In the preface to his Septem sacramenta (1878–1884), Franz Liszt acknowledged its stimulus — drawings completed in 1862 by the German painter J. F. Overbeck (1789–1869). This essay explores what Liszt likely meant by his and Overbeck’s “diametrically opposed” approaches and speculates on why the composer nonetheless acknowledged the artist’s work. Each man adopted an individualized treatment of the sacraments, neither in line with the Church’s neo-Thomistic philosophy. Whereas the Church insisted on the sanctifying effects of the sacraments’ graces, Overbeck emphasized the sacraments as a means for moral edification, and Liszt expressed their emotional effects on the receiver. Furthermore, Overbeck embedded within his work an overt polemical message in response to the contested position of the pope in the latter half of the nineteenth century. For many in Catholic circles, he went too far. Both works experienced a problematic reception. Yet, despite their works’ reception, both Overbeck and Liszt believed they had contributed to the sacred art of their time. The very individuality of Overbeck’s treatment seems to have stimulated Liszt. True to his generous nature, Liszt, whose individual voice often went unappreciated, publicly recognized an equally individual voice in the service of the Church.
On the basis of archival research on the legacy of Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815–1905) deposited in the Archives of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and in documents kept at the Archives of the Diocese of Đakovo, the authors of this work present and complete what is known about the art collection of Canon Raffaele Bertinelli, which was purchased in 1878 by the Hungarian primate and archbishop of Ezstergom, János Simor, and which forms the basis of the Christian Museum in Esztergom. In the mid-1860s, Bishop Strossmayer learned of the art collection of Canon Bertinelli and started negotiations to purchase it. Although the sale never occurred, there is still a wealth of documentation related to the negotiations: letters of the bishop's loyal correspondent and advisor on questions of art Nikola Voršak, a list containing a description of each individual work of art from Bertinelli's collection (Sanguinetti, 1863), several letters discussing the value of the collection (by Overbeck, Minardi, Cochetti, and Consoni), and a personal letter from Bertinelli himself to Bishop Strossmayer. Not only are these documents an excellent example of the ways in which people did business, negotiated, and bought artwork in the second half of the nineteenth century, but they are also a source of interesting data and assumptions about the provenance of Bertinelli's collection and the reasons for its sale. These letters even provide us with the names of many other nineteenth-century collectors who showed an interest in buying the collection. Finally, the rich correspondence between Voršak and Strossmayer also contains information about another purchase made by János Simor.
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