Showing posts with label exhibition. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exhibition. Show all posts

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Second part of Seuso Treasure returns to Hungary

Three years after first part of the Seuso Treasure returned to Hungary, the second half of the Roman-era silver objects were acquired by Hungary, it was announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and László Baán, director of the Museum of Fine Arts on July 12th. Over the past few years, the government had negotiated with two family foundations on compensation for handing back the treasure, which Hungary claims rightfully belongs to the state. The government paid 28 million euros for the second tranche, paid as "compensation fee" rather than a purchase price.


The 4th century Seuso Treasure was found in the 1970s near lake Balaton, and then smuggled abroad. You can read more about its history in my post from three years ago. For more information, read this two-part overview written by Mihály Nagy for Hungarian Review, published after the return of the first half of the Treasure: Lifting the curse on the Seuso Treasure, Part I. and Part II.


The second batch recovered by Hungary consists of seven objects, including the so-called Achilleus and the Meleagros plates, the animal-figure ewer, the Hyppolytos-ewer and two buckets with similar decoration, as well as an amphora. Now that all 15 known objects from the treasure are in Hungary, more research will commence on this unique ensemble. This will include archaeological excavations on the site where it is suspected the objects were originally found. The full treasure is believed to have consisted of a lot more pieces. The recovered pieces are currently on view at the Hungarian Parliament building, and will be shown later at the Hungarian National Museum.

Photos: Kormany.hu





Monday, June 26, 2017

Grammar and Grace - Exhibition on the Reformation at the Hungarian National Museum


Perhaps the most important event of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is the major exhibition organized by the Hungarian National Museum, titled Grammar and Grace - 500 Years of Reformation. The exhibition, which will be on view until November 5, 2017, offers a look at the ever-changing, complex relations of the Hungarian Reformation, and includes a series of unequaled treasures. The exhibition was brought to the audience by the exemplary collaboration of museums, collections and parishes in and out of Hungary, and its co-curators represent the most important ecclesiastical collections in the country. 

While the topic of the exhibition is post-medieval, the exhibition itself provides a wide range of medieval objects as well. This is partly because the narrative focuses more on continuity and connections rather than on radical breaks and destruction. Thus topics of the exhibition include the survival and reuse of medieval liturgical objects in a Protestant context, as well as the transformation of some pre-reformation artworks for later use.




The introductory part of the exhibition specifically focuses on medieval art: it provides an overview of European religious beliefs and practices of the late 15th century, so the eve of the Reformation (see image on the right). As explained in the overview of the exhibition, "Europe in the 15th century was bursting with anticipation, fear and hope. The plague epidemics – the evil feasting in the world – decimating the secular society and the church alike, the evil feasting in the world made the majority of the Christian community find new ideas to follow. Searching for salvation created forms of piety never seen before and launched new social-spiritual movements. Prophets popped up everywhere preaching about the end of the world closing in, encouraging conversion and purification of the church and declining the practice of paying money instead of acting in the right Christian way." This is illustrated in the exhibition with a series of late medieval altarpieces, statues, devotional books and prints and other objects.

Following the introduction, the exhibition surveys the appearance and rapid spread of the Reformation in Central Europe, specifically in Hungary. The theses of Luther made it to Hungary and to the royal court in Buda itself as early as the 1520s by merchants, German noblemen and Humanists. The Kingdom of Hungary fell at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, and starting from the 1530s Protestant preachers had been wandering about in the country, and new churches and religious communities came into life. By the second half of the 16th century the country was lost in the political sense due to the Turkish occupation and being torn into three parts. The permanent and threatening presence of the Turkish power, the cooperation they forced with Hungarians in the occupied regions and the power vacuum all led to an unprecedented level of freedom of speech and religion resulting in the Carpathian Basin turning into the most diverse parts of Europe in terms of denominations. The exhibition surveys these historical developments, focusing on different Protestant churches, and also chronicling religious debates and conflicts. Later parts of the exhibition tell about the role of Protestant churches in various communities: in cities, smaller towns and villages, and also focus on the role of these churches in the cultural life of Hungary. 


Loans from all over the Carpathian basin, as well as from western Europe result in one of the largest historical art exhibitions of recent year, the organization of which was no small feat for the National Museum and for its chief curator, Erika Kiss. Just as units of the exhibition focus on community and cooperation, the exhibition itself is the result of the cooperation of curators and collections. A lot of objects come from the National Museum itself, and the Széchenyi National Library was also one of the major lenders, but there are objects from about 100 lenders in the exhibition. This includes ecclesiastical collections (the National Lutheran Museum in Budapest, the Ráday Collection of the Calvinist Church), the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery, the Museum of Applied Arts and many others. In addition, several small ecclesiastical collections and church communities have lent their treasures, many of which have not been exhibited in decades. It is a carefully organized, beautifully installed and very interesting exhibition. It was designed by Tibor Somlai, who has already proved his talent with several other major exhibition designs.




