The Hungarian National Gallery presents an exhibition of master and disciple. Franz Anton Maulbertsch, who moved from Lake Constance to Vienna, was the most radiant talent of 18th century painting north of the Alps, while Winterhalder evolved into an autonomous artist of great virtuosity from an eminent pupil. The younger painter who moved from the Black Forest to Moravia was the scion of a noted dynasty of sculptors. The forte of both artists was fresco painting; their works can be found all over Transdanubia, Lower Austria and Moravia. The exhibition has two optional entrances. On the right, it starts with Maulbertsch’ early works, his expressive light painting of the 1750s. The department of prints and drawings put on display 13 drawings and three autographic etchings with the “original” in oil of one of them (The Charlatan, 1785). The majority of painted sketches for frescoes and oil paintings can be paired with works in Hungary; they include the sketches for the high altar in Zirc, the frescoes in the parish churches of Sümeg and Pápa. Two outstanding bozzetti to the choir ceiling fresco of Győr cathedral are shown: one is a rough sketch in colour and the other is a grey (en grisaille) one improved in composition (Berlin, and Metropolitan Museum, New York, resp.). The signed Herod’s Banquet dated by Maulbertsch 1763 has come from the Roman Catholic Archiepiscopacy in Gyulafehérvár. An old-age masterpiece by Maulbertsch is the ceiling fresco of the Strahov Premonstratensian abbey in Prague painted in the breaks of his engagement in Szombathely (Revelation of Divine Wisdom in the History of Mankind). At the meeting point of the two self-contained sections of the exhibition the paintings of Szombathely cathedral are shown. The altar pictures were still by Maulbertsch, and after his death Winterhalder executed the ceiling frescoes after his master’s sketches. All the surviving eight altarpiece and fresco plans, modelli in oil, are exhibited. In spring 1945 the church was hit by a bomb which did not only destroy the ceiling fresco but also seriously damaged the huge Visitation painting of the high altar. It was rescued to the museum in hundreds of shreds and could only recently be reconstructed. This heroic restoring work is also displayed in the exhibition.
The Winterhalder collection selected by Brno art historians was shown in Langenargen, Maulbertsch’ birthplace this summer, and from Budapest it is to go to Olomouc. The first part presents “Maulbertsch’ best pupil” with two side altar pictures of the provosty of Hradistě (Pöltenberg) from 1766 (St John of Nepomuk and Education of the Virgin). The younger artist often took notes (ricordi) of Maulbertsch’ work, several of which are on display. In his excellent series of evangelists and church fathers (Nová Říše, Premonstratensian abbey) St Luke depicting the Virgin is a hidden self-portrait perpetuating his appealing personality. Apart from two altar pictures and a portrait, his oeuvre is also mainly represented by sketches: ten sheets by the diligent draughtsman, tiny sketches of detail in oil on cardboard chiefly for frescoes, and a few brilliantly colourful, fresh “small pictures” of known or lost works. The sketches for the ceiling frescoes of the abbey in Zábrdovice (Obrowitz, today part of Brno) are the connecting link back to Hungary: that work persuaded bishop János Szily that Winterhalder was worthy of continuing Maulbertsch’ work in Szombathely. Attempt is made in the catalogue and the exhibition to provide historical and art historical information necessary for the understanding of the works. However, the virtuosic and brightly colourful works themselves offer deep and attractive impressions of the late baroque modernism of the second half of the 18th century.
Curators of the exhibition: Anna Jávor, Zsuzsanna Boda