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A lőcsei Szent János-oltár szárnyas angyalfej-sorozatának előzményeiről

On the Precedents to the Series of Cherub's Heads on the Altarpiece of the Saint John in Lőcse)

Művészettörténeti Értesítő
János Végh


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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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.

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The erection of the first retable of remarkable dimension in the Leutschau Parish Church can be dated on the basis of the coats of arms of King Matthias Corvinus and of his wife, Beatrix, sculpted on its predella. As Matthias visited the city in 1474, the donation can be attributed to him, while the armory of Beatrice proves that the execution was not earlier than their marriage in 1476. An analogue to the use of royal coats of arms is given by the retable of Our Lady of the Snow in the same church, which is traditionally considered as a commemoration of the Leutschau meeting of the Dukes of the Jagiellonian Dynasty in 1494.

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