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Connecting Early Medieval European Collections Project

Avar-period round fibula from Kölked (Hungarian National Museum)
Connecting Early Medieval European Collections (CEMEC) is an EU-funded cooperation project that aims to create a collaborative network, and a cost-effective business model, between eight European museum collections and six technical partners. The goal is to examine both the connections between Early Medieval collection objects (300-1000 AD) and the objects’ regions of origin with the aid of innovative IT solutions.

Drawing on objects from participating museum collections, the project will produce ‘CROSSROADS’, a travelling exhibition focusing on connectivity and cultural exchange during the Early Middle Ages (300 -1000) in Europe. The ’CROSSROADS, Europe (300-1000)’ exhibition will focus on the Early Middle Ages in Europe. This period is often defined as ‘the Dark Ages’, however the exhibition will shed new light on this misconception, presenting the period as a time of exchange, in objects, people and ideas. The exhibition will open at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam (October 2017-March 2018). It will then move to the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens (April- September 2018) and end at the LVR Landesmuseum in Bonn (October 2018- April 2019).

The Hungarian National Museum is a partner in the project, and already staged a small display about Avars in the Early Medieval Carpathian Basin. The exhibitions Avars Revived was on view during March 2017.

You can read more about the CEMEC project on their website. On the website of the Hungarian National Museum, you can see one of the 3D models created in the framework of the project.

View of the exhibition Avars Revived (Photo: Hungarian National Museum, Budapest)

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Previously unknown image of Emperor Sigismund identified

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

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

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

Decorated page of the Ulm fragment

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

K700 - Exhibition on Emperor Charles IV and his Era in Prague and Nuremberg


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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Exhibitions of the St. Martin Memorial Year in Hungary

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.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Exhibition on Buda and Kraków in the Middle Ages

 Poster of the exhibition 

A new exhibition, titled On Common Path - Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages opened last week at the Budapest History Museum. It is the result of a common project of the Hungarian institution and the Historical Museum of the City Kraków, and was realized in the larger framework of the cooperation of Hungary and Poland, as the first step of the Hungarian Cultural Year in Poland.

The exhibition surveys the parallel histories of Buda and Kraków from the period of their foundations to the high points of their development in the late Middle Ages. Both towns were among the major cities of medieval Europe. The exhibition presents common events in the history of the town, as well as personalities who played an important role in the history of both towns. Among other things, it focuses on the Anjou and the Jagiellonian dynasties, as well as on Stephen Báthory, Prince of Transylvania and King of Poland. Through these historical figures, the exhibition illustrated that not only the two cities, but also the history of the two nations is closely linked. The last period surveyed is the 16th century, which represents a break, especially in the development of Buda, which came under Ottoman Turkish occupation in 1541.

Most of the objects in the exhibition give insight into the everyday life of city dwellers as well as into festive occasions. A large number of archaeological finds are presented, including many objects never before shown (expecially from Buda). The parallel histories of the two cities are installed on two sides of the exhibition rooms, while showcases placed in the center of the rooms features historical figures and institutions - such as the University of Cracow - which represented points of contact for the two towns.

View of the exhibition - Buda (Photo: BTM - Bence Tihanyi)

The exhibition will remain on view until July 24 in Budapest, and later will be presented in Kraków as well, It is accompanied by a detailed and useful exhibition catalogue, which will also be published in and English-language edition.

View of the exhibition - Kraków (Photo: BTM - Bence Tihanyi)

Exhibition: Közös úton - Budapest és Krakkó a középkorban. On Common Path - Budapest and Kraków in the Middle Ages. Castle Museum of Budapest History Museum, March 19 - July 24, 2016. The poster, seen above, features the emblem of the Krakow Rifle Association, the "Rooster Company," a work of Gian Giacopo Caraglio from 1564/65. Krakow, Museum Historyczne Miasta Krakowa.
Photo: Nol.hu

Catalogue: Közös úton. Budapest és Krakkó a középkorban. Kiállítási katalógus. Ed. Judit Benda, Virág Kiss, Grazyna Lihonczak-Nurek, Károly Magyar. Budapest, 2016, 335 pp.

