Loading...

Follow Medieval Hungary | Medieval Art Blog on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid
Ferenc Dávid, one of the most important personalities of Hungarian monument protection research, died on January 21th, 2019, at age 78.

Throughout his life, Ferenc Dávid worked as an art historian and researcher of historic buildings. He wrote his thesis on a medieval theme and started working in the field of monument protection, as a disciple of Dezső Dercsényi and Géza Entz. The 1960s and 1970s were a very important period of Hungarian monument protection when large-scale research and reconstructions were carried out throughout the country. Ferenc Dávid was responsible for a long time for the research of the historic monuments of Sopron - a town rich in medieval, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. 

This work required knowledge of every period of architectural history, as well as intensive archival research. As a result of his research, he was able to publish important studies on Sopron's gothic residential buildings (1970) the history of the medieval synagogue of Sopron (1978), as well as on houses and homeowners of downtown Sopron (in several parts).


His primary area of research, however, was on the buildings themselves, which proved to be the most reliable source of their own story. Ferenc Dávid worked out the methodology of the historical-architectural research process, which included a step-by-step investigation of the building fabric itself, comparing finds with information from archival sources. This detailed analysis - known in German terminology as the method of Bauforschung - forms the basis of both the restoration of the buildings and the art historical studies written on them. The use of this method became widespread following his example - thus he played an important role in the most creative and important period of the Hungarian Office for Monument Protection (from the 1960s to the mid-1980s).

In 1986, Ferenc Dávid became a member of the Institute of Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In this period, he mainly researched Baroque palace architecture: buildings such as Gödöllő Castle or the Esterházy-palace at Fertőd. As an expert-consultant, he participated in the restoration of countless important monuments, from the presidential palace (Sándor Palace in Buda castle) to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Although he never held a formal teaching position, young art historians learned the complex method of building research from him - often on site. I still remember our conversations, when I started as a young researcher myself in 1994. He was always helpful and generous with his time - amply demonstrated by his work carried out for my current workplace, the Museum of Applied Arts. He consulted on our collection of historic tile stoves and helped the restoration and exhibition of several monumental Baroque stoves. More recently, we greatly benefited from his advice on the history and historical decoration of the main building of the Museum of Applied Arts (which is awaiting a full reconstruction). 



His influence and the admiration of his colleagues for him is well demonstrated by the monumental, two-volume study collection published for his 73rd birthday in 2013 (Kő kövön. Dávid Ferenc 73. születésnapjára - Stein auf Stein. Festschrift für Ferenc Dávid. Budapest, 2013. Ed. Edit Szentesi, Klára Mentényi, Anna Simon).

His importance is also marked by the numerous obituaries published during the last two weeks. My Hungarian-speaking readers are advised to read especially the obituary by Pál Lővei in Élet és irodalom


I am saying good-bye to him with the picture below, which shows the reconstruction of a medieval wall-painting uncovered in Sopron's church of St Michael in 1866. Ferenc Storno, who had uncovered the fresco and made this reconstruction, was unsuccessful in his attempts to save the original. After learning of my casual interest in this unstudied monument last year, Ferenc Dávid immediately sent me this picture, encouraging me to work on it. Sadly, any result of my research can now only be published in his memory. R.I.P.

Ferenc Storno's reconstruction of a wall painting from the church of St. Michael, Sopron. 1868
Sopron Museum, Storno Collection

© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
A new exhibition at the National Széchényi Library puts the famous library of Matthias Corvinus (1458-1490) in focus again. This time, the title and the theme of the exhibition is the Buda workshop of Corvina manuscripts  The aim of the exhibition is to present the joint efforts of humanists, illuminators, bookbinders and the scribes of Buda, in order to create luxurious royal manuscripts in the capital as well.  For this exhibition, A lot of splendid Corvinian manuscripts have arrived in National Széchényi Library from various parts of the world, from New York, Paris, the Vatican, as well as from Hungarian collections. In fact, Visitors of the exhibition have the unparalleled opportunity to look at almost all the Corvinas, nearly fifty codices, preserved in Hungary. together. The exhibition demonstrates that in addition to the splendid Renaissance codices ordered from Italy, similarly precious and decorative manuscripts were made in the royal court of Buda as well. The exhibition is very well organized, beautifully installed, and is equipped with various interactive tools, enable for example the browsing of manuscripts on display. The first part presents the precursors of the Buda workshop - especially the books, including Greek manuscripts of Janus Pannonius, which were later incorporated into the king's library. The Graduale of King Matthias, one of the important non-Italian books commissioned by the king is also on view here (OSZK Cod. Lat. 424). The second part presents a number of Italian illuminators who worked at the Buda court, not just for the king but also in the service of high-ranking prelates. The main focus of the exhibition is on the last five years of the rule of King Matthias (who died in 1490) when production greatly increased. This was the time when uniform leather bindings were made for the manuscripts as well. Among the highlights on view, I would point out the Cassianus Corvina from Paris (BNF Cod.Lat. 2129), the Vatican Missal (Urb. Lat. 110), or the National Library's Philostratos Corvina (OSZK Cod. Lat. 417).

The Breviary of Domokos Kálmáncsehi, 1481

The curator of the exhibition is Edina Zsupán, and the exhibition will remain on view until February 9, 2019. You can read more about the exhibition on the National Library's website.

A Corvina könyvtár budai műhelye – meghívó - YouTube



At the time of the opening of the exhibition, the newly redesigned and updated Bibliotheca Corviniana Digitalis was launched. It is a great improvement compared to the earlier version, with a much nicer interface and - most importantly - with a lot more digitized manuscripts. All the manuscripts held in Hungarian collections are available right on the website, while links point to digitized manuscripts all over the world (finally making my own little list unnecessary). A new image-viewer and thousands of new photographs - including superb details - make the manuscripts much more accessible than ever before. The database also includes the complete bibliography of the Corvinian Library, with direct links to publications available online. With this new version, the website can truly serve as the starting point for all research focusing on the Bibliotheca Corviniana of King Matthias.






© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
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

© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
After several years of preparation, a new book dedicated to the Art of Medieval Hungary was finally published by Viella in Rome. Edited and written by a team of Hungarian and international experts, including today’s foremost experts in medieval art history, the book provides an up-to-date overview of research about the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. The editors are Xavier Barral i Altet, professor of art history at Université de Rennes, Pál Lővei, researcher at the Art History Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Vinni Lucherini, professor of art history at Università di Napoli Federico II, and Imre Takács, Head of the Art History Department at ELTE.

The editors have developed a novel concept for this collection of studies: rather than providing a simple chronological structure, the first part of the book consists of a series of studies arranged into thematic groups, surveying medieval art in various contexts: the art of towns and villages, art in the context of liturgy and religious cults, and art in various public and private contexts. A great attention is also given to the sources and the historiography of medieval art in Hungary. The second part of the book contains two sets of shorter essays: one dedicated to key monuments and medieval artworks, while the second set deals with museums and collections of medieval art.

Publication of the book was coordinated by the Hungarian Academy in Rome, and especially its previous director, Antal Molnár. As stated in the publisher's description: "the Hungarian Academy of Rome offers to the medievalist community a thematic synthesis about Hungarian medieval art, reconstructing, in a European perspective, more than four hundred years of artistic production in a country located right at the heart of Europe. The book presents an up-to-date view from the Romanesque through Late Gothic up to the beginning of the Renaissance, with an emphasis on the artistic relations that evolved between Hungary and other European territories, such as the Capetian Kingdom, the Italian Peninsula and the German Empire. Situated at the meeting point between the Mediterranean regions, the lands ruled by the courts of Europe west of the Alps and the territories of the Byzantine (later Ottoman) Empire, Hungary boasts an artistic heritage that is one of the most original features of our common European past." In addition, the book was produced under the auspicies of the Research Centre for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and with the support of the National Bank of Hungary.

