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Summary

This paper deals with an Abgar image in the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum (Budapest), which was used as a devotional image by the composer. First the relationship of this representation to its prototype, the cult image of S. Silvestro in Capite in Rome is examined. Second we discuss information about the panel's first possessor, an abbess of the Poor Clares in Pozsony (today's Bratislava), whose name is known from the inscription of the verso. Not only do we attempt a more precise dating based on this information, but also endeavour to place the picture in its original context. The use of images among the nuns of the order of St. Clare, and the question on what occasion the abbess may have received this panel are also considered. The third part addresses the issue of Liszt's relations with Rome, in particular the role his cordial relationship with Pope Pius IX may have played from his painting's point of view. As music and visual arts were considered closely related in Liszt's eyes, in the last part of the paper an analogy is drawn between the composer's Abgar image and his sacred choral works in terms of their archaicism.

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Abstract

Farewell to meat – carnevale – was the origin of the initially innocent merry-making customs that came into use around Shrovetide, near the Lenten season. This frolicking gradually deteriorated so much that Pope Benedict XIV had to issue a decree “inter cetera de bacchanalibus” to warn the believers. Some peculiar crucifix representations allude to these carnival excesses in a moralizing, allegorical form.

In the engraved icon of Hieronymus Wierix (1553–1619) (owned by the author) the crucifix allegory shows perhaps the embodiments of the seven deadly sins. They try to make the youth standing at the foot of the cross swerve away from pious life. The Latin caption of the engraving is from St Paul's letter to the Romans (Rom 8,35; 8,38–39). The second important depiction of the theme is in the graphic collection of the Benedictine abbey of Göttweig. The engraved sheet is the work of Matthäus Küsell (1629–1681) after Johann Christoph Storer's (1611?–1671) drawing. The bustling scene takes place on Calvary Hill. In the celestial sphere, on both sides of the darkened Sun and Moon, angels are hovering, two of them holding a banderol. Among the Vice figures torturing Christ a few characters of the Passion can also be discovered: Longinus with the lance, the soldiers who cast lots, the figure offering the sponge. In the right-hand corner a weeping angel is guarding the Arma Christi. The banderol refers to the crucified Christ, the rest of the characters actualize the scenario of Good Friday in a figurative sense. The latest graphic piece of the theme is an engraving possibly by Franz Karl Heissig (?–?) (owned by the author) from the mid-18th century. The Latin and German inscriptions unmistakably refer to the message of carnival crosses and also make allusions to the bacchanals of pagan Rome. The penitent Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross is the only positive figure, the rest around her are embodiments of immoderate carnival revelries.

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