The Podmaniczky Mansion in Aszód was built in 1727– 1730 by János Podmaniczky (1691–1743). In 1767–1772 the building was extended by his sons, János (1716–1786) and Sándor (1723–1786), who resided with their families in the eastern and western wing of the mansion.
In 1776 Sándor Podmaniczky commissioned Johann Lucas Kracker and his assistant, Joseph Zach, specialised in trompe l’oeil architectural painting to fresco the ceremonial hall of the mansion, located at the southern end of the western wing. The ceiling painting features in the centre the allegorical female figure, a Justifying Faith (fides iustificans), holding the Holy Script with the inscription Sola scriptura. She is surrounded by allegories of different virtues, such as Divine Mercy (Caritas Dei), Humility, Generosity, Hospitality, Temperance, Self-restraint and Right Judgement. On the right of the ceiling the female figure of Wisdom is to be seen striking down the Vices. In the four corners of the ceiling further four virtue-allegories are located: Honesty, Fame, Diligence and the Love of Virtues.
The moralizing programme of the vivid ceiling painting is accompanied by grisaille, statue- and relief-like representations on the sidewalls. The illusionistic statues of Seneca and Alexander the Great represent two classical virtues: wisdom and heroic pugnacity. On the longer walls of the hall four illusionistic busts of four Classical deities (Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto and Ceres) represent the four elements. Above them relief-like mythological scenes are to be seen: two episodes from the youth of Bacchus, the story of Apollo and Daphne and finally the contest of Apollo and Pan.
The complex, moralizing iconographic programme conveyed by the wall and ceiling paintings can be interpreted in the context of the Lutheran ethics, as the com missioner himself was of Lutheran confession. Lutheran teachings on ethics have fundamentally differed from the scholastic doctrine on theological and cardinal virtues and have defined a different canon of virtues. This Lutheran virtue’s canon is reflected in the iconography of the ceiling painting to a large extent. The Olympic deities and mythological scenes featuring on the side walls symbolise the material world, as opposed with the spiritual sphere represented by the virtue-allegories on the ceiling. The overall message of the paintings is that living a pious, virtuous life, conducted by faith, avoiding vice and exercising self-restraint leads the soul to heaven, in harmony with the Lutheran doctrine of justification.
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.
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.
In 1836 Miklós Barabás (1810–1898) became the first painter to be elected member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 1859, over two decades later, he gave his long-awaited inaugural lecture entitled On Perspective in Painting. The choice of subject-matter cannot be unequivocally deduced from his oeuvre, the majority of which was dominated by portrait painting. Perspective was an area of expertise that belonged more to landscape painters, such as Pierre-Henri Valenciennes, Joseph Mallord William Turner and Károly Markó the Elder (friend and colleague of Barabás), all of whom wrote or lectured on perspective. Nevertheless, Barabás maintained his interest in the science of perspective over the course of his (relatively long) life. As a young man he began collecting books on the subject, which he intended to make a crucial element of the curriculum of an art school he was planning to found. A few years after his lecture at the academy, he presented and published yet another lengthy essay on the indispensableness of the knowledge of perspective for painters. Furthermore, a series of drawings dating from 1832 throws light on his views concerning perspective and optics. Despite alluding to authorities such as Leonardo and Pozzo and discussing common mistakes made in compositions based on one-point perspective, in his two essays on the subject Barabás ventured the contention that there is no such thing as a perfect rule in perspective, and he analyzed contemporary theories suggesting the replacement of one-point perspective. In connection with this he mentioned the new findings of Sir Charles Wheatstone, who in 1838 published his essay on binocular vision. Barabás also followed the debate unfolding in the pages of the British Art Journal between 1849 and 1852 between proponents and opponents of a new system of perspective called curvilinear perspective. He compared the contentions of these authors, in particular that of William Gawin Herdmann, with the writings of the German artist and theorist Johann Erdmann Hummel. In practical terms, Barabás claimed that one-point perspective should be rejected only in cases in which the entire painting cannot be viewed in a single glance. In such cases, he contends, the picture must be divided into segments of 20–22 degree angle views. He classified such paintings under the “conventional category of the panorama”. Barabás recounted that he was once commissioned to paint a panorama that was to consist of eight individual pieces. The presumably large-scale work was never executed, but the perspective problems that arose continued to interest the painter. In order to eliminate the distortions that in his view were inevitable in the case of a 45 degree angle view, Barabás suggested that 22–23 degree angle views should be used instead, resulting therefore in a minimum of 16 paintings. It would have been preferable, he claimed, to have made a continuous drawing of the 360 degree spectacle. In light of this, the existence among the thousands of portraits of his oeuvre of a series of preliminary drawings for a panorama of Bucharest seems less surprising. Of the seven drawings of this series, one is a well-known water color entitled View of Bucharest with Two Figures. Until now, however, it was not known that this painting, which seemingly is composed according to a one-point perspective, is in fact part of a 360 degree circular view of the city. Like most preliminary drawings of panoramas in the 19th century, the drawings were most likely done with the aid of a camera obscura. Fainter lines, curved presumably as a result of the surface of the lens, were later ‘straightened’ with a darker line. Furthermore, each sheet of paper has border frames that were drawn afterwards and that therefore clipped off some of the details, details that were sketched again on the adjacent sheets. Also, the succession of wide angled, documentary-like ‘shots,’ the equal value of all lines, and the lack of any compositional work all attest to the use of a camera obscura. The function of this panorama is still unclear. It might have been a sort of substitute for travel: the capital of Romania remained a relatively little known city with an eastern feel due to its orthodox churches. Another possibility is that it had a military function, given that at the time Barabás was employed mainly by members of a Russian military detachment, among them general Pavel Kiszeliov. One of the two figures seen on the watercolor appears to be a high ranking soldier. The essays of Barabás examined numerous questions raised by 19th century theoreticians who attempted to replace the ‘knowledge based’ one-point perspective with a new, ‘sight-based’ system of perspective. Simultaneously, the artist became aware of the potentials that genres labeled by Martin Kemp as ‘artificial magic’ (such as the panorama and illusionistic frescoes) might have in comparison with two dimensional paintings. Barabás’ description of the works of Johann Michael Rottmayr and Johann Lucas Kracker, in which he claims “reality and art beautifully merge,” offers poetic testimony to his heightened interest in illusionistic frescoes. Ultimately Barabás's interest in perspective derives from its potential to create illusion, rather that its capacity as an instrument in the creation of a given composition.
Authors:Edina Zsupán, Árpád Mikó, Erika Kiss, Anna Jávor, and Bálint Ugry
. (Magyarország műemléki topográfiája V.) Budapest 1958, 459.Vö. Medvecký 2013, 191.
Garas i. m. 1941 (1. j.) 22, vö. Jávor Anna: JohannLucasKracker. Egy késő barokk festő Közép-Európában. Budapest 2004, 307