Thanks to the expertly written essays, as well as the exhaustive bibliography included in the volume, the book can be regarded as an essential new starting point for research on art in medieval Hungary. The detailed contents are listed on the publisher's website, and I copied them below as well. I case you are wondering, I contributed a study on village architecture, specifically on the art and architecture of parish churches in Hungary, as well as a shorter essay on the former Augustinian church of Siklós. I included one of my illustrations below.
Plates from the book


The Art of Medieval Hungary. edited by Xavier Barral i Altet, Pál Lővei, Vinni Lucherini, Imre Takács. Bibliotheca Academiae Hungariae - Roma. Studia, 7. Roma: Viella, 2018.
732 pages, 176 plates, ISBN: 9788867286614
The book is now available for purchase.


From the contents - List of studies in the book


  • Xavier Barral i Altet, Introduction. Hungarian Medieval Art from a European Point of View
  • I. Sources and Studies for Hungarian Medieval Art
    Ernő Marosi, Two Centuries of Research, from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to the Present
    Kornél Szovák, Written Sources on Hungarian Medieval Art History
  • II. City and Territory
    Katalin Szende, Towns and Urban Networks in the Carpathian Basin between the Eleventh and the Early Sixteenth Centuries
    Pál Lővei, Urban Architecture
    Zsombor Jékely, Expansion to the Countryside: Rural Architecture in Medieval Hungary
    István Feld, Castles, Mansions, and Manor Houses in Medieval Hungary
  • III. Architecture and Art in the Context of Liturgy
    Béla Zsolt Szakács, Romanesque Architecture: Abbeys and Cathedrals
    Krisztina Havasi, Romanesque Sculpture in Medieval Hungary
    Imre Takács, The First Century of Gothic in Hungary
    Pál Lővei, Imre Takács, “Hungarian Trecento”: Art in the Angevin Era
    Gábor Endrődi, Winged Altarpieces in Medieval Hungary
  • IV. Religious Cults and Symbols of Power
    Gábor Klaniczay, The Cult of the Saints and their Artistic Representation in Recent Hungarian Historiography
    Vinni Lucherini, The Artistic Visualization of the Concept of Kingship in Angevin Hungary
    Pál Lővei, Epigraphy and Tomb Sculpture
  • V. Forms of Art between Public and Private Use
    Evelin Wetter, Precious Metalwork and Textile Treasures in Late Medieval Hungary
    Anna Boreczky, Book Culture in Medieval Hungary
  • VI. The Middle Ages after the Middle Ages
    Imre Takács, Medieval Twilight or Early Modern Dawn: Art in the Era of Sigismund of Luxembourg
    Árpád Mikó, A Renaissance Dream: Arts in the Court of King Matthias
    Gábor György Papp, Medievalism in Nineteenth-Century Hungarian Architecture
  • Annex I. Medieval Artworks and Monuments
  • Annex II. Museums and Collections Holding Medieval Art


Siklós, Augustinian church. Detail of the early 15th-century wall paintings


© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
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).

Hedwig Beaker - YouTube



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.


© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Ten years after the most recent major exhibition about Emperor Charles IV and the Luxembourg dyansty (shown in New York and Prague), the National Gallery in Prague and curator/director Jiři Fajt returned to the topic, and organized a major exhibition dedicated to the Emperor. The occasion was the 700th anniversary of the birth of Charles IV, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor - hence the short logo-title of the exhibition: K700. The exhibition was jointly organized by the National Gallery in Prague and the House of of Bavarian History, and will be shown later this year in Nuremberg as well. I managed to catch it in Prague before it closed on September 25, 2016, at the Waldstein Riding School.


