A special iconographic interpretation of the Holy Trinity is represented by an engraving kept in the Strahov abbey library of the Premonstratensian canons of Prague. The print was made after Dionysius Strauss' drawing and is the artist's first extant holy image engraved in copperplate. In the monastery of Hradiško u Olomouce Strauss was regarded as the artist of the order respected for the inventiveness of his themes. It is a known fact from 1695 that he presented a painting on the birthday of prior Bernard Wanzke showing the crucified Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit with lambs feeding on the blood gushing forth from the Son's side. Undoubtedly, the graphic sheet marked “P. Dion. Straus delin. — J. Tscherning sculp.” was made after the lost painting. The words in the banderole above the composition “ut vitam habeant” (that they may have life) are from St John's gospel (Jn 10,10).
A somewhat modified variant of the theme is a copperplate engraving also from the late 17th century by Johann Gaspar Gutwein (1669–1730) who worked in Prague, Brno, Augsburg, Regensburg and Graz. The print marked “J. G. Gutwein sc. Brunae” probably adorned the flyleaf of a book. This precious specimen of my private collection shows an infant angel with clasped hands behind the cross, with a quotation from St Luke's gospel on the banderole falling down by its elbow: “… parata sunt omnia” (all things are now ready, Luke 14,17). The words refer to the feast of the flock of the Saviour. The blood and water from the side of Christ collected in a pearl-shell refer to the life-giving and maintaining sacraments of baptism and the eucharist from which the scrawny lambs will gain strength.
There is a little known 18th century oil painting in the St Maurice Benedictine monastery of Bakonybél. There are no inscriptions, but white lambs are feeding on the life-giving blood which has cleaned them, flowing from Christ's side into a bowl. The tree of paradise with the serpent is in the background to indicate that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was made in reparation of the original sin: Christ defeated Satan on the cross. This peculiar version of the Holy Trinity representations originated from catholic Moravia in the Tridentine revival of spirituality in Central Europe, as the above described depictions suggest.
This study introduces ways to unfold the St. Zoerard-Andrew and St. Charles Borromeo Altapiece of Vincenzo Dandini (1607–1675), the gifted pupil of the famous baroque painter, Pietro da Cortona. Created in 1657, it is still housed today in its original position in the Church of Santa Maria in Gradi at Arezzo, in Tuscany. This painting has its own importance in Dandini's oeuvre, not only because it's his first dated and signed work, but also because of the rarity of the imagery of Zoerard-Andrew in Italy.
We can separate two different levels of the image: the Hungarian hermit could be seen as the subject of the cardinal's vision and his role model too. Charles Borromeo was the leading figure of the Council of Trent, and the cardinal archbishop of the Archidiocese of Milan, but had similar fasting and extreme starving practices like Zoerard- Andrew. So Zoerard-Andrew's presence is more interesting in a Camaldolese altarpiece — however they were both Benedictines — than the well-known italian reformator and makes Dandini's work an iconographical challenge.
The altarpiece depicts a scene from the life of St. Zoerard-Andrew derived from the Vita Sancotum Zoerardi et Benedicti (c. 1064) by Bishop Maurus of Pécs, when the hermit in the state of swoon lies in the arms of an angel (iuvenis visionis angelice). St. Zoerard-Andrew, first canonised saint of the Hungarian Kingdom in 1083, had an extremely stiff fasting practice, ate only one nut day-to-day in the forty days of the Lenten period. His bodily self-lacerations were the most terrific ways to earn God, he made for himself a wooden crown with stones hanging on four sides and set on an oak-tree trunk surrounded by sharpened canes. Like on Jan Sadeler's etching, he showned with his clever arrangements designed to prevent sleep as his tipical attributes in this period. This essay contributes to find out appointments of Zoerard-Andrew's and St. Charles Borromeo's way of living with the habits of the Camaldolese monks. I mean they were perfect role models for these hermits of the Santa Maria in Gradi. Finally, I demonstrate in my article how could use up their cult in the order's ideology during the Counter- Reformation and how these elements are interwoven in the iconography of the church.
