Showing posts with label museums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label museums. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Exhibition on Medieval Towns in Magdeburg

The new exhibition of the Cultural History Museum is titled 'Faszination Stadt  - The Allure of Cities,' and is dedicated to the network of medieval towns following Magdeburg law. The topic is broadly framed, starting with city development in antiquity - but then it focuses on the development and spread of Magdeburg town law in the Middle Ages. The Magdeburg law originated in the twelfth century and spread in the course of the German east settlement across Central Europe, particularly to the areas of Poland, Bohemia and the Kingdom of Hungary. It is a characteristic feature of urbanization in this regiou and its peculiarity is that it divided the local power between the council and a jury appointed by the ruler. This made it easier for territorial rulers such as the Teutonic Order in the Baltic States and the kings of Poland and Hungary to control the cities they established and granted freedoms to. The legal framework was provided by the Sachsenspiegel, codified in 1230, which was a summary of existing legal knowledge. Starting from the story of Magdeburg law, the exhibition presents the legal framework, the day to day operations and daily life in medieval towns of Central Europe.

Stove tile from Besztercebánya, c. 1500, Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

The 250 objects on view are varied, ranging from luxurious gift items to objects of daily life. Given the subject, it is not surprising that a large number of loans from Hungary and the neighboring countries are featured in the exhibition.  The exhibition is accompanied by an 800-page catalog and by a volume of studies dedicated to the topic. It remains on view until February 2, 2020. You can find more information on the special website set up for the exhibition or in the flyer provided by the museum.

View of the exhibition, with the tombstone of a painter from Buda
(Budapest History Museum)

The results presented in the exhibition rely on a research project coordinated by the Museum. A website was also set up to provide information about Magdeburg law - it is a very useful resource, providing, among others, a map of European towns using Magdeburg law.

Copy of the Sachsenspiegel, Heidelberg University Library

(Photos by Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg)

Late 15th century Passion panel from Thorn/Torun

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Museum of Fine Arts Reopens in Budapest

After three years of reconstruction work, the Museum of Fine Arts is now again open for visitors in Budapest. The museumʼs heating and air conditioning system was upgraded, much of the roof replaced, and new exhibition and public spaces created during the renovations, along with new underground storage facilities. The most visible part of the reconstruction of the building is the newly reopened grand Romanesque Hall, which had been closed to the public since 1945. Unfortunately, the great collection of plaster casts is no longer there; the Hall will be used mainly for events. A publication, as well as a special website was dedicated to the history and restoration of the Romanesque Hall.

The Museum of Fine Arts reopened to the public on October 31, 2018. At this time, about half of the permanent exhibitions are ready: the exhibition of Ancient Egypt, the exhibition of Classical Antiquity, the Old Sculpture Collection (European sculpture from 1350-1800) and part of the Old Master's Gallery (European Art 1250-1600). A new addition to the exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts is the Hungarian Baroque exhibition (Art in Hungary 1600-1800) - this is part of the controversial project of merging of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery. In the future, the Museum of Fine Arts will only display Ancient and pre-1800 art, while a new museum will be built for western art after 1800 (see the website of the Liget Budapest project). Hungarian medieval art from the National Gallery will also be moved to the Museum of Fine Arts, where further parts of the permanent exhibitions are scheduled to open in 2019.

A temporary exhibition was also put on display, dedicated to the small bronze statue of a horse and rider, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. The exhibition is inside a wonderful space for smaller exhibitions, the Michelangelo Hall, which was also fully restored.

Along with the reconstruction of the museum building, the logo and the website of the Museum were also upgraded. For more information on the permanent exhibitions as well as on the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, head on over there. As an illustration for this post, I am including a photo of a new acquisition by the Museum, a late-fifteenth century Spanish statue of St. Michael, carved by Gil de Siloé. The statue is now on display in the galleries of European art. 