Titled Emperor Charles IV 1316-2016, the topic of the Czech-Bavarian exhibition is summarized in the press release of the National Gallery:
"Charles IV is among the most frequently portrayed medieval monarchs. Not only was he a wise and pious ruler, but also a successful collector of royal crowns. He liked to dress in the latest Paris fashion and participated in jousting tournaments. One of them was nearly fatal, permanently affecting his appearance as shown in his many portraits. The first Czech-Bavarian Land Exhibition Emperor Charles IV 1316–2016, held at the Waldstein Riding School of the National Gallery in Prague, not only gets to the heart of the traditional Charles IV themes but also focuses on the less popularised ones. About 200 precious exhibits will present the emperor’s personality, a perspective on him by his adherents and opponents, art, and Jewish pogroms." Along with other materials, this press release can be downloaded from the website of the National Gallery.


What follows is not a proper review of the exhibition - I would merely like to summarize a few of my observations about the exhibition. As the court of Charles IV was one of the most important artistic centers of 14th century Europe, it is no surprise that the exhibition was full of beautiful, even breathtaking works of art. The highlights for me were some of the reliquaries commissioned by the Emperor, as well as the statues and paintings made for Prague or Karlstein castle. Some monumental works also made it into the exhibition hall, including the tympanum relief with Passion scenes from the north portal of Tyn Church (Prague). Given the partnership with Nuremberg, one of the richest section of the exhibition consisted of works stemming from Nuremberg, including the monumental Waldstromer’s window from the hospital church of St Martha in Nuremberg, which rose over 5 meters high in the exhibition space. Further sections focused on other artistic centers in Bohemia, apart from Prague and Karlstein, as well as on artistic developments in the northern German areas of Brandenburg and neighboring territories. Special attention was given to the French upbringing of Charles, and the influence of Parisian court art at his court - high-quality loan objects illustrated the types of objects likely available in Prague, and one of the last sections focuses on the final journey of Charles to Paris in 1378.


Cat.04.08. - Ewer for the tablecloth
 of the Last Supper
A special section was dedicated to the contemporaries and opponents of Charles IV - however, I felt that rather little attention was given to his Central European neighbors in Vienna, Cracow or Buda. I would like to make a few small observations about objects with Hungarian connections. One of these was a centerpiece of the display of reliquaries: a rock crystal ewer once holding the tablecloth used for the Last Supper. The relic was a gift of Hungarian King Louis the Great before 1350. Some high-quality goldsmith works commissioned by Louis the Great are also on view: a mantle clasp and escutcheons with the coat of arms of Hungary, coming from the Hungarian chapel by Aachen Cathedral. The chapel was established in 1367, and these objects are part of a larger group donated by the ruler. Contrary to the label in the exhibition, Hungarian art historians have long disproved the identification of their makers as the brothers Martin and George of Klausenburg (Kolozsvár/Cluj). Next to these objects the wonderful Fonthill vase was on view (from the National Museum of Ireland) - which is the first documented Chinese porcelain object in Europe. Unfortunately, it has no connection either to Charles IV or the Hungarian Angevin Court - it has long been demonstrated that the object was mounted in the Neapolitan Angevin court (as I summarized it here in this blog a few years ago).

These are minor points. Another issue is a bit more significant - unfortunately, the catalogue of the exhibition has not yet been published. As far as I know, the catalogue is in preparation, and will be published for the second, Nuremberg venue of the exhibition. So far only a guide to the exhibition is available (In English, German and Czech editions), which includes the text of the exhibition labels and illustrations (Emperor Charles IV 1316-2016, Exhibition guide. Jiří Fajt, in cooperation with Helena Dáňová. Prague, 2016, 188 pp.). The exhibition, however, has its own website, and an illustrated visual and audioguide is also available, as well as additional publications.