The burial site and fragments of the tomb of Queen Gertrude of Andechs-Meran, first wife of King Andrew II (1205–1235) and a victim of assassination in 1213, were discovered during the excavations carried out in the Cistercian church of Pilis between 1967 and 1982. Her tomb was found along the central axis of the church, in the crossing. The present study, which includes the complete catalogue of the known fragments, attempts to establish the typology, iconography, and stylistic context of the artwork. New reconstructions are proposed for the two short sides of the sarcophagus-shaped tomb, which each bore distinct forms: one contained a wide, shallow niche, while the other depicted two standing figures under a double arcade. The figural ornaments on the sides of the tomb and the gisant with angels on the lid occupy an important place in the history of funerary art. In fact, the tomb displays one of the first examples of this type of decoration. The seated figures on the side relief probably represent the choir of saints in heaven, who provided companionship for the soul of the deceased queen. Gertrude herself is represented not only on top of the tomb, but also appears as a donor in one of the reliefs.
Stylistic analysis of the figures proves that their master came from the workshop responsible for the Last Judgment and Callixtus portals of the cathedral of Reims. He must have left the workshop around 1220, before the portals were completed and installed in the façade of the northern transept. At about this time, Villard de Honnecourt also embarked on his travels that took him from Reims to Hungary. The style of Gertrude’s tomb bears similarities to the Villard’s drawings, even if we do not wish to attribute the sculptures to him. A team of masons from Reims also arrived in Pannonhalma during this time frame and worked on the abbey church there. Their most important work in Pannonhalma is the southern portal of the new church, the Porta Speciosa. The complicated nature of these construction histories reminds us of the need for caution when attributing one work of art to one person.
Both Gertrude’s tomb and the Porta Speciosa are prime examples of the cultural and artistic period that began in the late 12th century, when the Kingdom of Hungary was a leader in the region in the reception of French Gothic.
: Kraniometrija. Moskva 1964.
Angel 1953 = J. L. Angel : The human remains from Khirokitia. In: P. Dikaios: Final Report on the Excavation of a Neolithic Settlement in Cyprus 1936–1946. London-New York-Toronto 1953, 416
Mátyás Schervitz (Buda ? – Buda 1771) was a popular and highly esteemed artist in Buda-Víziváros in his time, as his epitaph also proves. The painter of Illyrian origin occurs by a variety of name forms in the sources: Scherviz, Scherwiz, Scherwitz, Scheravitz, Scheravics, Seravits, Scherevitsch, Scherevitz, Scherowitz, Schibiz, Szeravics, Xeravich. The hypothetical dates of his birth and death proposed by his first monographer Arnold Schoen (Mathias Tarvitz, c. 1701–1771, St Anne Parish Church of Upper Víziváros) can only be questioned in theory by the more recently discovered works painted in 1768–69, for the registers of the Franciscan Church of St Francis’s Wounds – to which the family presumably belonged – are latent at present.
The painter Schervitz became a registered citizen of Buda in 1741. He received several minor assignments (such as flag painting, gilding, marbling, ephemeral triumphal arches) and some greater jobs (paintings for the high altars of the St Catherine Church in Tabán and the St Elisabeth Church in Víziváros, and the fresco in the sanctuary of the Újlak church) in Buda, but these works have perished over the centuries. The ruined St Elisabeth altarpiece of the Capuchins of Víziváros (1760) is known from a photo. A documented work by his hand is the fresco decoration of the library room at the Ráday mansion in Pécel dated 1763. The St Ivo altarpiece of the Óbuda parish church (1759) was added to the oeuvre after style critical analyses, similarly to the sanctuary frescoes in the Church of St Francis’s Wounds (1756).
The key to the altar painting style of Mátyás Schervitz is provided by the altarpieces (St Anne, St Francis Seraphicus) in the former Franciscan church of Dunaföldvár painted in 1768 and certified with archival data. His Immaculate Conception with Adam and Eve in the same church was also identified by its style. With their help, the picture of the bye-altar showing the Stigmatization of St Francis in the former Franciscan church of Zombor (1769) and the high altar picture (1756), as well as the altarpiece of St Margaret of Cortona (1756) in the church of St Francis’s Wounds in Víziváros can now be safely attributed to him. These works help us recognize Schervitz’s brushwork on the altarpiece of the high altar in the former Dominican church of Pest (c. 1760) showing the founder of the order St Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Virgin. The Guardian Angel altarpiece in the Franciscan church of Vác can also be recognized as his work. Research presumes that the artist working at such high level of quality was educated in Vienna; the clue to identifying his master lies perhaps in his faultless presentation of architectural space. Mátyás Schervitz applied the conventional baroque oil painting technique (canvas support built from several pieces, yellow ground, patch painting). His anatomical knowledge was excellent, his rendering of space virtuosic, his figures are lively, proportionately built and markedly characterized. He did not sign any of his so-far known works.
