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The Discovery of the Corpse of King Louis II Bertalan Székely


Bertalan Székely Kolozsvár [Cluj-Napoca], 1835 – Mátyásföld [Budapest], 1910

Date 1860
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil, canvas

140 × 182.5 cm

Inventory number 2807
Collection Collection of Paintings
On view Hungarian National Gallery Building C, First Floor, Art in the 19th Century – History Painting, South Corridor

Bertalan Székely, one of the most prominent artists of history painting in Hungary, was a representative of the patriotic trend based on the traditions of 1848. The symbolism of his history paintings always refers to his own time, mostly analysing the questions of lost national independence. He was particularly fond of depicting the fights for liberation against the Ottomans, as these themes had a multi-layered symbolism: apart from the sacrifice for the motherland, they implied the protection of Christianity and the expression of more general human sentiments. This painting elaborates a tragic event of the battle of Mohács, the finding of the body of King Louis II who was wounded in the battle and drowned in the flooding Csele stream. Laying great weight on historical authenticity, Székely ― staying in Munich at the time ― depicted the scene on the basis of a letter by Ferenc Sárffy, captain of the castle of Győr, who took part in the battle. The composition, the movements, the faces, as well as the treatment of light and colours all serve the more effective conveyance of complex emotions with the tools of romanticism. The intricate symbolism of the painting refers to the suppression of the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848―49, to the national mourning and to profound human feelings. Owing to the perfect unity of form and content the picture mediates at very high artistic level the feeling of grief caused by the lost battle and by death in a melancholic mood enveloping the spectator as well. | Zsuzsanna Bakó

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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