Martin Kober's portrait of Stephen Báthory from Kraków, 1583

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Johannes Aquila pictor and Flóris Rómer

I am currently writing a conference paper on Flóris Rómer, one of the founding fathers of Hungarian art history. Flóris Rómer was born 200 years ago, in 1815, and filled numerous important positions during his illustrious career. He became active in the field of archaeology and art history in the 1860, and published the first survey of medieval wall painting in Hungary in 1874. The book, which is in the focus of my study, is a beautifully illustrated, monumental work, published by the Archaeological Committee of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Self portrait of Johannes Aquila at Velemér
copy by Storno, published by Rómer
In the book, Rómer discusses over 100 medieval monuments with wall paintings, but the main focus is the work of Johannes Aquila, which Rómer effectively discovered in 1863. At that time, he was called by Imre Gozón to examine an abandonded medieval church in western Hungary, in the village of Velemér. The church had no roof or vaulting, but its walls were covered by a wonderful series of wall paintings. Surprisingly, Rómer also found a self-portrait of the painter as well, who called himself Johannes Aquila. The date of the frescoes was also recorded in an inscription: 1378. Rómer also found the frescoes of Johannes Aquila in the nearby church of Turniscsa (Toronyhely, Bántornya, now Turnišče in Slovenia): here he identified the legend of St. Ladislas in the frescoes located in the attic space, above the Baroque vault covering the nave of the church. Another fresco cycle of Johannes Aquila - again with his selfp-portrait, and dating from 1392 - was found at Mártonhely (Martyáncz, now Martjanci in Slovenia). Rómer also attributed the frescoes in the rotunda of Nagytótlak (Selo, Slovenia) to Johannes Aquila.
At the instigation of Rómer, Ferenc Storno made a set of color copies of the wall paintings, which were published in his 1874 monograph, and are still indispensible tools of research. Quite coincidentally, a series of these copies are currently exhibited at Műcsarnok (Kunsthalle Budapest), which is normally a place of contemporary exhibitions. The Johannes Aquila exhibition is part of an interesting mix of exhibitions, called the Slovenian connection, which are accompanying an exhibition of contemporary Slovenian painting. Whatever the reason, the Műcsarnok displays not only Storno's original notebook and sketches, but also the much more detailed large-scale copies executed by István Gróh in 1903 and 1912. These include watercolour copies, as well life-size replicas of the St. Ladislas cycle at Bántornya. In addition, the exhibition also includes a large-scale model of the interior of the church at Velemér, imagined and reconstructed at the stage when Johannes Aquila began his activities there, with the painting of the Adoration of the Magi. The curator of the exhibition is Terézia Kerny, who published a book on Johannes Aquila a few years ago (the current show is accompanied by a brief - but bilingual - booklet about the painter).

Copy of the frescoes at Velemér from the sketchbook of Ferenc Storno, 1863, via Rómer 2015

The monograph of Flóris Rómer has been digitized both by Google and the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. The original book contains a number of large, fold-out plates, and the digitized versions cannot replicate this. Knowing the limits of the Hungarian language, Rómer also published the first part of his book - that dealing with Johannes Aquila - in German in volume 19 of the Mittheilungen der k.k. Central Commission zur Erforschung und Erhaltung (1874), as "Kirchliche
Wandgemälde des XIII. und XIV. Jahrhunderts in der Eisenburger Gespanschaft" (pp. 201-215).
Copy by Storno of the frescoes at Mártonhely - page from Rómer's book

"Johannes Aquila .... by his hands..." - The Slovenian Connection, on view at Műcsarnok-Kunsthalle Budapest until September 29, 2015.

Some of my photos of the paintings of Johannes Aquila - along with other photos of medieval wall paintings in Slovenia - are available in my album on Flickr.

Bántornya -  Turnišče

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 academia.edu.

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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Masterpieces from the Christian Museum on view in St. Pölten

The Christian Museum of Esztergom is the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary, conserving European and Hungarian works of art from several centuries. Opened for the public in 1875, it became the third most significant picture gallery in Hungary, closely following the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, mainly on account of its Hungarian, Italian, Netherlandish, German and Austrian paintings. Besides the late medieval works of art also the baroque and modern collections, the exceptionally rich collection of the decorative arts, and the collection of prints and drawings are significant. The museum was invited by the Diözesanmuseum St. Pölten in Austria to exhibit around 100 pieces of its collections. The aim of the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue was to offer a view for the German-speaking visitors on the quite unknown and thus for many people surprisingly rich and manifold collection of the Christian Museum and at the same time make the history of Esztergom and of its collections more well-known.