Cat. 08.11. - Tympanum of Tyn Church, Prague

It should also be mentioned, that at the occasion of the 700th anniversary, a series of other exhibitions were organized in Prague by the Prague Castle. These include an exhibition dedicated to the Cathedral of St. Vitus, with life-size replicas of the famous triforium busts, as well as a display of the burial costumes of Bohemian rulers. Another exhibition focused on royal coronations in Bohemia. Information on these exhibitions is available on the website of Prague Castle.
Cat. 09.06. Panel from Retable of the Virgin, Nuremberg, St. Clare

The main exhibition, now simply titled Charles IV., will be on wiew at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg from 20 October 2016 until 5 March 2017. See also the website of the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, one of the co-organizers.

Photos in this blog post come from the websites associated with the exhibition, and linked to above. In addition, I have collected a number of objects included in the exhibition on Pinterest. Some images come with links to fully digitized manuscripts.
© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
St. Martin and Pannonia - Poster 
A historical and archaeological exhibition titled St. Martin and Pannonia opened at two venues, in Pannonhalma and Szombathely. The exhibition is the most important scholarly element of the Saint Martin Memorial Year, held in commemoration of the 1700th anniversary of the saint's birth. The exhibition focuses on five centuries in the life of Pannonia - from the time of the Roman Empire to just before the Hungarian conquest, and provides and insight into the spread of Christianity in the region. 

Saint Martin was born in 316 in the Roman province of Pannonia near the city of Savaria, what is now Szombathely. The son of a wealthy military officer, he was required to join the cavalry when he turned fifteen. He became baptized in 339. His good deeds and his compassion and empathy for the poor became legendary and by popular demand he was appointed to bishop of Tours in 371. He was always regarded as one of the most important saints in Hungary, and now the anniversary of his birth provides a chance to have a look at the era when he lived, and also the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire. 

This twin exhibition of international significance gathers hundreds of objects, largely stemming from Pannonia (nowadays western Hungary), coming from a number of Hungarian and foreign collections. The exhibition opened on June 3rd, and will remain on view until September at both the Iseum Savariense Museum in Szombathely and the Museum of Pannonhalma Archabbey. At Szombathely, visitors can trace the history of Pannonia and Savaria back to the Roman roots of the time when Saint Martin lived, whereas in Pannonhalma the age of Saint Martin, the Christian monk and bishop is in focus, as well as the subsequent centuries.

Fondo d'oro, 4th century (Hungarian National Museum)
The exhibition features a number of unique objects: the earliest piece is beautifully executed bronze statue of Fortuna from the 1st century. A large blue glass vase from the 4th century represents the sophistication of Roman culture in Pannonia (pieces of the Seuso Treasure could represents this as well - but none of those were available for loan). 

Blue jug, glass, 4th century (Kaposvár, Rippl Rónai Museum) 

The exhibition also presents a great selection of objects from the Migration Period: finds from a hun grave of Pannonhalma from the 5th century, or a unique Early Byzantine bronze jug with hunting scenes, found in an Avar period cemetery at Budakalász (for a 3D view, click here). Objects with Christian symbols (especially the cross) are featured from several early medieval treasure finds, such as the golden Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum). 

Jewelry of a Germanic woman, 5th century (Hungarian National Museum)
Bronze jug with hunting scenes, c. 500 (Szentendre, Ferenczy Museum) 

Dish 9 of the Nagyszentmiklós Treasure, 7th century (Wien, KHM)
The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated scholarly catalogue, and English-language edition of which is in preparation.

Further information (and advance tickets): www.szentmarton-pannonia.hu and on the website of the Via Sancti Martini European Cultural Route.


© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Kiszsolna, the church around 2010
In last week's post, I already called attention to the precarious state of medieval churches in Transylvania, especially in the areas previously inhabited by Transylvanian Saxons. Among these areas is the vicinity of Beszterce / Bistritz / Bistrița in Northern Transylvania and also the northern part of the Transylvanian Plain. In many villages here, the German population left Transylvania at the time of the Soviet advance during World War II in 1944, and they never returned. After this, the churches lost their former function and the communities which had maintained them. Although the Orthodox church took over most of the abandoned buildings, the new occupants of these villages often did not take over the churches, but rather built new ones. After decades of neglect, there are now a large number of medieval churches in the area around Beszterce in the final stages of their existence. Vermes (Wermesch, Vermeș) and Sajómagyarós (Ungersdorf, Șieu-Măgheruș, in the Transylvanian Plain) are just two examples of buildings with collapsed roofs. 

At a conference last week, a new research project was announced, aimed at surveying, documenting and studying the churches of Central and Northern Transylvania - the area of the Mezőség especially, but also the region of Beszterce. The research project is coordinated by the István Möller Foundation, and a number of buildings were already surveyed and documented. In several places, restorers also surveyed the walls of the churches, looking for medieval wall paintings, which have not yet been uncovered in these churches.


The most interesting announcement at the conference was made by one of the art historians involved in the project, Szilárd Papp. It concerns the wall paintings of the church of Kiszsolna (Senndorf, Jelna), located near Beszterce. The frescoes have been known for some time, but their true significance was only revealed now - perhaps finally prompting the authorities to action. Some time ago, the roof of the church collapsed, leading to quick decay (even the vault of the nave collapsed). Thanks to weather damage, the plaster peeled off from the walls, revealing frescoes beneath. These were documented, and some details - especially intact heads of figures - were removed and transported to the Bistriţa - Năsăud County Museum back in 2007. A few articles - including a Hungarian-language overview of the church and an English-language study on medieval frescoes of the region - called attention to the find, but to this date, not much has been done to actually save them.

Fresco fragments in the church of Kiszsolna (photo: Kinga German)
The most interesting frescoes are on the north wall of the sanctuary. One scene, in particular, is of great importance: it depicts the Navicella, based on the famous mosaic of Giotto once in the atrium of Old St. Peter's basilica in Rome. This celebrated mosaic is known from a number of later copies. In monumental form, the earliest copy dates from the 1320s, and is in Strasbourg - other 14th century painted copies are in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence as well as in Pistoia. Dating from the third quarter of the 14th century, the fresco at Kiszsolna is the fourth known painted copy of the Navicella from that century in all of Europe. It would be very important to fully uncover and restore it, along with all the other frescoes of the church - the ensemble could likely contribute to the studies of Italian Trecento painting, and thus is not only of a local significance. For decades, we have watched the decay of this - and many other - churches: it is now time to act, before these works of art are completely destroyed. Kiszsolna demonstrates, that even a modest village church can preserve unique and important works of art - it shows that this region of Transylvania still preserves a lot more worth saving and studying.

Fragments of the Navicella at Kiszsolna (note the mast of the ship on top)

Parri Spinelli's drawing of the Navicella, c. 1420 (Metropolitan Museum)
Kiszsolna, a few decades ago
The frescoes these days (Photo: Attila Mudrák)

A fragment of the Navicella scene, now at the Museum of Bistrița
The conference of the István Möller Foundation created quite a stir in the Hungarian press, see this article in Népszabadság, for example. The ruins of the church cannot survive another winter - spread the news, help save the frescoes!
Photos by Szilárd Papp, Kinga German and Attila Mudrák.
© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Tile from the knight-figure stove.
Buda, 1450s. © Budapest History Museum 

A major exhibition on medieval stove tiles from Hungary is on view at the Budapest History Museum in Buda Castle. The exhibition is titled Heartwarming Middle Ages - Stoves and Stove Tiles in Medieval Hungary, and its chief curator was András Végh, the director of the Castle Museum. The use of stove tiles (unglazed or glazed) was a Central European invention and such stoves became increasingly common in Hungary starting from the early 14th century. The exhibition presents the development of tile stoves at the royal court and in aristocratic castles, and it also provides an overview of the most popular motifs - biblical, historical, heraldic, etc. - on stove tiles. These motifs are explained through comparisons with other media - books, prints, seals and other objects. The exhibition also discusses the techniques and development of the making of tile stoves.