Gil de Siloé: St. Michael. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Hedwig Beaker and Other Medieval Objects at the Corning Museum of Glass

Headwig Beaker, 12th century.
Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass (67.1.11) 

During my recent visit to the Corning Museum of Glass (at Corning, New York), I was happy to see the Museum's Hedwig beaker, which is a great example of this mysterious object type. Originating from the late 12th century, about 15 such beakers are known today, most stemming from church treasuries. Their name comes from their association with Saint Hedwig of Silesia.  Several known pieces were mounted and transformed into reliquaries, and some of the most famous surviving pieces are still preserved in church treasuries: at Halberstadt cathedral, Minden cathedral and at the Wavel Cathedral in Krakow, as well as at Notre Dame d’Oignies in Namur (2 pieces). Important museum pieces are in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, the British Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, in addition to the Corning Museum's piece. The cut glass pieces are decorated with lions, griffins or eagles, and they seem to imitate rock crystal objects made in Fatimid Egypt. The origin of these small masterworks has been much debated: most likely they were made in Sicily, but other theories also exist. Ample literature can be found on the subject: the collection databases of the museums mentioned above or even the relevant Wikipedia article can be a starting point for further exploration. In fact, on the website of the Corning Museum of Glass, you can find an essay on these objects, written by David Whitehouse, as well as a nice video (see below).

Drawing (with reconstruction) of the fragment
from Buda castle. Budapest History Museum

It is important to mention that a fragment of a Hedwig beaker was also uncovered during excavations of the royal palace of Buda, the center of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Katalin Gyürky H., who had published the fragment, proposed that the object may have belonged to the royal treasury. Another of the beakers also has a Hungarian connection: the object in the Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg is said to have belonged to St. Elisabeth of Hungary (while some centuries later, it was in the possession of Luther). St. Elisabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and Queen Gertrude - the latter being the sister of St. Hedwig of Silesia. Lack of early sources about these object prevent the creation of elaborate theories.

Naturally, the Corning Museum of Glass - which has one of the best collections of historic glass in the world - holds many other medieval treasures, including some pieces of stained glass as well as superb pieces of Islamic glass. One more object I would like to highlight is of a different nature: it is a 12th-century recipe book known as Mappae Clavicula. Among other things, it includes recipes for making colored glass. Held at the Rakow Research Library of the Corning Museum, the manuscript has been digitized and is accessible from the website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Exhibition about the Matthias Church

A major new exhibition about the building and the history of the Church of Our Lady (Matthias Church) of Buda Castle opened at the Budapest History Museum. The Church is a major historic monument of Budapest, part of the Unesco World Heritage site of Buda Castle. Established after the Mongol invasion of 1241-42, the church became the most important ecclesiastical institution of Buda, and finally served as a coronation church in 1867 at the coronation of Franz Joseph I. Soon after that, it was completely remodeled by Frigyes Schulek in Neo-Gothic style, with the addition of it landmark spire. 

During the Middle Ages, the Church of Our Lady served the purpose of a parish church for the town's German citizens. It was built and rebuilt in many stages. A royal charter from 1255 refers to the church as yet to be completed, while another document from 1269 calls it newly erected. The original, 13th century building was turned into a hall-church and rebuilt overall in the first half of the 15th century, at the time of King Sigismund. Its southern tower was built at the time of King Matthias. During the Turkish occupation of Buda it was converted into a mosque. During the 18th century, it was rebuilt in Baroque style, and used by the Jesuits, and later as parish church again. The present building originates from the rebuilding of Frigyes Schulek carried out between 1874-1896. The building was extensively renovated after World War II and most recently between 2004-2014. The current exhibition thus presents not only the history of the building, but also findings of this most recent period of research and renovation.

The church before the reconstruction of the late 19th century, painting by A. Schikedanz

After an introductory part focusing on the church as the site of the 1867 coronation, the exhibition is arranged chronologically. One room is dedicated to the two major phases of the medieval building. At the time of the rebuilding by Schulek, a large number of details of the medieval church fabric - including the portals - came to light. These finds provided a starting point for Schulek, who aimed to return the church to its "ideal," 13th century state. This meant for example the dismantling of the late gothic lateral sanctuaries of the church, to rebuild the side apses along their 13th century lines. Many late gothic elements were preserved and restored, however, including the monumental southern portal of the church or the chapel of the Garai family situated alongside the northern apse. The southern tower was rebuilt according to how Schulek imagined it should have looked like at the time of King Matthias in the 15th century.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Museum of Fine Arts closes for three years

Photo of the Romanesque Hall at the Museum of Fine Art © MTI
The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest will be closed for the renovation of the building from 16 February 2015 until the end of 2017. During this period a highlight-selection from the Museum’s collection will be on view in the Hungarian National Gallery (in Buda Castle). The Museum will reopen in 2018 with brand new exhibitions and new spaces. The most important part of this renovation process will be the restortion of the so-called Romanesque Hall of the Museum, which had been closed since 1945. Since then, the space has been used as a storage space for the fantastic collection of plaster casts of medieval and renaissance sculpture, accumulated in the early years of the Museum's history. 

The Romanesque Hall at the time of the opening of the building (1906)

The plasters casts will be restored and put on display in a newly created museum space at the 19th century fortress of Komárom (see this article, with visualizations of the plans). Some other will be moved to the newly created National Museum Restoration and Storage Center, which is being developed on the site of a hospital, located behind the museum - see the plans in this article.

The state of the Romanesque Hall before the war

In addition, several other spaces of the museum will be restored, and new underground areas will be created for the storage of artworks and for a new space for large temporary exhibition. The entire heating and air-conditioning system of the museum will be redone, as well. This Hungarian language article in Népszabadság has more details. The renovation of the museum and the other developments mentioned above are all part of the controversial Liget Budapest project, which is aimed to create several new museum in City Park (read more on it). During the years of closure, the Museum of Fine Arts will continue to organize exhibitions in the Hungarian National Gallery, which was joined to it a few years ago. Highlights from the permanent collection will also be shown there.

See also this video about the Romanesque Hall from Szépművészeti Múzeum on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

News from Hungarian Museums

Medieval and Renaissance tapestries on view at Esztergom

Tournai, late 15th century
Esztergom, Christian Museum 

An exhibition of tapestries has been on view at the Christian Museum in Esztergom since May.  The Museum holds a significant collection of tapestries, and together with the co-organizer - the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest - they have put on display a good selection of early tapestries.The present exhibition entitled ‘Historical and Contemporary Tapestries in Hungary’ is presents the past and present of European woven tapestry, illuminating the connections also. From the perspective of a medievalists, the first section of the exhibition is the most interesting, which is titled ‘Flemish Tapestries with Biblical and Mythological Themes from the Museum of Applied Arts and the Christian Museum’. Here one of the genre’s most significant traditions – the Flemish – is represented by Oudenaarde and Tournai tapestries kept at the Christian Museum and by the 18th-century Brussels tapestry ‘Mercury Hands Over the Infant Bacchus to the Nymphs’, a work preserved at the Museum of Applied Arts. It is through this work that the rest of the exhibition - showing contemporary works - is connected to historic tapestries, via the "Web of Europe" project. The exhibition can be visited until the end of August, and is accompanied by a catalogue.

Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest purchases an early Renaissance carving

The blog of Hungarian museum journal MúzeumCafé reported that the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest had purchased an important French early Renaissance carving at an auction last week (June 5). The stone relief was once part of the famed collection of Rudolf Bedő, and was auctioned at Kieselbach Gallery and Auction House. Another medieval sculpture from the collection - a Burgundian Madonna - was also offered for sale. This news comes just a few months after the long overdue re-opening of the permanent exhibition of the Old Sculpture Collection of the museum (see my report from December) - the piece is clearly a welcome addition to this important collection.

I will list a few smaller exhibitions here as well - with link to Hungarian-language reports

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Gothic Ivories in Hungary

Diptych, Paris, 14th century. Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
At the most recent update of the Gothic Ivories Project, coordinated by The Courtauld Institute of Art, medieval ivories in Hungarian public collections were also added to the database. You can now look at photos of about a dozen Gothic ivories from the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest, as well as one single example preserved in the Sculpture Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts. With the 700 ivories added with the most recent update, the database now includes 3800 objects.

It is to be hoped that the next update will add some more objects from Hungary: in particular, it would be great to see the three late Gothic bone saddles from the collection of the Hungarian National Museum. Many other saddles from the period of Emperor Sigismund are already online - including the Batthyany saddle stemming from Körmend in western Hungary (and now at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston).

There are a few more great ivories in Hungarian ecclesiastical collections - in particular the wing of a diptych at the Cathedral Treasury of Győr (illustrated below). The Gothic Ivories project is of course a great resource for the research of ivory - it helped me to identify a surviving part of the other wing of this diptych, kept today at The Art Institute of Chicago. Hopefully, the wing at Győr can be added to the database soon. In the meantime, we can also find photos of some complete diptychs on the Gothic Ivories Project website, which can help us reconstruct the Győr-Chicago diptych as well: such as this image. (See on this subject the article by Katalin Dávid, published in Ars Decorativa vol. 7 (1982), and available online here.)

Right wing of a diptych with scenes from the Life of the Virgin. Győr, Cathedral Treasury
To read about more medieval ivories once in Hungary, have a look at my previous post about the Fejérváry collection!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Collection Databases of Hungarian Art Museums

2012 represented a sort of breakthrough for Hungarian art museums in the process of putting their collections online. When I wrote about the medieval holdings of Budapest museums about two years ago, there was not much to report on in this respect. The situation is now a lot better, and keeps improving - you can now find an increasing number of medieval art objects online. I will give a brief overview of each of these  databases.

Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Maso di Banco: Coronation of the Virgin
Florence, 1335-1340  
The Museum of Fine Arts launched two separate databases this year: one is a general collection database, which provides basic inventory data on thousands of artworks. Integrated into the newly rewamped museum website, the database is available in English as well - although the translation seems to have been made with a translation software, and contains a lot of peculiarities and inaccuracies. The quality of the images varies a great deal: in some departments (for example Sculpture) all the archival pictures seem to have made it into the database, while some objects are illustrated with just one image, or no image at all. You can browse the objects based on the collections and also by period, so it is fairly easy to get to the medieval and Renaissance objects. 

Florentine master: Siren in a medallion 
The Museum also launched another, more scholarly database: an online catalogue of Italian and French prints before 1620. The catalogue, containing 4.604 objects, is the first complete publication of a section from the rich collection of 100.000 prints preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts. The catalogue was edited by Eszter Seres and Zoltán Kárpáti, and provides detailed catalogue records of each print, as well as new, zoomable images. This material does not seem to be integrated into the general collection database mentioned above - so if you are after prints, you have to come to this specialized website. There are a few dozen 15th century prints in the collection as well.

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Book of Hours for Lodovico Gonzaga.
Florence, 1469-1478
The Museum of Applied Arts also launched its collection database, which is continuously being filled up with images and records, and currently contains over 2000 objects. There are plenty of medieval objects in this rich and varied collection of decorative arts, some of which have already appeared in the database. At this point, the database is only available in Hungarian, but an English language version is currently in preparation. The interface is very easy to use, and there are various ways to browse: by collection or with virtual tours, which present the material arranged according to various topics. Medium-size images can be downloaded for personal use after registration.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Exhibition of Medieval Art in Cologne

Last week I had a chance to see the exhibition "Glanz und Grösse des Mittelalters" at the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne (Splendour and Glory of the Middle Ages). The new building of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum provides a spacious and modern exhibition space right next door to the historic building of the Schnütgen (the former St. Cecilia church) for such exhibitions (this is in fact the first such show). The rich collection of the Schnütgen Museum provides a great overview of medieval art in Cologne and the Rhineland - the aim of the present exhibition was to gather other highlights stemming from Cologne but kept in various collections worldwide. The resulting exhibition and the accompanying catalogue does provide a great overview of medieval sculpture and decorative arts in Cologne, and includes a number of important paintings and illuminated manuscripts as well (although naturally it cannot match the complete overview of medieval painting in Cologne provided on the lower floor of the nearby Wallraf-Richartz Museum).

Over a decade ago, a select number of medieval objects from the Schnütgen toured the US at the exhibition Fragmented Devotion (at the McMullen Museum of Art of Boston College). Now objects from American collections in New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland, Chicago and Los Angeles are shown alongside of loans from various European museums. The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest lent two spectacular late Gothic statues of the Virgin Mary and St John, which are now joined with the crucified Christ, once again forming the original group once standing at the abbey church of Grosskönigsdorf. As I was not able to take photos in the exhibition, I am illustrating this with a photo I found on Wikipedia:

Museum Schnütgen - Glanz und Größe des Mittelalters-5138
Crucifixion group from Grosskönigsdorf by Master Tilman, 1480/90

The life-size figures were carved by master Tilman - who has a sizeable oeuvre in the area - around 1480/90. It was interesting to see the group united - the sculptures in Budapest preserved much of their polychromy, while the Christ figure still in Grosskönigsdorf has been stripped of its paint layer. The two saints appeared on the art market after the dissolution of the monastery, and were purchased from a Munich art dealer in 1916. Why and how the central figure remained in its original place, is not known. Here is a link to the object description on the Museum of Fine Arts website.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Hungarian National Gallery in Crisis

Throne room in the former royal palace
- now the home of winged altarpieces in the National Gallery 
Hungary (and its capital, Budapest) has a rich and multi-layered art museum system, the result of almost two centuries of organic development (I wrote about these museums in a previous post). One of the largest such institutions in Budapest is the Hungarian National Gallery, officialy created as a separate museum in 1957, and presently housed inside the former royal palace on top of Buda castle hill. The museums is home to art from all over the territory of historic Hungary, ranging in chronology from the 11th century to the present day. The museum is the largest repository of Hungarian medieval art, holding stone carvings, sculptures, painting and complete altarpieces. You can browse highlights of the collection starting from this page. It is also a very important research center of Hungarian art history - during the last few decades, most new knowledge about Hungarian art was published in the catalogues and journals of the National Gallery, many of which can be studied online in the database of Hungarian museum publications (go down to "Magyar Nemzeti Galéria").

Hans Siebenbürger: St. Eligius before King Clotaire
One of the more recent acquisitions of the Gallery 
Several years ago, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, László Baán raised the possibility of once again uniting the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Museum, into one mega-museum (The Art Newspaper 177, 2007). The idea then was met with skepticism and rejection - but was already put partly in practice in the 2010 exhibition at the Royal Academy in London titled Treasures from Budapest (to mixed reviews, as the detailed overview of Gábor Endrődi at the blog proved - in Hungarian, but with links to English-language reviews). Things, however, sped up this year, after a major EU-funded expansion plan of the Museum of Fine Arts was scrapped (On this, see the brief report of The Art Newspaper, as well as the letter to the editor of TAN at the bottom of this page.) Baán then went ahead to realize his plan of merging the two museums under his leadership, and received government support for it. What was only a plan this summer (see once again The Art Newspaper's report) quickly became a reality when the backing of this plan was announced in a government decree, and Baán was appointed as state commissary to lead the project. There was talk of negotiations, examinations and planning - but less the nthree weeks later, another decree was published, announcing that the two museums will have to be officially merged by February 29, 2012.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Museums of Medieval Art

My recent visit to the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne got me thinking about museums focusing mainly on medieval art. I decided to make a brief list of such museums, with direct links to their collection databases - thousands of medieval artworks can be discovered this way.

Reliquary ('Ursulabüste'),
Museum Schnütgen, Köln 
Let's start with the Schnütgen Museum, then (Museum Schnütgen, Köln). Located in the Romanesque church of St. Cecilia, this 100 year old museum received a complete makeover, completed last year. The new entrance opens from a large hall, which is in the new building erected for the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, a museum of world cultures. The collection of the Schnütgen Museum consists largely of Christian religious objects, ranging from the Early Christian period to the Baroque, with a strong focus on sculpture, liturgical textiles and stained glass from Cologne and the Rheinland. There is no full collection database online, and the English version of the website only provides basic information. The website however does provide a good overview of chief works on display. An audioguide to the museum is available for download - although I don't know what its purpose is without the artworks.

Lady with the Unicorn,
Musée Cluny, Paris
Maybe the most famous of all medieval art museums is the Musée Cluny in Paris - officially the Musée national du Moyen Age. Located in the building of the Gallo-Roman thermes and the 15th century Hôtel de Cluny, and surrounded by a medieval garden, visiting this museum is a unique experience. The collection ranges from late Antiquity to the late Middle Ages, and includes exceptional goldsmith works, stone sculptures from Parisian churches - such as the Notre-Dame, as well as the famous Unicorn tapestries. There is a brief overview of the collection on the museum's website, but a lot more objects and images can be found through the photo agency of the Réunion des musées nationaux (where you can search for specific objects, but also by selecting the museum on the search form). The Museum's objects are also incorporated into the French national art database, Joconde. You can select the Musée Cluny directly, or search for thousands of other medieval objects in various French collection. In addition, a fascinating resource on the museum is also available online: the catalogue of 13th century sculptures (Les sculptures du XIIIe siècle du musée de Cluny).

The Unicorn in Captivity
The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum
The only similar museum to the Musée Cluny is on the other side of the Atlantic, in Manhattan: The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Housed in a large pseudo-medieval structure, which contains actual chapels and cloisters shipped over from Europe, this is one of the finest collections of medieval art anywhere. The website of the Metropolitan Museum provides a lot of information on The Cloisters, and also on the medieval department, including a selection of works on view. The collection is rich in sculptures of all kind, goldsmith works, manuscripts and also includes another set of Unicorn tapestries. You can search these objects in the museum's Collection Database, which is continually growing. If you select The Cloisters from the list of collections, 2300 objects can be browsed at present (about half of which are on view). Selecting the Collection of Medieval Art from the list yields an incredible further 6700 medieval objects in the database.

You can also download the Metropolitan Museum's Resource for Educators on Medieval Art. 

I would like to mention that many other American museums made their collections accessible online. For medieval art, I would particularly recommend the database of the The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (see also the manuscripts there!) and that of The Cleveland Museum of Art, with 1214 works online.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New medieval art websites, III.

I will keep this post very short - there seems to be an ever richer selection of medieval art websites out there. I just want to point out a few I've recently discovered.

The Utrecht Psalter 

Medieval manuscripts in Dutch collections

"This database contains descriptions of all medieval western manuscripts up to c. 1550 written in Latin script and preserved in public and semi-public collections in the Netherlands. These include the collections of libraries, museums, archives, collections of monastic orders and some private institutions open to researchers."

Arthur - La légende du roi Arthur

An online exhibition with copious illustrations from medieval manuscripts. Made by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, with direct links to Gallica, the 'Bibliothèque numerique' of the BnF, providing full digital versions of medieval manuscripts.

Reliquary with the Man of
The Walters Art Museum 

Treasures of Heaven: Saints, relics, and devotion in Medieval Europe

This exhibition, previously shown in Cleveland, is now going to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. A brand new website has been created for this occasion, which contains really nice things, such as 3D photographs of several objects - photos where you can rotate and zoom in the objects. "The exhibition features over 130 sculptures, paintings and manuscripts, gathered from world-class collections, including the Louvre and the Vatican." For us in Europe, the exhibition will be available this summer at the British Museum in London.

Duccio: Rucellai Madonna
Florence, Uffizi 

Finally, I would just like to mention a great new project, which created quite a buzz on Twitter: The Google Art Project, with virtual tours (streetview style) of several major museums worldwide. You can also browse (and zoom) works in the artwork viewer module.
Description from the website: "Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces."

Well, go ahead, and explore!

See previous installations of this feature: Medieval Art websites part I and part II.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hungarian goldsmith objects enter the Metropolitan Museum

Chalice with filigree enamel
Hungary, 1462
Metropolitan Museum of Art 

One of the most important collection of Hungarian goldsmith works outside Hungary was assembled by financier Nicolas M. Salgó, former US ambassador in Budapest. Salgó collected all kinds of Hungarian art; his painting collection was donated to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers in 2006, as you can read here.

Most important, however, is his collection of Hungarian silver, which was cataloged by an expert from the Hungarian National Museum, Judit H. Kolba. The handsome English-language catalog was first published in 1996, and is still in print (Hungarian Silver: The Nicolas M. Salgo Collection. London, 1996): see here.

The collection includes two superb medieval chalices from Hungary, both coming from the Viennese collection of Nathaniel Rothschild. One of them, dating from 1462, can bee seen on the left. Both chalices are decorated with filigree enamel, a technique which came to prominence at the Hungarian court of King Sigismund during 1420s.

In 2010, much of the collection entered the Metropolitan Museum of art, as "Gift of The Salgo Trust for Education, New York, in memory of Nicolas M. Salgo". No press release has been issued about the transfer of the objects, but most objects already appear in the collection database. 83 objects are listed in the collection of the department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. If you go to the main search page of the museum, entering "Salgo" will provide you with the full list of these - although not all objects are illustrated at this stage. You can find beautiful objects here, such as this 17th century coconut cup seen on the right.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Medieval holdings of Budapest museums

I often find myself trying to explain the system of Budapest's major art museums to foreigners. Although it is a clear system, it can still be confusing at times. For example, you can find important medieval artworks in all major museums of the capital. In this post, I will give a brief overview of the system, and list the most important medieval holdings of Budapest museums.

1. Hungarian National Museum (Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum)

This is Hungary's oldest public museum, founded in 1802. The present building of the museum, designed by Mihály Pollack, opened in 1847. Originally, all kinds of collections were housed here, a lot of which formed the basis of later museums. Today, it is basically a museum dedicated to the history of Hungary. The museum houses a large number of medieval objects from the territory of historic and modern Hungary. Various objects - including stone carvings, pottery, etc. - are held in the Archaeological Department and are on view in the Medieval Lapidary. Departments of the Historical Repository hold all kinds of medieval objects - furniture, textiles, weapons and ceramics. Of particular note is the Collection of Metalwork, with the best selection of Hungarian goldsmith works. Highlights of these collections are on view in the permanent exhibition. Until 2000, the Coronation regalia were kept here, too - today only the Coronation mantle remains in the Museum. The museum has a useful website, with lot of English language content - although not every page is translated from Hungarian. Start browsing here.

2. Museum of Applied Arts (Iparművészeti Múzeum)

Founded in 1872 and modeled after the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Applied Arts was the second major public museum in Hungary. It is housed in an Art Nouveau building designed by Ödön Lechner, opened in 1896. The collections of the museum include all fields of decorative arts - metalwork, furniture, ivories, textiles, ceramics. This is the only major national museum in Hungary where objects of Hungarian origin are side-by-side with other European works. When it comes to medieval objects, the collection is stronger in general European art (most Hungarian objects can be found in the National Museum). Particular highlights include medieval ivories, important goldsmith works from the Esterházy-treasury, chasubles and other medieval textiles, etc. Some of the highlights are on view in the permament exhibition of the museum, but the website only provides information on them in Hungarian. You can still browse the collection and picture galleries of highlights here. The museum's permanent exhibition of the history of furniture is located in the Nagytétény mansion on the outskirts of Budapest, and includes a number of medieval and renaissance objects.

3. Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum)

Officially founded in 1896, the Museum of Fine Art is based on the Esterházy-collection, purchased by the Hungarian state in 1871, and on numerous other acquisitions carried out during the last decades of the 19th century. The main building of the museum opened in 1906. The museum is basically dedicated to monuments of western art, including Egyptian and ancient art, stretching all the way to the present day. Focus is on paintings, drawings and sculpture (for other fields, see the Museum of Applied Arts above). Hungarian works have been transferred to the Hungarian National Gallery (see below). In terms of medieval art, The Collection of Old Master Paintings is particularly strong in Italian Trecento works as well as German/Austrian Late Gothic paintings. There are a number of outstanding medieval drawings in the collection as well, and there is a large collection of medieval sculpture - the latter presently not on view. For information and highlights, visit the website of the museum. In 2006, the Museum of Fine Arts organized and housed the great international exhibition dedicated to Emperor Sigismund.

4. Hungarian National Gallery (Nemzeti Galéria)

The National Gallery was created in 1957, with the intention of providing a separate museum dedicated to Hungarian art. It is primarily based on material transferred from the Museum of Fine Arts. When the new museum was transferred to its present building - in the former royal palace of Buda - the Old Hungarian Collection was also transferred there. This is a rich repository of Hungarian medieval art, consisting of medieval stone carvings and sculpture, panel paintings and a large number of complete altarpieces. The collections can be browsed on the website of the museum.

