Showing posts with label textile. Show all posts
Showing posts with label textile. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Catalogue of Liturgical Vestments of the Black Church in Brasov

The Abbeg-Stiftung (Riggisberg, CH) published an exhaustive catalogue of the liturgical vestments of the Black Church of Brașov / Brassó / Kronstadt in Transylvania. Regarded as the most important ecclesiastical collection of the Transylvanian Saxon churches, interest in the collection started already in the 19th century, but the present book, edited and largely written by Evelin Wetter, is the first systematic catalogue of the medieval and renaissance textiles preserved in the church. Several objects date back to the 15th and the early 16th century, and these remained in use even after the community and its church turned Lutheran in 1543.

The origins of the town of Brassó / Kronstadt go back to the early 13th century, when as part of King Andreas II's policies, it was established by German settlers (known in later sources generally as Saxons). Along with Nagyszeben / Hermannstadt (Sibiu), Brassó became one of the most important Saxon towns of Transylvania, and developed greatly due its favorable position near the border of the Hungarian Kingdom and along key trade routes. The present parish church of Brassó /Kronstadt, dedicated to the Virgin, was built from around 1380 until about 1470, and it is the easternmost major Gothic building of medieval Europe (it is also the largest medieval church in all of Transylvania). The original fabric of the church was heavily damaged in a fire in 1689 - hence the name of "Black church." After the fire, a slow rebuilding process started, during which the entire church had to be re-vaulted, which was carried out in a Gothicising spirit.

Black Church in Brasov, by Vlad Moldovean, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the fire, the church has preserved a remarkable array of its treasures. The treasury holds medieval chalices and other goldsmith works, and the church also preserves one of the largest collection of historic Ottoman Turkish carpets in the world. The subject of the present book is another ensemble, that of the liturgical vestments. The catalogue includes 21 objects, a few of which have been brought to Brasov from smaller communities. There are six copes in the collection (cat. 1-6), originally stemming from the late 15th - early 16th century, and made from the finest Italian (and in one case, Ottoman Turkish) velvets. There are also five Baroque chasubles (ca. 9-14), preserving outstanding late medieval or early Renaissance embroideries, along with two further separate cross orphreys.

Cope, mid 15th century, with later transformations. Brasov, Black Church (cat. 1.)

The book has been produced in an exemplary manner. I mean this in many senses of the word: first of all regarding the nature of scholarly collaboration. Evelin Wetter, the editor of the the volume, and a noted expert of medieval liturgical objects, started researching the collection in 2001. She has worked together with Ágnes Ziegler, who has worked as the art historian assigned by the church next to the collection for several years now. A study tour was made to Brasov from Riggisberg each year, where the third author of the volume, textile conservator Corinna Kienzler was also regularly present. The result in an exhaustive work, which examines and publishes the textiles in great detail. After the introductory essay by Evelin Wetter, there are 6 long studies in the first part of the book, dealing with the history of the church (Ágnes Ziegler), the history of the collection as well as with the later use of the medieval vestments (Wetter and Ziegler together). Corinna Kienzler authored important studies on later changes carried out on the vestments, as well as on the subject of the Italian or Turkish origin of the velvets. After the studies, comes the catalogue part, with detailed descriptions of the technical, historical and art historical aspects of the objects. Drawings and excellent photographs present the material as well. The book is in German, but a separate volume contains exhaustive summaries of the essays in Romanian, Hungarian and English. All of this was produced according to the very high techological standards we have come to expect from the Abbeg-Stiftung. Overall, the book is not simply a catalogue of a significant collection of liturgical vestments, but a major contribution to the study of the history of a most important Transylvanian town and community, with major implications for the medieval art history of Hungary in general.

The book was presented in Brasov by the authors on the 6th of June, along with a lecture by Ernő Marosi on the subject of communal memory. On this occasion, the vestments were presented to the public - see the photo on the left, and the accompanying article from the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien

Biblographical data: 

Evelin Wetter: Liturgische Gewänder in der Schwarzen Kirche zu Kronstadt in Siebenbürgen. Mit Beiträgen von Corinna Kienzler und Ágnes Ziegler, Vol. 1-2. (Riggisberg: Abegg-Stiftung, 2015), 484 and 160 pp. More information of the website of the Abbeg-Stiftung. 
A Hungarian-language overview of the new publication can be found on the website of Obeliscus, an online journal of Early Modern Studies.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A 14th-century antependium from Dalmatia on view at Pannonhalma

In this post, I would like to call attention to a little-known medieval textile object at the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest and also to an important exhibition in Pannonhalma, where the textile is currently on view.

