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18 May 2014

Boticelli in Esztergom

The close connection between the gradually unravelled frescoes of Esztergom and Botticelli’s art is itself perhaps more significant. And by the same token, we hope to see more clearly the precedents to the commission of Botticelli’s first authentic work, the Allegory of Fortitude (Florence, Uffizi Gallery), painted in the Mercanzia of Florence in 1470.

The news was first announced at an international conference in Florence in 2007 entitled Humanism and Renaissance in Hungary.1 Painting conservator Zsuzsanna Wierdl and I presented the major findings of art historical and conservation research which has been underway in Esztergom since 2000. The restorer has been cleaning the Renaissance frescoes discovered in 1934–38 of the marks of later interventions.2 These include, first and foremost, cement fillings applied during the excavation, petrified grains of soil remnants on the surface, the drawn and painted additions from the restorations of the 1950s and 1970s, and the paraloid coating. The exposed representations thus reveal the painter’s original ideas in a manner never before seen by art historians. Restoration began in 2000, when the Centre for Monument Conservation solicited bids for the salvaging and conservation of the mediaeval and renaissance frescoes in the castle of the first capital of the Hungarian Kingdom, Esztergom. The competition was won by Zsuzsanna Wierdl, an ICCROM graduate, who first studied at the Conservation Institute of the University of Fine Arts in Budapest.
Her references included laudations for her conservation work involving important mediaeval wall paintings in and around Rome. She was clearly the most qualified applicant for the job in Esztergom, as indeed her efforts over the course of the past ten years have demonstrated. Numerous unforeseeable complications have arisen since Wierdl undertook her work, and the cost of the
project has exceeded the funds allocated in 2000, but her expertise and experience have enabled her to address these tasks with conscientiousness, enthusiasm, and selflessness.

The news was first announced at an international conference in Florence in
2007 entitled Humanism and Renaissance in Hungary.1 Painting conservator
Zsuzsanna Wierdl and I presented the major findings of art historical and
conservation research which has been underway in Esztergom since 2000. The
restorer has been cleaning the Renaissance frescoes discovered in 1934–38 of the
marks of later interventions.2 These include, first and foremost, cement fillings
applied during the excavation, petrified grains of soil remnants on the surface,
the drawn and painted additions from the restorations of the 1950s and 1970s,
and the paraloid coating. The exposed representations thus reveal the painter’s
original ideas in a manner never before seen by art historians.
Restoration began in 2000, when the Centre for Monument Conservation
solicited bids for the salvaging and conservation of the mediaeval and renaissance
frescoes in the castle of the first capital of the Hungarian Kingdom, Esztergom.
The competition was won by Zsuzsanna Wierdl, an ICCROM graduate, who first
studied at the Conservation Institute of the University of Fine Arts in Budapest.
Her references included laudations for her conservation work involving
important mediaeval wall paintings in and around Rome. She was clearly the
most qualified applicant for the job in Esztergom, as indeed her efforts over the
course of the past ten years have demonstrated. Numerous unforeseeable
complications have arisen since Wierdl undertook her work, and the cost of the
project has exceeded the funds allocated in 2000, but her expertise and
experience have enabled her to address these tasks with conscientiousness,
enthusiasm, and selflessness. In cooperation with specialists from the mural
painting scientific committee of ICOMOS, of which she is president, she
explored the original details and subsequent additions of the frescoes, including
the cement fillings and subsequently added layers of paint, using the most upto-
date methods of physical examination and photo-technical procedures (the
latter of which were first applied to wall paintings here). Wierdl has been
cleaning the figural frescoes alone for some ten years now. It should be noted that
the call for bids in 2000 called for the restoration of all the painted wall surfaces
of the Esztergom castle, amounting to several square meters and including
hundreds of broad-stones with fresco fragments. In other words, the undertakingwas not restricted to the renaissance frescoes. By now, the examination of the
mural paintings in the castle chapel dating from five different periods has been
completed, and much of the surfaces of these paintings has been cleaned.3
These works represent the highest artistic standards and technical craftsmanship
of the time in Europe, in particular the late 12th century ornamental medallions
with lions from the time of Béla III,4 parts of the half-length figures of apostles
from the Angevin times, and the cycle from the life of Christ.5We have not been
able to identify the masters of the 12th and 14th century frescoes, since at that
time artists did not yet emphasize their individual personalities the way they did
in the 15th century, when they often went so far as to include their names as well.
