This paper aims towards a contextual analysis of the emblematic decoration of the staircase of the former jesuit (today Benedictine) college in Győr, North-Western hun-gary. The decoration, created in 1697, visualizes the prayer Salve Regina, and its content is closely connected to the jesuit spiritual exercise of meditation. According to my interpretation, the emblems of the staircase offered a visual aid to the jesuit clerks, for their meditations on the significance of holy Mary. The emblems, thus, embody the idea of “Ut pictura meditatio”, as defined by Walter S. Melion.
I offer an analysis of the meditational programme of the decoration of the Győr staircase, and a brief outline of its place in late 17th-century devotional emblematics. The source of the emblematic decoration could be found in the context of jesuit emblem literature and applied emblematics. Besides several analogous emblematic publications, according to my research, the visual source for the Győr programme was the Salve regina print-series by the Antwerp artist Anton Wierix. Through an analysis of this source, I aim to distance the interpretation of the staircase’s decoration from the former attempt of Éva Knapp, proposing that the decoration was based on creative visual translations of emblem-descriptions by jacob Masen.
Through my interpretation of the emblems and their overall programme, the decoration of the Győr college could be placed in the context of jesuit meditation and applied emblematics. I also aim to elaborate on the practical function of the decorative programme, and thus widening our knowledge on early modern practices of emblematic meditation in monastic communities.
The Hungarian Jesuit Gábor (Gabriel) Hevenesi’s emblem book Succus prudentiae (The Seed of Wisdom) was published in 1690 in Vienna and then in 1701 in Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia), containing fifty emblems. He compiled a collection of Christian wisdom and virtues with the help of quotations and paraphrases from the Stoic philosopher Seneca. In this article, I present two instances of applied emblematic reception of the emblems of Hevenesi’s Succus prudentiae in Transylvanian buildings. The first example is the painted decoration of a room in the castle of Nagyvárad (Oradea, Romania). The program survived only in fragments, yet, three emblems could still be identified. The use of a Jesuit emblem book points towards the conception of the decorative program during the Habsburg occupation of the castle during the first half of the eighteenth century. The second example is the former wall and furniture decoration of the Daniel manor house in Szasznagyvesszős (Michelsdorf/Veseuș, Romania). The inner decoration of this building was destroyed before the twentieth century, but it was preserved by the detailed description of the writer József Ponori Thewrewk from 1817. Based on his account, the walls and several pieces of furniture (including a folding screen and a cabinet) were decorated with Hevenesi’s emblems. This program was most possibly ordered by István Daniel the elder, a state official during the Habsburg rule in Transylvania. As an appendix, I draw attention to a surviving cabinet with emblematic paintings based on Jesuit Herman Hugo’s Pia desideria, now in the collection of the Sárospatak Catholic Museum.