Eszter Tihanyi – Adam Winter


Florentine Renaissance Painting at collection of Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest


After a cultural development started in Hungary in the XIX century, a thought of calling a public collection into existence came up at the beginning of the century. The issue of collecting work is: significant galleries were established, but only in the capital in separated buildings. Founding such a museum whose gallery gives an overall picture of art and cultural history of the past fits well to ideas of Millennium commemorations's age at the end of XIX century. The museum's constitutional plan was ready in 1893 and after a year the government estimated a heavy expenditure to increase the new establishment’s old collection. The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1896 it was official by the Millennium law and was promulgate in the same year. And this was the year for starting the building by the plans of the excellent architect, Albert Schickedanz and then in 1906 the museum opened in the presence of Franz Joseph I.

But it wasn't a new created museum, it was a unit of old public collections of fine arts with new name and place. The museum's basis and spinal was: National Gallery's stock founded in 1802 and the State Gallery in Hungarian Scientific Academy's building. Both of the collections's seed wasn't royal like in other enrogean museums then former aristocratic and pontifical collections got there which were increased further by state buying and private donations presents gift.

In the collection the most important element is the Italian painting and sculpture. It's so significant that the oldest national special literature took note of it for example Adolfo Venturi published an extensive study about it in the issue 1900 of L'Arte. Artistical values of the renaissance period were significant not only in Italy but they had an invaluable effect on the whole Europe too. From the fourteenth century was Florence the centre of this artificial progress. The most significant pieces of the Museum of Fine Arts can show us the consecutive periods styles from trecento during the early renaissance to mannerism.

The relics of the Museum of Fine Arts are mostly little sized tables and fresco-fragments. For the greatest part of the those spring from Arnold Ipolyi's collections. The high-ranking church person and art history-writer was the most significant Hungarian collector who interested first of all for the early Italian table painting. He acquired the most precious pieces from Johann Anton Ramboux's collection auctioned in 1867 in Cologne and a past of them he offered to the new national picture collection.

In this way got to the State Gallery a little fresco fragment of trecento's biggest masters: Giotto. The female face with oval background cannot be exactly attributed, probably comes one of the frescoes from the apse of the lower church S. Francesco in Assisi. It's hard to distinguish on certain frescoes in lower church's and some of the tables whether they are works from the master as the workshop-mates. So the attribution of the fragment in Budapest is also not solved. But also on this little fragment we can observe the master's artistical innovations. Giotto was interested in the painting of a body's bulk, roundness and concise. The means of his plastical representation is the clean, marked, tough line and surface is born of it. We can see correctly these means on the representation painted in 1315-1320, mainly on handling of the drapery around the face and head.

At the end of the XIX century the experts of the big museums tried to obtain new pieces for the earlier formed collections that the pieces has to show a connected development of style. So did the director of State Gallery, Károly Pulszky. He bought in 1894-1895 a lot of new work on abroad for the collection.

One of the most significant pieces is Filippino Lippi's Madonna with child, St. Anthony of Padua and a monk. On the picture of the renaissance master (it's the earliest painting of him as searchers say) we can observe well the characteristic features of the masters's style. It's a type of the Madonna in the landscape and the composition has a natural and above natural feature. The region surrounding is painted with minute realism, it's fresh, flowery lawn, the composition ends leafy trees on the left side. The cleaned watered lake on the right makes the side open and the gently sloping hill with the ruins of a building and airperspective are characteristics of the master. But the main figure, in the middle painted clear, colorful is much bigger than the others. Madonna sits on a cloud and the two monks' faces shows also an experience of mystical vision.

The biggest part of the Museum of Fine Arts is the forms Esterházy Collection. It was popular already in it's time, founded by duke Miklós Esterházy (1756-1833), who got a passion of collecting from his relatives and he had a skill in collecting. The duke wanted to have a piece from all the significant schools and masters in the collection, so he always plan and bought the way by planning. After many decades of collecting the final result is more than 1000 paintings, 3500 drawings and 50000 carving. It was the riches collection, so the duke was forced to move the collection many times because of lack of place. He bought castles of Pottendorf, Laxenburg and then in 1814 prince Kaunitz's palace. In this building the duke made exhibitions twice a week for the public. There was a big claim to become acquainted with art treasures so a carving-workshop established which copied pieces.

