A growing number of 18th century ornamental wall paintings have been explored and published in country houses and burgher’s dwellings. They are never signed, the painters are usually anonymous. A few archival documents, contracts that may be associated with such assignments are presented now.
Jakab Ignác Fabricius of Miskolc signed a contract with Countess Ludmilla Forgách to decorate a room and correct the decoration of another in Edelény in 1780. Since the contiguous figural decoration of the walls of six rooms of this mansion has been attributed to Ferenc Lieb (on the basis of a contract of 1769 and other works of his), the purely ornamental decor of the seventh room in the western wing of the mansion might have been the work of Fabricius, who was the son-in-law of Lieb, by the way. Other painters and gilders were at work in Edelény, too: the Latin contract of János Voronieski dated 1765 also covers the ornamental decoration of a room, the presence of István Nits, painter from Eger in 1768 suggests a similar assignment, which were later painted over by Lieb’s murals of rococo figural scenes in 1769–1771.
The rococo reconstruction, extension and decoration of the Máriássy mansion complex at Márkusfalva (Markušovce) took place under the guidance of Farkas Máriássy from the 1770s. The surviving 73 contracts of the work are known from earlier publications, including the contract of 1788 with Johannes Binnerth, a painter from Igló (Spíšská Nová Ves), for the free-handed painting of flowers after sketches. The five smaller and two bigger rooms at issue were in the lateral building to the right (now in ruins). Binnerth’s achievements as a painter and drawing teacher, and his son’s similar ambitions were praised in the press as later as in 1813, too. The Catholic painter who died at the age of 64 in 1814 is documented in the Spíš town from 1783, but his works are not known.
Slovakian research literature has explored the oeuvre of Joseph Lerch (1751–after 1828), Lőcse (Levoča)-based painter born at Szepesszombat (Spíšská Sobotá). His neoclassical late baroque frescoes were signed in the country house at Dobó (Dubavica) and the parish church of Liptóújvár (Liptovský Hrádek); altarpieces and portraits are known by him, in 1804 he was contracted to paint a picture on the curtain of Kassa (Košice) theatre. The widow of Ferenc Máriássy commissioned him in 1792 to decorate five rooms, but in view of the price and Lerch’s known works, this work might have been figural. The decoration was completed, but it has no trace at Márkusfalva; the fresco of the roadside chapel of St John Nepomucene was earlier attributed to him, while the higher quality mythological scenes painted on the walls of the garden pavilion of the mansion („Dardanelles”) still await attribution.
The study follows the traces of the late works by Maulbertsch commissioned by Bishop János Szily of Szombathely. The four pantings sent from Vienna in 1784 – among them a copy after Van Dyck, and others after Rubens and Jordaens respectively decorated the guest rooms of the Bishop's Palace. Only the Charity after Van Dyck can be identified by old inventories. After the death of Szily the „Mother's charity”, held to be a work by Maulbertsch, was not sold, and was disappeared from the place only after 1952. The three sketches for the frescoes of the Cathedral were purchased by Szily in 1798 from Maulbertsch's widow, they served as models for the execution of the frescoes for Josef Winderhalder the Younger between 1799–1801 and for Anton Spreng in 1807. The accompanying letter by the father-in-law Maulbertsch's, Jakob Schmutzer proves, that the Annunciation was repeated for the artist's confessor (its photo was published by K. Garas in 1971), and in the sketch for the Nativity of the Virgin (now: Prague, National Gallery) there was also Gideon, whose detail sketch is in the Budapest Museum of the Fine Arts. The altar sketches may come from the family to different ecclesiastical and public collections (Pannonhalma, Vienna, Szombathely). It seems that a renewed lecture of sources and the finding of new ones is necessary for identifying the works by Maulbertsch and among them variations and replicas by his own hand.
Dans le cadre de la recatholicisation des marges orientales par l’ordre des jésuites, Anna Jávor montre la part des artistes autrichiens en particulier Michelangelo Unterberger et Johann Lucas Kracker, Franz Anton Maulbertsch et Johann Ignaz Cimbal. L’implication des évêques dans le développement de l’art de leur temps est mis en évidence.
It is a commonplace that after the release of a new monograph so-far unknown works begin to rise to the surface one after the other. In the case of Johann Lucas Kracker the first to appear were parallel research results, of which most noteworthy are PetrArijčuk's attributions based on archival sources. He discovered the fourth member of the refectory series in the Franciscan monastery of Moravská Třebová (The Feast of St Francis, 1759) and made the daring identification between the high altar picture in the hospital church of St Elizabeth in Znojmo with the Assumption of the Virgin long missing from Slavonice. On the basis of data from the Premonstratensian archives of Nova Řiše Václáv Milek offered a more exact dating for the altar pictures of the abbey: the pictures delivered in 1760 preceded by years not only Kracker's frescoes in the same church but also the similar works at Jasov. The late altar pictures from Banská Bystrica and the paintings discovered around Jasov were probably created with the participation of the workshop.
The recently discovered oil sketches associated with Kracker proved to be by a follower of Daniel Gran, Josef Stern and by Andreas Zallinger. Nor is the pair of bozzetti acquired recently by the Diözesanmuseum of Brixen by Kracker or by Paul Troger; they must be small-scale copies of Kracker's side altarpieces in Prague or of their sketches, or again, copies of the – now lost – Troger works used as their models. One of them – The Death of St Joseph – was also found in another variant in the Viennese art trade. What were put up for auction in Budapest were workshop copies of a pair of cabinet pictures in the Gallery of Eger – Adoration of the Shepherds, Adoration of the Magi, around 1764 – true to the original colours, which means that they were made after the paintings and not their engraved models.
There is less novelty in the realm of frescoes. The division of labour in the decoration of the Šaštín church of pilgrimage is gradually clarified: in addition to Joseph Chamant and Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer, Kracker's contribution can be presumed to the painted decoration of two subsidiary chapels in 1757. The shared attributon of the parish church of Japons has to be revised: the Apotheosis of St Lawrence on the ceiling is also Kracker's work dated 1767. In the former Jesuit church of Eger wall probings brought to light not only the baroque ornaments on the lateral walls of the nave but also the backdrop in the chancel described in the sources and the original painting by Kracker's workshop on the high altar adorned with statues.
General Jean-François L'Huillier had a baroque country house built in Edelény in Borsod county between 1716 and 1728, on an estate he had received from the emperor for his military services. The wall paintings of the rooms as seen today are associated with the third generation of owners: contracts with several painters survive from the time of Countess Ludmilla Forgách, the granddaughter of the founder, and her husband István Eszterházy of Zólyom. The characteristic style and rococo motifs of the figural murals brought other works into connection with the Edelény paintings, those at Taktabáj and Lelesz (Leles) also preserving the name of Ferenc Lieb, a Viennese painter who can be demonstrated between 1758 and 1788 at Igló (Spišská Nová Ves); he was most likely the painter of the six rooms ordered by the countess in 1769. The decorative painting by János Voronieski, who was contracted four years earlier, perished. Later, in 1780, Lieb's son-inlaw Jakab Ignác Fabricius, a painter of Miskolc, adorned the walls of a seventh room in the western wing.
In the meantime the count employed portraitist Sámuel Horváth in Pest in 1768 to create a historical series of 225 pieces: the models for the small full-length representations of Hungarian chieftains, kings and ancestors of the Esterházy family were the Nádasdy Mausoleum (1664) and the Esterházy Tropheum, family histories of engravings (1700) — a copy of the latter also included in the Edelény library. The prototype of the gallery of ancestors at Fraknó (Burg Forchtenstein) might have been known to the count, but in his Zólyom (Zvolen) castle there was also a similar series made after the Mausoleum: panels of a wooden ceiling from the first quarter of the 18th century. The Edelény paintings were arranged like a frieze in the upstairs great hall, until then only embellished by stucco work from the time of the construction and by stone carvings with the Forgách arms on the fireplace.
The double enfilade upstairs in the eastern wing of the mansion — the sources claim — constituted the private sphere of the couple. In the first room the personifications of the four seasons in costumes appear in genre scenes of agricultural work, accompanied by putti symbolizing the four elements. The walls of the new dining room are adorned with idyllic scenes from the life of the mansion including the itinerary motif of the maiden on the swing, with Venus on a swan-drawn cart opposite her. The four battle-scenes imitating framed paintings allude to the heroic deeds of the ancestors. In the next room the walls of which are painted with wallpaper pattern the ceiling is dominated by Hermes and Amor, while the count's bedroom ceiling is devoted to Jupiter. Here in the door and window reveals a selection of emblems refers to the virtues of the husband, while in the vault sections contemporaneous portrait-like figures — two couples — are shown in fashionable costumes, in the company of Gypsy musicians. In the room of the countess next to the oratory the allegory of good government eulogizes Ludmilla Forgách; the cosmological symbols and personifications of the four parts of the world are depicted on the ceiling of the adjacent cabinet.
While the count wished to emphasize the dynastic roots and imperial position of his family and conserved the earlier tradition of the gallery of ancestors, the wife adopted the recent European fashion of profane rococo wall paintings. However, István Eszterházy applied in vain to the empress for the chief administrator's post in the county on several occasions, nor did he receive the St Stephen order. The couple had no children of their own. In 1775 Ludmilla Forgách became a Dame of the Star Cross order; she was extolled for the support of orphans, but at the same time a mocking poem was also written of her supercilious way of life. It is a fact that she left Edelény burdened with debt to her son from her first marriage. The pictorial program completed with the — now lost — gallery of ancestors roots in the baroque tradition of representing the “connubium” of two families which may be fed by rivalry and mutual support alike. The surviving rococo wall paintings represent a singular, genrelike attempt at this iconography.
The newly acquired register data reveal that the Viennese baroque painter, the younger brother of sculptor Johann Georg Dorfmeister (1736-1786) and cousin of the painter Johann Evangelist Dorfmeister (1742-1765) was born on 13 October 1741 in Pozsony. The signature of one of his pictures already divulged his age and he specified his place of birth for his marriage in Kremsier (Kroměříž) in 1762 correctly. The uncertainty prevailing so far was caused by a mistake in the death register in Sopron, as the deceased was registered as aged 68 in 1797, as well as by the fact that the populous Dorffmaister family – of shoemakers and embroiderers – living on Spittelberg did not have any son called Stephan registered at the St Ulrich parish of Vienna. His marriage data corroborates the so-far only presumed role of the Premonstratensians of Hradisch (Hradisko u Olomouce) in Dorffmaister’s career start in Hungary. While the decoration of the Premonstratensian church and monastery of Türje in west Hungary painted between 1761 and 1763 is being brought to light in its increasing richness as restoration progresses, there is no trace remaining of the painter’s work done for the Promonstratensians of Csorna, and moreover, the relevant sources are also uncertain. Research in the archives of the Premonstratensian abbey of Hradisch kept in Brno will hopefully bear further fruit.