Emese Sarkadi Nagy, researcher at the Christian Museum has provided an overview of the exhibition for readers of the Medieval Hungary blog. Her text follows below.

The material was selected in a way to mirror the diversity of the complete collection, thus objects from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century from several territories are present; however, the most valuable pieces were not allowed to travel for reasons of conservation. A small selection of the exhibits represents the Old Hungarian Collection of the Christian Museum. A considerable part of this collection is formed by panel painting and wood-sculpture originating from the (in medieval times) mainly German-speaking mining towns of so-called Lower Hungary (part of present day's western Slovakia). Workshops of these mining towns produced pieces of liturgical furnishing for a number of parish- and abbey churches of the region, among which are also pieces for the Benedictine Abbey of Garamszentbenedek (Hronský Beňadik, Sankt Benedikt). Besides the famous Calvary-altarpiece of Thomas de Coloswar, dated to 1427 and the wooden Lord's coffin dated to the 1480s (neither of which could be transported to the Austrian exhibition), a number of 15th and 16th century altarpieces and fragments of altarpieces were collected/saved by the founder of the Museum, cardinal János Simor at the end of the 19th century and brought to Esztergom. Two panels of a Calvary altarpiece from 1495 stand for the furnishing of the Garamszentbenedek Abbey in the exhibition. A panel depicting three female Saints, belonging once to an altarpiece originating from Sáros County (Comitatus Sarosiensis), mirroring probably Polish influences, stands for the painting of this more eastern region.




The Hungarian material presented in the exhibition makes organic part of the period's Central European art and often reflects Netherlandish influences, just as Austrian and German painting of the same period does. The latter two regions in most cases transmitted to Hungary the innovations of 15th century Netherlandish painters, like compositional solutions, detailed, often real landscape- and town-representations in the backgrounds, adaptation of well-known, fashionable graphical sources. Thus, standing in a logical relation with the Hungarian part of the medieval material, these features can be observed on the St. Pölten exhibition also on some Austrian, German and Netherlandish panels. (The Madonna of the Wheat by the Master of the Hallein Altarpiece, an Adoration of the Magi from Salzburg, two little panels from Wolf Traut's circle - earlier attributed to Hans Schäuffelin, a depiction of St. Agnes from the Northern Netherlands etc.)
 


Sunday, November 09, 2014

New medieval exhibition at the Hungarian National Gallery


Maria gravida, Vienna, 1409
see in high resolution 
I haven't had time to upload anything here for over a month - but a lot has happened in Hungary in the field of medieval art. I will try to catch up with a series of brief posts. First, I would like to report on the new medieval exhibition of the Hungarian National Gallery, which was completely reinstalled and opened at the end of September. This part of the permanent exhibition focuses on painting and sculpture from Hungary and neighboring areas in the 14th and 15th centuries. Some of the highlights of the collection can be seen here, including two statues of the Virgin of Child from Toporc, the two beautiful statues of female saints from Barka, or a painting originally showing the St. Joseph's Doubt (now cut down to only show the Virgin, see left). The exhibition was reinstalled to focus on the original liturgical context of these artworks, and therefore also includes a number of other liturgical objects - mainly goldsmith works on loan from the Hungarian National Museum. The new exhibition presents the material in a chronological-regional arrangement. The last section includes several complete altarpieces, thereby preparing the visitor for the next section of the permanent exhibition, where the monumental late Gothic altarpieces can be seen. That section has also been slightly rearranged recently, with the new installation of the main altar from Kisszeben.

The new exhibition, which provides a greatly improved space for the objects and a clear narrative for visitors, is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in medieval art. Organized by curator Györgyi Poszler, the exhibition also includes a number of works previously never shown, This was made possible by the continuous work of restorers during the last few decades. Readers familiar with Hungarian are encouraged to consult a new publication by the Hungarian National Gallery, which is dedicated to the most important restorations carried out between 1957-2011. The publication is available online from this link. In addition, you can see selected objects from this part of the collection on the website of the Hungarian National Gallery. The exhibition of Renaissance stone carvings (the area of which was unfortunately partially taken over by the museum shop) was also reinstalled - but the medieval stone carvings are still not on view (following the theft three years ago).

Here are some images of the new exhibition, provided by the Hungarian National Gallery.