In 1867 the family got into critical financial situation. So the family had to sell the collection to Hungarian state in 1870 and it has become the basis of the State Gallery in building of Hungarian Scientific Academy.

One of the most valuable pieces in the Esterházy Collection and so in the Museum of Fine Arts is a little painting from the renaissance master Raffaello Santi. He started in 1508 in Florence to paint the picture of Mary with her child, and the little John the Baptism in nature. He could not finish the picture, because pope Julius II. called him traveling to Rome to decorate the pope's apartments, the Stanzas. Raffaello's Florentine period shows his artistical development and we can observe the process on paintings with the same iconography in his time (Paris, Louvre; Florence, Uffizi, Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum; lots of drawings and sketches). The Virgin holds her son kneeling on the grass, the child shows on little John's coil. The more and more plastical and full-of-life figures move more and more natural, alive. The forms have dinamism and they talk to each other. There are carriages which refer to each other, for example John repeats the move of Mary's body. Raffaello used Perugino's colours, Leonardo's compositions and Michelangelo's forms but it's also a developed artist's work.

There are more relic in the Museum of Fine Arts from the other huge artist of the period: Leonardo da Vinci. The only survived plastical work from the master is the little bronze rider-sculpture model which he made for the French Francis I. at the end of his life at Amboise. Our famous sculptor, István Ferenczy bought the sculpture in Rome between 1818-1824 as an antique work. Later Ferenczy offered his little-bronze collection for the Hungarian state to buy but he was refused. So then in 1914 his relatives offered for the museum again and the collection got there this way.

Leonardo was employed many times in his life with planning a rider sculpture to an open-air place. But at the monument of Sforza's at Milano and later the monument Trivulzio he wanted to accomplish the horse stepping his leg and at the sculpture for Francis I. he planned a rider sitting on a rearing horse. Before Leonardo nobody tried to form this motif. The whole weight of horse press heavily on its left back leg because his right leg stick on a stone. Leonardo increased the technical brilliance, because the horse's body doesn't have any outes support. It's also an innovation that the sculpture hasn't a main view, we have to watch it walking always around to see it correctly. Leonardo formed the king in the meantime of a tournament. So could born such a unique compositional constitution which fixed a static object and a moving event in one moment. The most significant for the master was to experience the nature's details, research and experiment.

In the first third of the XVI century beside the high renaissance suddenly appeared and continuous spread the stylemarkers of mannerism. The new forms, compositional solutions and colour-harmonies came up in the first half of the century in Florence. The source of these elements can be found already in Michelangelo's works. The Museum of Fine Arts has paintings from the master's followers Agnolo Bronzino and Giorgo Vasari who did an antocracy with mannerism as court-art in Florence.

Agnolo Bronzino in his early church, mythological and allegoric compositions chaff strongly the traditions of renaissance. These typical marks can be found on his painting (painted before 1540) Annunciation to the shepherd’s which was a piece Esterházy Collection. Because of Iyric manner, clear design, classical forms on heads, strong colours, elegant, dynamic gestures was a beloved picture also in its time and later became many times a theme of carvings. At the same time we can find the elements of separation from natural so the manner of mannerism. The figures are independent of each other and the oval composition, the barren nature in the background and transcendental light around angels also strengthen this.

The same ambitions can be found on the painting the Marriage of Cana by the main follower of Michelangelo, Giorgo Vasari. This picture could be ready before 1566. The master was rather a writer of artist's biographies and architect but at this time he traveled to Perugia and took three tables to the monastery of San Pietro. The Marriage of Cana, Miracle of Elias, and St. Benedetto were three compositional and colour sketches to a biggest plan for walls of the refectory. The Marriage of Cana was a piece of Esterházy Collection and disappeared about 1944-1945 from the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1963 bought the Museum of Fine Arts Montreal the little picture and only in 1999 arrived back to Budapest.