Thursday, January 03, 2013

Collection Databases of Hungarian Art Museums

2012 represented a sort of breakthrough for Hungarian art museums in the process of putting their collections online. When I wrote about the medieval holdings of Budapest museums about two years ago, there was not much to report on in this respect. The situation is now a lot better, and keeps improving - you can now find an increasing number of medieval art objects online. I will give a brief overview of each of these  databases.

Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Maso di Banco: Coronation of the Virgin
Florence, 1335-1340  
The Museum of Fine Arts launched two separate databases this year: one is a general collection database, which provides basic inventory data on thousands of artworks. Integrated into the newly rewamped museum website, the database is available in English as well - although the translation seems to have been made with a translation software, and contains a lot of peculiarities and inaccuracies. The quality of the images varies a great deal: in some departments (for example Sculpture) all the archival pictures seem to have made it into the database, while some objects are illustrated with just one image, or no image at all. You can browse the objects based on the collections and also by period, so it is fairly easy to get to the medieval and Renaissance objects. 

Florentine master: Siren in a medallion 
The Museum also launched another, more scholarly database: an online catalogue of Italian and French prints before 1620. The catalogue, containing 4.604 objects, is the first complete publication of a section from the rich collection of 100.000 prints preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts. The catalogue was edited by Eszter Seres and Zoltán Kárpáti, and provides detailed catalogue records of each print, as well as new, zoomable images. This material does not seem to be integrated into the general collection database mentioned above - so if you are after prints, you have to come to this specialized website. There are a few dozen 15th century prints in the collection as well.

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Book of Hours for Lodovico Gonzaga.
Florence, 1469-1478
The Museum of Applied Arts also launched its collection database, which is continuously being filled up with images and records, and currently contains over 2000 objects. There are plenty of medieval objects in this rich and varied collection of decorative arts, some of which have already appeared in the database. At this point, the database is only available in Hungarian, but an English language version is currently in preparation. The interface is very easy to use, and there are various ways to browse: by collection or with virtual tours, which present the material arranged according to various topics. Medium-size images can be downloaded for personal use after registration.

Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

Christ with two donors on a tympanum from Szentkirály
A large number of objects in the collection of the Hungarian National Gallery have been available on the museum's bilingual website for some time - including of course medieval artworks. These are accessible from the 'advanced search' page of the museum website - where you cannot really search, only browse according to various criteria (such as period or collection, or artist). You get to the same set of material if you start browsing via the collections, as represented in the permanent exhibition. Either way, you get relatively small images and only basic information - the basis of the information is a system separate from the collection management system used in the Gallery.

Christian Museum, Esztergom

Lord's Coffin from Garamszentbenedek,
 c. 1480

The Christian Museum is the largest ecclesiastical collection in Hungary, known for the versatility of its collections, conserving European and Hungarian works of art of several centuries. Besides late medieval works of art – including the Calvary Altarpiece by Thomas of Coloswar, the Lord’s Coffin from Garamszentbenedek, and the Passion scenes by Master MS –, the museum also has a significant collection of Italian Trecento paintings, as well as a rich collection of the decorative arts. The collection page of the website of the museum gives a generous selection of these objects - with rather small images, but good detailed information. Most important objects are also accessible in the form of a virtual tour

Museum of Ethnography, Budapest

Not having a medieval collection, the collection database of the Museum of Ethnography still holds some interest to readers of this blog: its collection includes a number of medieval objects, such as European furniture, ceramics and textiles. The website of the museum is available in English, but the collection database is only in Hungarian. Of the Hungarian Museum databases, this one contains the most objects: over 90.000, as well as number of photographs and other archival items. The Ethnological Archives also contain a lot of material about medieval buildings and wall-paintings, which is largely available online. Searching and navigating this database requires some working knowledge of Hungarian.

Medieval wall paintings from the demolished church of Maksa.
Photo by József Huszka, 1892 

You can also find the Museum of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Gallery (as well as soon the Museum of Applied Arts) in the Google Art Project as well, each represented by a handful of key objects. There is another way to find medieval objects from Hungarian museums: hundreds of them are incorporated into the REALonline database of the Institute für Realienkunde of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Just enter the database, get a list of "Institutionen" on the left side, and find Budapest in the scroll-down list. Museums apart from the ones mentioned above - including the Hungarian National Museum and the Budapest History Museum - have objects in this database. Along with Hungarian museum journals online, and the database of medieval charters (with photos of each document), a large amount of information about Hungary's medieval heritage preserved in public collections is thus now widely accessible.


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