions? And finally, is it not possible that the quality of the drawing on the Pilis inscribed slab is so similar to Villard’s personal style, because he may actually have taken part in the work’s creation, if only in so much as making the sketches?”