Thursday, September 18, 2014

Permanent exhibition of 9-10th Hungary opens at Hungarian National Museum

Dress ornament from Zalavár (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)
A new, long-missing section of the permanent archaeological and historical exhibition of the Hungarian National Museum opened yesterday. The exhibition - which is the continuation of the rooms dedicated to the history of Hungary from prehistory to the Migration period - is focusing on Hungary during the 9th and 10th centuries, and consists of two parts. The first part is dedicated to the 9th century, especially to the western, Transdanubian region - the area of the Roman province of Pannonia - which was part of the Carolingian empire. The exhibition displays for the first time a large selection of the sensational discoveries made at the Zalavár excavations. Finds from the churches and palaces of this important late Carolingian center - including some of the oldest stained glass fragments from Europe, as well as a complete bell foundry - make up perhaps the most interesting part of the new exhibition. The second part contains objects from the period of the Hungarian (Magyar) Conquest of the Carpathian basin, and finds from the 10th century, the period before the formal establishment of the Christian Kingdom of Hungary.

Ornamental discs from the Hungarian Conquest period (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)

Taken together with the preceding part of the exhibition, this is the largest archaeological exhibition in Hungary, and one which is also quite informative and well-installed. Monitors with 3D-reconstructions and other interactive elements make the exhibition even more interesting for younger visitors as well. Ágnes Ritoók of the Hungarian National Museum acted as chief curator of the project, coordinating the work of two teams. This new exhibition is accompanied by two separate publications: one, written by Béla Miklós Szőke, is dedicated to Zalavár and the Carolingian period in Hungary, the other - the work of László Révész - is about the Conquest period. Both books were also published in English - so you can expect to read more about them on this blog soon.

Cap ornament from Beregszász (Photo: Hungarian National Museum)

The website of the National Museum has some technical problems, so I am linking here to the Facebook page of the Museum. The photos in this post come from there.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New exhibitions at Pannonhalma

For several decades now, the Benedictine Archabbey at Pannonhalma has also served as an important exhibition venue. Perhaps most memorable for medievalists was the 2001 exhibition dedicated to Benedictines in Medieval Hungary, and titled Paradisum plantavit. For a long time, there has been a permenant exhibition space in the abbey as well, but only a very small part of the abbey's collection was on view. This year, a new abbey museum and visitor center opened at Pannonhalma, in the former manor building belonging to the abbey. This museum is the home of a new permanent exhibition of the abbey, and includes an exhibition of medieval stone carvings from Pannonhalma, as well as a good selection from the collections of the abbey. The new space created an opportunity to display some elements of the medieval building which were previously not visible, such as elements from the 13th century cloisters of the abbey (which was rebuilt in the late 15th century). The collections of the abbey include goldsmith works, important manuscripts, a good ensemble of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects, among other artworks. The new exhibition was arranged by Imre Takács, noted medieval art historian and the curator of major exhibition at Pannonhalma in 1996 and 2001. This collection can be browsed online as well - in a database which at the moment seems to be available only in Hungarian.

Stone carvings from Pannonhalma at the new museum

Fragments of the 13th century cloister

In 2014, visitors also get a chance to visit two intertwined exhibitions. Since March 2014 the exhibition Icons and Relics: Veneration of Images between East and West (March 21 – November 11,2014) can be visited in the in the “old” exhibition hall of the monastery. Another exhibition opened in July in the newly opened Abbey Manor Visitor Centre and Museum. Titled Image and Christianity: Visual Media in the Middle Ages (July 10 – November 11, 2014), which focuses on western European liturgical art. To cite the curator, Péter Bokody: "The aim of the exhibitions is to show to the viewer the various forms and media of image-worship in medieval Christianity. The exhibition Icons and Relics presents the intertwined history of image-worship in the East and West through a comparison of the cult of images and the cult of relics, together with the genesis of the painted panel. The exhibition Image and Christianity focuses on the same development from the perspective of the visual media in the Middle Ages, where the spread of the painted panel in the West is interpreted in the context of mosaics, stained glass, murals and book illumination. The point of intersection between the two is the Latin Sack of Constantinople in 1204, since both the intensified forms of image-worship and the visual medium of the painted panel became central in Western Christianity after that."

The exhibition "Icons and relics"

Glimpse into the exhibition "Image and Christianity"
In addition to important loans from the major museums of Hungary, the exhibitions also features a number of international loans (primarily from Austria and Croatia), providing a nice overview medieval artworks in the service of liturgy. The highlights of the exhibition Icons and Relics are the 12th century head reliquary of Saint Coloman (Benedictine Abbey, Melk), and 14th century reliquaries from Zadar. In the exhibition Image and Christianity the various medieval visual media are presented by 12th century mosaics (Museo Torcello, Torcello), 15th century stained glass windows (Universalmuseum Joanneum, Graz), 14th century fresco fragments (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), 15th century painted panels (Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest), and 11th-15th century codices, as well as ivory carvings and other works.