The object in question is a 14th century altar frontal (antependium) with the figures of the Virgin and Child, St Benedict and St. Chrysogonus. Previously it was thought to date from the late 15th century, and it was little studied, but recent research shed light to its origins:  the object in fact dates from around 1360, and originates from the Church of the Benedictine Monastery of St Chrysogonus at Zadar. A Benedictine donor can be seen kneeling next to the throne of the Virgin - probably one of the abbots of the monastery. The antependium entered the Museum of Applied Arts along with the collection of Bishop Zsigmond Bubics at the beginning of the 20th century. Similar altar frontals - mostly made in Venice - are known from other churches in Zadar and in the region. One of these works, known as the Veglia Altar Frontal is now at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and was likely designed by Paolo Veneziano around 1330. That piece comes from the cathedral of Krk in Dalmatia (known as Veglia in Italian). 

If you would like to know more on the altar frontal in Budapest, read a recent study on it by Silvija Banić on

The Budapest altar frontal is currently on view (after a recent conservation treatment) at an exhibition organized by the Benedictine Arcabbey of Pannonhalma. Titled Saint Benedict and Benedictine Spirituality, the exhibition is on view at the new Abbey Museum until the end of September.

The exhibition allows an insight into the 1500-year-long history of Benedictine mentality through assorted works of art from the collections of the Benedectine Abbey of Lavantall, the Archabbey of Pannonhalma, and other museums. The most significant works of art in the exhibition are medieval liturgical objects, including ones which were taken from the treasury of St. Blasien Monastery in Germany to Carinthia after the provisions of Joseph II: a 12th century chasuble decorated with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, and the monumental Adelheid-cross decorated with gems, which had been originally commissioned in the 11th century by the wife of Hungarian king Saint Ladislaus, and  which contains a splinter of the True Cross. 

Adelheid-cross, St. Paul im Lavanttal

I haven't seen the Pannonhalma exhibition and its catalogue yet, but I may yet write a review of it, if time permits - perhaps a comparative review with the recent Benedictine exhibition organized in Prague.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Brussels tapestry in Budapest digitized in gigapixel resolution

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
The Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest joined the Google Art Project earlier this year. So far, about 100 objects have been made available in high resolution on the project website - selected from the over 5000 objects already digitized and made available online by the museum. More recently, the museum view function has also been enabled, allowing visitors to look around inside this wonderful Art Nouveau palace of Budapest. Several medieval objects can also be found in the database.

Google digitizes one artwork from each museum with the very high resolution gigapixel technology. When it came to selecting a work from the Museum of Applied Arts, after some discussion with my colleagues, we settled on one of the most spectacular works in the collection: the early 16th century Nativity tapestry woven in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, and likely designed by Jan van Roome. The dimension and the intricate details of this work made it suitable for the high resolution digitisation - and the results, made available online this week, are quite spectacular.

The Nativity tapestry, originating from the cathedral of Győr, is the most important early Renaissance work in the Museum of Applied Arts. Its size is 275 x 260 centimetres, so it is not particularly large. The field of the tapestry is surrounded by a richly decorated border, and is divided into three parts. The large central field contains the principal decoration of the tapestry: the Nativity, or more specifically, the Adoration of the newborn Jesus. The baby Jesus is depicted laying on the ground, her mother kneeling and praying in front of him. Joseph, holding a candle, is depicted behind the Virgin Mary. Several angels also adore the newborn and two shepherds also appear in the composition. The upper part of the image is occupied by three majestic angels hovering above the vision. This type of depiction reflects the impact of late medieval mysticism, particularly the visions of St. Bridget, who died in 1373. The picture type was popular in Early Netherlandish painting since the early 15th century.

