Saturday, November 18, 2017

First volume of the Handbook of the History of Art in East-Central Europe appears

The first volume of a very ambitious project of the Leibniz Institute for the Hiistory and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig has finally appeared. The project aims to publish a new series of a Handbook on the History of Art in East Central Europe in 9 volumes. The series will provide an overview of art in the territories between the Baltic, the Black and the Adriatic Seas from the Early Middle Ages up to the present day. The Handbook series represents the first attempt to discuss the history of art of this entire region in a complex matter and in a European framework. Each volume in the series will contain about 650 pages, with essays and about 300 catalog entries,  as well as plenty of illustrations. 

The first volume, which is out now, focuses on the period of the early Middle Ages, from the time of the disintegration of the Roman Empire to the establishment of the new, Christian kingdoms of Bohemia, Poland, Hungary and Croatia. The time around the turn of the first millennium is commonly seen as marking the beginning of art history in Eastern Central Europe. New kingdoms and the adoption of Christianity gave rise to new impulses to architecture and the arts. Volume one of the handbook series examines the prerequisites of and precursors to this epochal change, including Late-Antiquity and early Medieval churches in the eastern Adriatic, golden treasures from the Migration Period, jewelry of the Great Moravian Empire, and everyday culture of the Slavic peoples.


The following two volumes in the series will also focus on the Middle Ages, dealing with Romanesque and Early Gothic art, then High and Late Gothic - with volume 4 dedicated to Late Gothic and Renaissance art. Look out for them in the coming years! To get a better idea of the entire series, have a look at this flyer.



Christian Lübke (Hrsg.), Matthias Hardt (Hrsg.): Handbuch zur Geschichte der Kunst in Ostmitteleuropa 1. Vom spätantiken Erbe zu den Anfängen der Romanik, 400–1000.
Berlin-München, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2017.
652 pages, 600 illustrations, 21 x 27,5 cm, € 98.00





Finally, a word about the object on the cover of volume one. It is a detail of one bull's head bowls from the Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós (Sânnicolau Mare, Romania), uncovered in 1799 and now preserved at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Widely believed to be connected to the Avar Khaganate and dating from the 8th century, the treasure looms large in Hungarian national consciousness, as for a long time it was believed to be of Hungarian origin from the time of the Magyar conquest. A quick look at the popularity of the bull's head bowl as an architectural decorative motif around 1900 can illustrate this - see this article in Art Nouveau Magazine.


Bowl from the Nagyszentmiklós Treasure, Vienna, KHM

Saturday, November 11, 2017

New Websites on Saint Ladislas

The reliquary of Saint Ladislas from Várad cathedral, early 15th century (Győr, Cathedral) 

2017 has been declared the Saint Ladislas (László) memorial year, to mark the 940th anniversary of Saint Ladislas (1077-1095) becoming the king of Hungary and the 825th anniversary of his canonization. One of the most popular Hungarian saints, Ladislas was the embodiment of the ideal Christian knight. He was canonized in 1192; his feast day is June 27.

Ladislas I belonged to the Árpád dynasty and was the son of King Béla I and the Polish princess Richeza. He was born around 1040 in Poland and ascended the throne of the Hungarian kingdom in 1077 after decades of internal power struggle within the newly founded Christian monarchy. He died in 1095, and the two decades of his rule brought consolidation and relative peace, which was further preserved with the introduction of several new laws regarding the protection of private property and the judiciary system. The new cathedrals (Várad [Oradea] and Zagreb) and monasteries he founded, along with the canonization of his predecessors, King Stephen I and his son Emeric in 1083, strengthened the position of Christianity in the country.  He died in 1095 and was buried at the cathedral of Várad. After the death of Ladislas, many healing miracles were associated with him and his burial place, and as a result, he was officially canonized in 1192, and shortly thereafter at the beginning of the thirteenth century his legend was written. Várad became the center of his cult and his head relics were put on display there in a marvelous reliquary bust. Apart from individual cult images, the most characteristic medieval depiction of Ladislas shows him in the 1068 battle of Kerlés against the Petchenegs (Cumans), in which Ladislas saved an abducted Hungarian girl. The painted narrative of this heroic struggle is found on the walls of countless Hungarian churches as well as in manuscripts. After the cathedral of Várad was destroyed during the Reformation and the Turkish wars, the relics of Ladislas were transported to Győr (1607), where they are kept today. A number of popular stories and legends are associated with his name, and László is still a popular given name in Hungary.

