Problems concerning the meaning of the gesture of the hands of the Virgin in Leonardo's painting are studied here. Former interpretations as expression of protection or blessing are discussed. For the gesture of the Virgin is proposed in this study a meaning which corresponds to her role as Mediatrix omniumgratiarum. For this interpretation prototypes in Quattrocento painting are indicated as well as works influenced by the Leonardesque model.
In the second half of the 19th century – at the beginning of the Hungarian art history writing – all over Europe was a widespread view, that art expressed the national spirit. In the 20th century, mostly after the First World War, according to the intensification of the nationalist mentality in Central Europe the mainstream of the Hungarian research naively looked for an idealization of the past. After the Second World War, after the disillusion in the national ideas researcher became more realistic. Even the international art history made efforts to accentuate rather the common features of the region as their differencies, to think themselves as part of a larger entity, named East Central Europe. Hopefully this approaching will be more productive, as the ambition of appropriating certain artists or monuments.
On the architrave of the altar shrine of the Saints John altarpiece in the St James church in Lőcse (Levoca) there are angel heads; the paper is trying to find their source. The motif was most frequently used in the Quattrocento. The most effective disseminator of the fashion of nude and often wingless youngster and children was Donatello in Italy. Angels without distinct functions had the role to indicate heaven which is why they are usually on the upper part of the altarpiece and later of the tabernacle. When they appear in sepulchral monuments, they refer to the hoped-for celestial dwelling of the deceased. A variant, or abridgment as it were, of the infant angel, the winged angel head already appeared in the 14th century. The popularizer of children angels Donatello also created winged angel heads which spread wide in Italy after his works.
The motif arrived in Hungary from Florence. One of its first specimens was probably the white marble tabernacle, an import from Florence, in the chapel of King Matthias Corvinus's Visergrád palace, where the angel's heads were hovering on the archivolts. After that, in the Jagellonian age, they often appeared in different areas of the Hungarian Kingdom (Nyitra, Pest, Pécs, etc.). In a secular context they first emerged in the Buda palace in carved architectonic elements, and after 1490 series of angel heads frequently appeared on all'antica buildings as well all over the country.
It is not only from here but from German areas north of the Alps, where this motif had been mediated by Dürer, that they made their way to the St John altarpiece in Lőcse. Undoubtedly, Hungary had a special role in disseminating the humanism of Italian origin in her broader environment, but connections with areas north of the Alps must not be ignored either. Warnings have come from several experts recently – and with good reason – that the importance of the northern renaissance has been neglected in Hungarian research in order to throw the developments in the Matthias age into deeper relief.
The first part of this monographic study was published in vol. XLIV (2003) of Acta Historiae Artium. This part focuses mainly on the problems of artistic origin. The sculptor could be identified as a follower of the late style of Hans Multscher and therefore coming perhaps of the Ulm region. Concerning the relationship of the Leutschau retable to the shrine figures of the Benedictine Abbey Church in Garamszentbenedek (Sv. Beňadik nad Hronom) the Author argues for its higher artistic quality which seems to exclude that the latter was an earlier work of the same artist. The panel painting was perhaps mainly influenced by the art of the Master of the Schottenstift in Vienna. The architectural arrangement of the retable may also go back to Ulm constructions, such as the High altar of Ulm Münster, documented by his preparatory drawing.