5. Budapest History Museum (Budapesti Történeti Museum)

The main site of this museum  - the Castle Museum - is also located in the building of the former royal palace of Buda (this site opened in 1967). Lower levels of the museum incorporate the remains of the medieval royal palace. The museum is an archaeological and historical collection - similar to the Hungarian National Museum - focusing on the territory of Budapest. As the Buda side of present-day Budapest was the medieval seat of Hungarian kings, the museum is particularly rich in medieval objects, most of them archaeological finds. The famous statue-find from the period of King Sigismund is also on view here. New excavations keep adding significant material to the collections. The English version of the website is not quite complete, but you can read about the permanent exhibitions here. In 2008, the museum organised and housed the exhibition titled Matthias Corvinus, the King.

6. Museum of Ethnography (Néprajzi Múzeum)

Started in 1872 as a unit of the Hungarian National Museum, and becoming an independent institution in 1947, the Museum of Ethnography moved into the former Palace of Justice in 1873. It might be surprising that I am listing it here, as the museum has no medieval collection - but it does include a number of medieval objects in its collections of European furniture, ceramics and textiles. The website of the museum is available in English, but the collection database is only in Hungarian. The Ethnological Archives also contain a lot of material about medieval buildings and wall-paintings.

I did not add pictures of actual medieval objects to this post - but you will find plenty to look at by following the links above. Of course, it is best to come and see these museums for yourself! If you would like to know even more about museums in Hungary, visit the central website for Hungarian museums.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hungarian museum journals online

During the last year or so, most publications of Hungarian museums have been digitized by the company Arcanum. The database can be reached from the central information portal of Hungarian museums, MUSEUM.HU. The publications range from historical reviews to archaeological and art historical journals. All journals as well as many catalogues (900.000 pages total) have been made accessible in a central database. The website and the database are in Hungarian, but many of the journals and books themselves are more accessible, as they are often in English or German. 

Unfortunately the interface is extremely cumbersome (I've been using JSTOR and similar databases for many years, so I know that it is possible to do this kind of job well). While the site has a powerful full-text search engine, it is difficult to browse through publications. New windows keep popping up and every page is in a separate pdf file. There does not seem to be a way to provide direct links to publications (well, you can link to them, but the results won't load), and you cannot download PDF versions of full articles. Another problem is that several digitized volumes are not accessible, as some museums did not allow the online publication. However, these have also been built into the database, so references to them will appear in search results - but you will not see them (this is the case with many publications of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery).
The resource can still come in handy if you need to look something up in the Journal of Veszprém County Museums or if you need to find a quick reference about a specific place of monument. The database contains nearly all the publications of Hungarian county museums, and the journals and some catalogues of large state museums. 

If you are brave enough to navigate a Hungarian-language database, you can find several important publications. These include for example catalogues of medieval goldsmith and bronze objects at the Hungarian National Museum. For these, scroll down on the opening page to "Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum" to find "Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Seria Archeologica", and these volumes there: 

Lovag Zsuzsa: Mittelalterliche Bronzgegenstände des Ungarischen Nationalmuseum, (Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Seria Archeologica 3; Budapest, 1999)
Kolba H. Judit: Liturgische Goldschmiedearbeiten im Ungarischen Nationalmuseum, 14.-17. Jahrhundert. (Catalogi Musei Nationalis Hungarici. Series Mediaevalis et Moderna 1; Budapest, 2004)

You can also find a small guide to the medieval exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery, and an overview of Renaissance exhibitions in 2008: Go to "Magyar Nemzeti Galéria" and then to "A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai" to find:

Török Gyöngyi: Gothic Panel Paintings and Wood Carvings in Hungary, Permanent exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery (2005)
Mikó Árpád, ed.: Renaissance year 2008.
Of museum journals, Ars Decorativa, published by the Museum of Applied Arts (you can find it as "Iparművészeti Múzeum") contains studies on the decorative arts in English, German, and French.
For medievalists, the publications of the
Monument Protection Office ("Kulturális Örökségvédelmi Hivatal") are also very useful. They are generally in Hungarian, but with summaries in foreign languages.

A similar database has been prepared from the publications of the Hungarian National Archives, which include numerous medieval source editions.