Art historians are still at fault for the interpretation of the pictures on the outer sides of the wings of the high altar of Saint John the Baptist from Kisszeben (Sabinov). Restoring work in the past decades has explored the original surface of several pictures, leading to an important insight: the reconstruction of the altarpiece in the baroque age left their contents unchanged. It can therefore be concluded that the baroque layer on the unrestored pic tures cannot hide wholly different scenes. What hinders interpretation is rather the deviation from the customary schemes. The narrative compiled from Biblical scenes is “jerky”: the episodes in some places do not follow in chronological order and while several “customary” scenes are missing seemingly without reason, certain scenes appear, however, to be repeated. Even more perplexing are the “hitches”, representations that are hard to interpret on the basis of traditional schemes, which, however, hide the key to the profound message of the high altar with an adequetely strict composition.
The first scene traditionally taken in the literature for The Miraculous catch of Fishes Christ walking on water is actually the appearance of God the Father, and in the second panel Christ's Transfiguration is shown. The two constitute a pair. With an unmistakable gesture the Creator points at Christ who assumed divine glory in the episode of the Transfiguration during his earthly life as well: “This is my beloved Son …hear ye him!”
The next pictures depict seven episodes from Jesus's human life: the Annunciation, Nativity, Ecce Homo, Crucifixion, Christ in Limbo, Resurrection and Ascension. The sequence is followed by the Holy Trinity in the company of music-making angels. Christ seems to have just returned to the Father occupying his due place on the throne after having completed his earthly life. In the next picture of the Deesis he appears as the chief Judge sent by the Father. The lily at the height of his mouth symbolizes celestial judgment, the sword stands for the earthly power of judgment over the resurrected, the living and the dead.
The pair of the Holy Trinity and the Last Judgment returns once more in the last two panels of the sequence. Christ enthroned under the celestial tent and the Father flank the Mother of God. The dove of the Holy Spirit is hovering above them with extended wings. In the lower strip kneeling figures with hands clutched in payer are turning towards them. The scene follows right after the second depiction alluding to the Last Judgment in which the graves burst open to the trumpet call of the angels announcing the resurrection. It is the reward of the just resurrected just people that they receive eternal life in heaven shown in the next panel.
The second, lower, picture of the left-hand moveable wing has a large church as the most accented motif above which in the middle the dove of the Holy Ghost is fluttering. The figures in the garden represent different degrees of religious absorbtion. A child is heading for the house of God with determined steps, the rest are watching him. This scene might as well symbolize divine filiation. The servants of the Law become the children of God who earn the right to eternal life in heaven on Doomsday but whose adoption as the children of God is effected by the Holy Spirit during baptism. People convert upon the influence of the Holy Spirit and hurry to the church. The church building symbolizes in this connection the Church of Christ.
In the next scene, Christ wearing a snow-white mantle in reference to the Lamb of God is surrounded by followers of all ranks and file who are no aliens or strangers any more thanks to Christ's sacrifice on the cross but the “fellows of the saints and the household of God”. The presentation of their group is thus another visualization of the Church of Christ, as was the church building in the previous scene. Next to Christ the Virgin and St John the Evangelist can be seen with St Peter behind them. They are the supporting pillars of the Church. The rest of the people are not characterized as individuals but as social groups, secular and ecclesiastic dignitaries. The young princess on the left holds St Catherine of Alexandria's attribute. On the right, the encumbents of secular and ecclesiastic power, a pope and a king are predominant. In the background on the right the attire of a young man resembles that of a cardinal while a bishop figure rises above the head of St Peter. The kerchieved women and bare-headed men represent the middle and lower classes. The arrangement of the people around Christ is another visualization of the community of the Church of Christ, its cornerstone being the Vir dolorum.
In the next picture a priest with a youthful face puts his right hand on the head of a praying youth. The black vestment and the gesture are symbolic: the picture shows the administration of the sacrament of penance. The men standing withdrawn to the background are witnesses. The hoary old man is holding a crooked stick and rosary in his left hand, the younger one is reading from a book. The wrinkled forehead, grey hair and beard are attributes of asceticism. The stick is an emblem of hermits and pilgrims, as are the rosary and the book. In the Middle Ages hermits and pilgrims were the paragons of counselling on matters of faith. The male figures of the Kisszeben altarpiece may even directly refer to St Antony the Hermit and St John the Evangelist. Reference to the virtues they represent directs the believers' attention to possible ways of absolution.
The contemplation of the workday-side of the altarpiece, the reading of the depictions from left to right guides one to the recognition of the basic message of the series: it is the illustration of the Apostles' Creed in sixteen episodes, proceeding doctrine by doctrine. It is unique and unprecedented in the art of Hungarian altarpieces, or for that matter in a broader geographical context, too. Further research into the patterns used for the individual scenes must go on to discover the model used for the entire cycle. Certain elements of the sequence are tied with several threads to the paintings feastday-side and are not independent of the themes of the superstructure, either. The full iconographic program, which certainly harmonized with the wish of the commissioner, will be known when all these implications have been clarified. The next great task is therefore to find the donator and the author of the program of the Kisszeben altarpiece.
1. Andrea Mantegna's painting known by the name Pallas Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue (fig. 1) could not have been created without knowledge of three frescoes in the lower church of Assisi (figs 2–4).
My arguments are not based on verbal but on visual sources. The former possibility is precluded by the lack of any written information on Mantegna's presence in Assisi. What is certain is that the Mantuan court painter was working in the chapel of pope Innocent VIII's Belvedere villa between June 1488 and the summer of 1490. It is hard to imagine that he did not visit Assisi's San Francesco basilica during this time, one of Christianity's main shrines of pilgrimage endowed with the promise of papal absolution. (Isabella d'Este is known to have been there in 1494.)
Pallas – the second painting after Parnassus for the studiolo of Isabella d'Este in Mantua – was painted sometime between 1497 and 1502. The venue is the Garden of Virtues into which the Vices have intruded and they have imprisoned somebody behind a solid stone wall on the right. The person is invisible, her lament is written on a banderole fluttering parallel with the picture plane: “Gods, help me, the mother of the virtues!” On the left a female figure turned into a tree reminding one of Daphne is also calling for help. In the middle Diana and the personification of Chastity are running, followed by Pallas Athena rushing into the garden. As the intruders catch sight of them, they take to flight: a satyr mother with many children at the back, Idleness and Sloth in front are running away. Only one of them wouldn't let herself be bothered by the appearance of the determined gods: sensual earthly Venus is standing flirtatiously on the back of a centaur. However, she can't feel safe for long, as the inscription of the picture says: “when laziness is done away with, Amor's arrow also misses it target.” The modern-time title of the painting is inaccurate: we are witnessing the moments before the freeing of the mater virtutum.
In the Assisi lower church the four cells of the vault above the high altar are decorated with four frescoes: the western cell with the apotheosis of Saint Francis, the other three with monumental allegories of a Franciscan virtue each: Poverty (fig. 2), Chastity (fig. 3) and Obedience (fig. 4). The composition of the latter three is similar: the central axis is indicated by the personification of the monastic vow, with images of the exercise of the given virtue on the iconographic right and the invalidation of the respective vice on the left. The dating of the frescoes wavers between 1315 and 1330; though it is still disputed if they are by Giotto's hand, his invention is beyond doubt. Mantegna must have seen the three virtue allegories.
2. In the foreground of Pallas the oddity of one of the figures fleeing from the realm of Chastity is second to none. It is the third figure from left, the personification of several vices at the same time (fig. 5). It has a monkey head, a human body with a female right breast and male left breast. Its naked body is tied round with a rope to which bags and ribbons are fixed. Its skin complexion is dark. Upon the appearance of Pallas Athena, it flees with head turned back, right hand raised. Its right leg stepping forward wades into the mud shin-deep, the other leg sinks to the thigh.
In Assisi, Cupido (AMOR) is fleeing from the realm of Chastity in a similar manner and with similar attributes. To the strap thrown over his naked body the hearts it has stolen are fastened instead of bags and ribbons. He also turns his head back and holds a flower in his left hand the way Mantegna's figure holds the scroll. His leg taking a large step towards the abyss changes into griffon's claws where the other figure's leg sinks into mud. The right hand of the hermaphrodite lifted defensively owes to Passion (ARDOR) in flight behind Cupido. In Assisi a dark-complexioned human body with an animal head belongs to an Assisi vice, Impurity (IMMUNDITIA) already fallen into the abyss. Even irregular hermaphroditism has its inspiring source, if not prototype, in Assisi: The upper body of Saint Francis personifying Obedience is asymmetrical and the ropes fastening the yoke round his neck also remind one of the figure at issue (fig. 7).