Because of the durability of glazed tiles and because of the relatively clear dates we can assign to them, these objects are favorites among archaeologists. The Budapest History Museum - which preserves all of the archaeological finds from the royal palace of Buda - has a very extensive collection of tiles, which formed the basis of the exhibition. The local material was extended through a large number of loans from Hungary and abroad alike. Taken all together, the exhibition provides an unprecedented overview of the development and richness of this medium.

 St John on a stove tile, from the Bothár-house, Besztercebánya
© Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Figural stove tiles from late medieval houses in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica, Slovakia) are among the most interesting sets displayed in the exhibition. The so-called Bothár workshop made good-quality glazed and unglazed tiles depicting saints and other figures. Most of the pieces are preserved today in the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest - you can browse these and other tiles from that collection in the Museum's collection database.



The exhibition will remain on view until September 2, 2018. A catalogue is in preparation. An exhibition website (sadly only in Hungarian) provides more information and photos of the exhibition.








Additional photos:

Stove tile from the Sigismund-period. © Budapest History Museum

© Budapest History Museum

© Budapest History Museum


© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Two new collection catalogues of the Museum of Fine Arts (Szépművészeti Múzeum) in Budapest have been published recently. The catalogues treat some of the most important medieval and early Renaissance paintings in Hungary: one volume is dedicated to Early Netherlandish paintings, while the other deals with Sienese paintings.

Early Netherlandish Paintings in Budapest

The long-awaited volume by Susan Urbach, titled Early Netherlandish Paintings in Budapest, was published by Harvey Miller/Brepols. The volume includes extensive catalogue entries on 49 works dating from c. 1460 to c. 1540, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. This is the first volume of a series on Flemish paintings in Budapest, and covers about a third of the entire collection from the 15th century through to the 17th. The volume includes the results of a detailed technical analysis carried out on the panels. 


S. Urbach: Early Netherlandish Painting in Budapest. Old Masters' Gallery Catalogues, Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest. Volume I (Distinguished Contributions to the Study of the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands). With contributions by Ágota Varga and András Fáy. V+271 p., 115 b/w ill. + 174 colour ill., 210 x 297 mm, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-909400-09-2


Below is one of the key works featured in the book (and on the cover): the Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard David. You can find additional paintings in the collection database of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Gerard David: Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1485. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Sienese Paintings in Hungary
The other book is the Corpus of Sienese Paintings in Hungary 1420-1510, written by Dóra Sallay. This also is part of series planned for three volumes: future volumes will cover the periods 1250-1420 and 1510-1650. The catalogue, published by Centro Di of Florence, includes painting not only from the Museum of Fine Arts, but also from the Christian Museum in Esztergom, Hungary's second most important collection of early paintings. The richly illustrated catalogue presents extensive and updated biographies of the artists, and the entries provide significant new findings on questions of attribution, dating and iconography, original context and function, the circumstances of the commission, the reconstruction of now dismembered structures, and various other issues dealing with the relationship between the paintings and the art and culture of their time. The catalogue of paintings is preceded by an essay on the history of their collecting, conservation and previous research.


Dóra Sallay: Corpus of Sienese Paintings in Hungary, 1420-1510. 368 pp. 260 ill. b/n, col. 33. 2015. ISBN: 9788870385106

On the cover of the book, you can see Giovanni di Paolo's St. Ansanus Baptizes the People of Siena, from the Christian Museum in Esztergom. For another illustration, I selected a work from the Museum of Fine Arts: Sassetta's St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer, which was a predella picture of his Arte della Lana altarpiece, made for the Sienese guild and dedicated to the Eucharist (1423-25).

Sassetta: St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer, 1423-25.  Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts

© Zsombor Jékely, Medieval Hungary blog
Read Full Article

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview