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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.

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De van Eyck à Dürer. Les primitifs flamands & l'Europe centrale 1430–1530

Catalogue de l'exposition, Till-Holger Borchert et al., Groeningemuseum à Bruges du 29 octobre au 30 janvier 2011

Author: János Végh
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Hans Holbein der Ältere. Die Graue Passion in ihrer Zeit

Herausgegeben Von Elsbeth Wiemann. Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, 27. November 2010 Bis 20. März 2011. Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern, 2010

Author: János Végh
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