The Nativity tapestry. Budapest, Museum of Applied Arts 

Two further scenes are depicted in the two upper corners of the tapestry: the Annunciation can be seen on the upper right, while the Adoration of the Magi is on the upper left – both complete compositions on their own. Two decorated Renaissance pillars separate the central scene from further depictions on either side: two Sibyls, holding inscribed scrolls are shown on the sides. Their texts refer to significance and mystery of the incarnation: UTERUS VIRGINIS ERIT STATERA CUNCROTU/M (The holy uterus of the Virgin is the ransom for all of us), DEUS NASCETUR EX VIRGINE HEBREA (God will be born of a Hebrew virgin). The border is decorated with finely composed bunches of flowers and fruits.

An exact analogy of the tapestry can be found in the Museo Diocesano in Trento as the first piece of a seven-part cycle mainly depicting Christ’s Passion. The cycle was purchased by Bernardo Cles, the prince-archbishop of Trento (1514 – 1539) from Joris van Lickau, a merchant of Antwerp in 1531. The tapestries were made earlier: the piece showing the Carrying of the Cross features the date 1507, and in another one the name of the leader of the weaving workshop, Pieter van Aelst (ca. 1450 – 1531/1533) can also be read. Pieter van Aelst, however, was clearly not the designer of the tapestry, only the entrepreneur carrying out the costly process of weaving.

The stylistic features of the design of the tapestry point to the direction of Jan van Roome, the most prolific artist of the first two decades of the 16th century (active between 1498 and 1521). He is known as a designer of sculpture, stained glass, seals and tapestry, his most important work being the creation of the funerary chapel of Margaret of Austria in Brou. Documents reveal that he was the most important painter-designer of his time, receiving many other courtly commissions. His activities as a tapestry designer are documented from 1513, when in Louvain the tapestry depicting the miraculous communion of Herkenbald was commissioned from him.

Details of this magnificent work can now be studied up close in front of any computer. The resolution is truly impressive: you can even see how the gold threads were made, which give this work its particular glistening appearance. Go ahead, and browse this and other medieval treasures from Hungarian museums in the Google Art Project!

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Nativity Tapestry from Brussels (Merry Christmas!)

I would like to wish Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all my readers with a detail from the most beautiful late medieval tapestry in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest. The central field of the tapestry depicts the Nativity, or more specifically, the Adoration of the baby Jesus - these beautiful angels hover over the scene. The Nativity image is of a type which became widespread upon the influence of late medieval mysticism: the newborn Saviour lying on the ground is adored by his mother the Virgin Mary and angels. On either side a sibyl is standing holding a scroll with the text of her prophecy in her hands. In the top left corner the Adoration of the Magi, in the right corner the Annunciation are seen. (see the full image below).

An exact analogy of the tapestry can be found in the Museo Diocesano in Trento, as the first piece of a seven-part cycle depicting Christ’s Passion. That cycle was purchased by Bernardo Cles, the prince-archbishop of Trento (1514–1539) from Joris van Lickau, a merchant of Antwerp in 1531. The tapestries were made earlier: the piece showing the Carrying of the Cross features the date 1507, and in another one the name of the leader of the Brussels weaving workshop, Pieter van Aelst (ca. 1450 – 1531/1533) can also be read.

The origins of the images on the tapestry can be traced to 15th century Flemish painting: the Annunciation follows the popular composition of Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400 – 1464), while the central depiction was influenced, among others, by Robert Campin (ca. 1375 – 1444). The prototype for the Adoration is a print in Albrecht Dürer’s engraved cycle of the life of the Virgin (about 1500 – 1502). Based on the stylistic features of the tapestry, the composition can be attributed to Jan van Roome of Brussels, court painter of Margaret of Austria (demonstrable between 1498 and 1521), who is well-known from contemporary sources. The tapestry comes to the museum from the Cathedral of Győr - and probably originates from bishop Demeter Náprágyi’s (1559 – 1619) bequest in 1619. In 1914 Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, purchased it and donated it to the Society of the Friends of the Museum. (Money from the sale went for the renovation of the cathedral.)

Nativity Tapestry, Brussels, c. 1510. Pieter van Aelst’s workshop, Jan van Roome’s (?) design
Wool, silk and metal thread, woven with gobelin technique, H.: 275 cm W.: 260 cm
Budapest, Museum of Applied Arts, 18328

(More details below!)