To continue the motivic analogies: the right hand, head posture, and dread of the Cupido figure in Assisi live on in Mantegna's Sloth (INERTIA, second from left). The Assisi personification of Ardour returns in the satyr mother with many children in the Mantuan studiolo: both have an animal lower body, turn their heads back and flee with flowing hair. Athena storming in with a lance is a more temperamental variant of an angel in the Chastity allegory who is pushing the vices into the depth with a lance. (The energetic gesture of the goddess is reminiscent of the little boy's throwing a stone at Poverty.) One of the iconic predecessors of the figure turned into a tree and reminding one of Daphne is the personification of Poverty (figs 8, 9): the thin and tired bride stands bare-foot in a thorny bush which turns into a leafy and blossoming tree behind her. At the left of the Chastity allegory three ecstatic believers are progressing toward St Francis with raised arms; their memory recurs in the middle of Mantegna's composition in the figures of Diana and Chastity.
Finally, in both compositions a passionately backward looking centaur has a prominent role: in Assisi it is the only antagonist of Obedience as the personification of Arrogance, while in Mantua Venus impudica symbolizing Luxuria is standing coquettishly on its back. Besides, the centaur is the hallmark of artistic freedom in both cases.
3. The last sentence leads over to another type of analogies that are to be considered among the causes, not the effects of the borrowing. The genre of the allegory and within that a special subtype – allegorical fiction in narrative form – is similar in both cases. Personae of different quality belonging to different segments of time, and metaphors transformed into spectacular images are lively, convincing actors of equal rank in seemingly real dramatic situations. The presence and character of explanatory inscriptions also belong to the peculiarities of the genre: they name the personifications but provide no clues as to the real meaning of the whole picture.
As regards the theme, in both places Virtues triumph over Vices. For the iconography of Pallas the Assisi allegory of Chastity is particularly relevant. In both pictures carnal love is the arch enemy: in Assisi it is represented by Cupido, in Mantua an inscription alludes to it. From this (too) it follows that the heroines overcoming the arrows of Amor must be closely similar.
In Mantegna's painting the hidden heroine is not Pallas but the imprisoned lady of the garden. (In my opinion the mater virtutum is none other than the heavenly Venus as Caritas.) Her antagonist is the earthly Venus standing on a centaur, and the “arrow of Amor” cited by the inscription. Her mock image is the satyr mother with the many children. To her does the personification of Chastity bring an extinguished torch. The reason why it is so urgent to liberate her is that Isabella should be free from the disturbing vices, particularly from the arrows of Amor, and the marchesa could spend her free time meaningfully, devoted to the arts.)
Among the predecessors of this peculiar solution – the invisibility of the protagonist – is also the Chastity allegory in Assisi (fig. 3). “S CASTITAS” is hardly visible in her castle massively defended by warriors (her figure is reminiscent of Danae); the two angels on either side appear to rush to her aid. (Vasari opined that she was being attacked from two sides, which rather supports than weakens our argument.) Her major adversary is the robber of hearts Cupido. The rivalry between Chastity withdrawn to the tower and carnal love is repeated – mutatis mutandis – in Pallas in the opposition of the still imprisoned mother of virtues and still self-confident Venus/Luxuria.
4. It would be a gross mistake to accuse Mantegna of a lack of invention on the basis of the exposed connections: he is one of the most imaginative painters of the renaissance. His imagination had to feed on something, too. Cennino Cennini, who was the first to use fantasia in the renaissance sense suggested to the painters that they should penetrate “into the darkness of nature” to be able to find out non-existent things. Mantegna's zoo- and anthropomorphic clouds and rocks were inspired by real cloud and rock formations and by ancient anecdotes, and when he painted Pallas, he recaptured his memories of Assisi.
Instead of lessening his merit, his borrowings further enhance it. First, it is possible that exactly upon the influence of Assisi he recommended his lady that the second painting for the study should elaborate on the theme of Virtue triumphing over the Vices and the “arrow of Amor”. Second, it proves his greatness that he drew on the set of art works that was the only true prototype for his allegory as regards theme, meaning and genre.
It can be added that both works were epochal in their respective ages and media, for similar reasons. Both painters ventured onto unbeaten paths, painting so-far never depicted themes with similar tools. One visualized an intricate Franciscan ideological system, the other a humanist system of ideas in the special language of allegorical fiction. The intention of the client who ordered the pictures was the same: to encourage the viewers to lead moral, meaningful lives. The images of the Virtues and Vices are shocking, effective, unusual, convincing in both pictures; they stick to our memory as imagines agentes for long. Both Giotto and Mantegna developed and applied a new and autonomous visual language that can argue on its own terms.
As for Mantegna, it can be concluded that the sources of the painter taking the course of the maniera moderna, who looked upon himself proudly as a new Zeuxis or Apelles, should be sought, apart from ancient literature and Roman art, also in the Middle Ages, in the allegories of the trecento.