 The battle of Saint Ladislas with the Cuman, initial from the Illuminated Chronicle
 (Budapest, National Széchényi Library) 

The memorial year of 2017 provided an opportunity for numerous conferences, smaller exhibitions and a variety of other events, which are listed on the Facebook page of the year. Now as the year is coming to a close, the results of other projects carried out in the framework of the memorial year have also become available. I would like to call attention to two new websites, which provide further information about Saint Ladislas and his cult.  


Bögöz (Mugeni), frescoes of the church, with the Legend of Saint Ladislas in the top row



The website dedicated to Saint Ladislas, the knight king features various locations from Hungary and Transylvania with a connection to the Holy ruler. At the time of the launch, 44 locations connected to the history and legend of Saint Ladislas are featured. The project is an ongoing one, and will be developed to include other regions from within the Carpathian Basin. The website, which is available in English and Romanian as well, features a number of important medieval churches which are either dedicated to Saint Ladislas, or contain his depictions. It provides information and photos about the monuments, as well as practical information for visitor of the route of Saint Ladislas. There is even a route planner, where you can select medieval wall paintings, for example. The information provided about medieval monuments is well-researched and the image galleries provide great material on the churches. You may want to have a look at Bögöz (Mugeni), Gelence (Ghelinţa) or perhaps Türje - or just keep browsing.

http://www.knightking.org/

Detail of the Legend of Saint Ladislas at Homoródkarácsonyfalva (Crăciunel)


The other website, titled Szent László, focuses only on medieval paintings depicting the Legend of Saint Ladislas, more specifically the story of his battle against the invading Cumans, and the rescue of an abducted Hungarian girl. The painted cycle of this battle is perhaps the most significant contribution of medieval Hungary to the common heritage of the European Middle Ages. The complex and extensive cycle appeared within a short time all over the territory of the Kingdom, and was especially common in wall painting. For well over a century – during the reign of the Angevin kings Charles Robert and Louis the Great, as well as their successor, Sigismund of Luxemburg – the cycle was the most popular painted narrative in Hungary. If we count surviving monuments today, as well as a few examples only known from 19th century copies, we know just about 45 cycles of wall paintings with this narrative – and there are several other documented examples which have disappeared from the walls of churches. This website - developed by the Arany Griff Association (Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania) - aims to collect images of these painted cycles. So far, they provide information on and photos of 32 painted cycles, which makes it the most comprehensive website on the legend. You can find images of the painted cycles from all over the territory of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. 

http://www.szentlaszlo.com/

Detail of the Legend of Saint Ladislas at Szepesmindszent (Bijacove)




Sunday, October 15, 2017

Exhibition dedicated to Master of Okolicsnó

Presentation in the Temple from the main altar of Okolicsnó
(Hungarian National Gallery) 
A new exhibition dedicated to Master of Okolicsnó has opened recently at the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava (Esterházyho Palac, open from 7. September - 26 November, 2017). The Master was named after the former high altar from the Franciscan monastery in Okolicsnó in Upper Hungary (Okoličné, Slovakia), and he was active around 1500. The most important patron of the Franciscan monastery of Okolicsnó was John Corvin, natural son of King Matthias Corvinus, who died in 1504.

The Master of Okolocsnó is regarded as one of the best painters of Central European Late Gothic. His paintings show the influence of Flemish painting, as well as that of the Italian Renaissance. He led a prolific workshop, creating altarpieces in the eastern region of Upper Hungary during the first decades of the 16th century (including two side altars in the parish church of Szmrecsány/Smrečany, 1510).

The altar of Okolicsnó, which gave the name to the painter, was dismantled back in the 18th century, but its parts have been preserved in several collections in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. The Slovak National Gallery acquired one of the panels in 2010 – showing the Crucifixion – from the former altar. The current exhibition coincides with the restoration of this panel. The exhibition, which was curated by Dušan Buran, is accompanied by a catalogue about the painter, listing all of the surviving works by the Master of Okolicsnó. A digital version, where you can browse the material of the exhibition - including all works of the Master - is available on the webumenia.sk website (this includes prints and sculptures related to the paintings as well).

Master of Okoličné and Gothic Art of Spiš around 1500 - exhibition at the Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava, on view until November 26, 2017. Source: website and facebook page of Slovak National Gallery

Crucifixion  from the main altar of Okolicsnó (Slovak National Gallery)


Altar of Saint Anne from the church of Szmrecsány

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