The allegories of virtues, appearing in situ under the arches of a painted loggia
on the northern wall of the first-floor great hall of the royal palace, are products
of an artist in possession of extraordinary philosophical and emotional wealth, a
poetic disposition and dynamic, decorative drawing skills. The wall paintings arefragmentary, since the higher levels of the palace had collapsed during the
Ottoman wars and the debris had been deposited in the first-floor rooms. The
defenders of the castle also filled this level in order to create a gun-emplacement,
so the frescoes were buried for 340 years, from 1595 to 1935. During this time
the surface layer of the frescoes painted à secco was almost completely destroyed.
The pictures visible today are usually the underdrawings, applied with the
impulse of inspiration onto the fresh layer of plaster. While cleaning the surface,
the restorer has found several tiny details that are invisible to the naked eye: gold
and azurite grains, remnants of the completed frescoes, which have signal
importance in the identification of the artist. They offer no small compensation
for the loss of the originally finished form of the fresco. The cleaned images reveal
signs of the artist’s creative process, subtle lines scratched with the silverpoint,
brush strokes tracing these lines, and the compositional changes through which
the painter was trying to find the most adequate artistic solution to render the
allegories of virtue as expressively as possible. For example, the first version of the
figure of Temperance, depicted head held upright, was later changed so that the
head is now tilted slightly to the left. This has resulted in a more concentrated
composition suggesting a more intense focus on the act of pouring. The client
who ordered the paintings probably made it a point to emphasize that the
pictures of the fundamental, cardinal virtues, which ensured the happiness of the
individuals and through them of society (as described in Aristotle’s Nichomachean
Ethics), should admonish the mid-15th century scholars, statesmen, and visitors
to the palace to follow them unwaveringly. Even the underdrawings of the
allegories of virtue in Esztergom seem to proclaim this intention! It is to the
credit of the client who ordered the frescoes that he found and picked
(presumably from among many candidates) this very artist, who espoused the
client’s goal and visualized the fundamentals of Man – the virtues that make him
truly human – with captivating artistic force, sure craftsmanship, and
extraordinary talent. The head of the allegory of Temperance is shown in at least
three postures, as indicated by the shifts of the eyes, crown of hair and ear. The
changes, drawn with a firm hand, seem not the work of an assistant slavishly
imitating the master’s sketches, but rather the work of the master himself.
Who was this artist? The question has preoccupied specialists and hosts of
visitors since the discovery of the frescoes seventy years ago. Professor Tibor
Gerevich, president of the National Committee of Historic Monuments and
director of the Archaeological Institute of Pázmány Péter University of Sciences
and the Hungarian Academy in Rome (and also a noted expert on 14th and 15th
century Italian art) offered no opinion on this question. In 1948 Jolán Balogh
presented a document dated 1494 that included the name Magister Albertus
pictor Fiorentinus, a witness in a legal procedure in Esztergom.6 There is no
further information about this painter or his work, but the decisive argument
against connecting him to the Esztergom frescoes concerns style: the formalidiom of the allegories of virtue and the painted architecture of the loggia
surrounding them represent the style of the mid-15th century, in keeping with
the requirements worded by Leon Battista Alberti.7
In 1962–70 former assistant of Tibor Gerevich Dr. Zoltán Nagy served as
director of the Esztergom Castle Museum. His primary research interest was the
art patronage of János Vitéz, archbishop of Esztergom. He only touched on the
question of the master of the frescoes in passing, indicating to affinities with
works by the master of the Tarocchi del Mantegna pictures.8
I also began my art historical career in the Castle Museum of Esztergom. I was
the first to demonstrate connections between the allegories of virtue and the art
of Filippo Lippi (1406–69).9 I did not attribute the frescoes to the master, but
rather to one or more of his numerous pupils. The condition of the frescoes at the
time did not allow for a more accurate attribution, since they still bore the
additions of conservators from the 1950s–’60s.
The millenary year of 2000 marked a new phase in research concerning the
Esztergom frescoes. Continuous cleaning has revealed novel surprises day by day.
The beauty, decorative richness, youthful vigour and deeply poetic appeal of the
emerging figures – all the features of form and content, that is – make it seem
increasingly apparent that the frescoes are the work of Botticelli. The head of the
allegory of Fortitude shown in profile and the Hora face in the Birth of Venus, for
instance, are exemplary. The reproduction shows the infrared photo of the
Fortitude figure before the recent cleaning, revealing the first drawing sketchedinto the fresh plaster by the painter. This bears startling affinities with the
profoundly sensitive depiction of the Hora head. The subtle differences between the
outlines of the two profiles prove that it is not a copy of the Birth of Venus, but a
new, original creation by the same artistic hand. This is indicated by the slightly
opened lips of the Fortitude figure and the somewhat more arched line of the nose,
which can be seen in other Botticelli works, such as a slightly upward glancing
female figure in the Temptation of Christ fresco in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican.
Over the years Zsuzsanna Wierdl has studied the technical procedures of 15th
century Italian painters, particularly the works of Filippo Lippi and his disciples,
and she has established beyond question that the master of the Esztergom
frescoes sketched the composition as a brush drawing typical of Filippo Lippi’s
art. This brush drawing, however, is traced on a feather-light silverpoint drawing,
which in turn is characteristic exclusively of Botticelli’s frescoes and may derive
from goldsmith’s art.10 As is well-known, Botticelli began his artistic studies with
his brother, a goldsmith, and continued with Filippo Lippi. The master thought
so highly of his pupil that he entrusted him with the teaching of his son FilippinoLippi. Nonetheless, when Filippo and his pupils went to Spoleto to execute
a major commission – the decoration of the huge sanctuary of the cathedral –
Botticelli was not among them. Yet no monographer of Botticelli has ever
wondered why he did not go to Spoleto. Where was he, what was he doing at
that time? It seems by no means improbable that he had received an even more
momentous commission. One can only hope that thorough research in the
archives will reveal relevant information, but the close connection between the
gradually unravelled frescoes of Esztergom and Botticelli’s art is itself perhaps
more significant. And by the same token, we hope to see more clearly the
precedents to the commission of Botticelli’s first authentic work, the Allegory of
Fortitude (Florence, Uffizi Gallery), painted in the Mercanzia of Florence in 1470.
The slightly turned head of the young female figure, her eyes gazing into the
distance and her face, which emanates divine wisdom, are rendered very similarly
to the allegories of virtue in Esztergom. The three-quarter face and the lifted arm
with the pointed elbow – a feature recurring in several of Botticelli’s works – also
bear strong affinities with the Temperance figure of Esztergom.
TheIn May 1470, Botticelli was commissioned by Tommaso Soderini, an adherent of
the Medici family and one of the six directors of the Mercanzia, to paint two
allegories of virtue for the Tribunale, the courtroom of the Mercanzia palace. The
widely acknowledged painter of Florence Piero Pollaiuolo (1443–96), who had
received a commission from the Mercanzia to paint all seven allegories of virtue
a month earlier (on 18th December, 1469), contested the new commission. He
took the case to court. During the deliberation, Soderini, supported by the
Medici, prevailed in his efforts to ensure that at least one of the seven allegories
of virtue be painted by Botticelli, the Allegory of Fortitude, which was completed
in 1470. This story is well known in art history, but no one has ever asked what
made Tommaso Soderini commission a young painter unknown in Florence to
paint pictures when he had already arrived at an agreement with the prominent
painter of the town a few months earlier. Moreover, why was he able to get
support for this unlawful commission at the court trial? Thus, the allegory of
Fortitude by the young, then unknown Sandro Mariano was set next to the six
paintings by Piero Pollaiuolo in the courtroom of the Mercanzia. Today, they can
be viewed together in the Uffizi Gallery. Botticelli’s stands out among them by
virtue of its intellectual superiority and deep spirituality, as well as its decorative
quality, which far surpasses the rest of the pictures. One cannot help inquiring
why the prominent client wished to disrupt the unity of the cycle. Why was he
so eager to acquire at least one painting by a no-name artist for Florence’s
Mercanzia palace, even at the cost and risk of a legal procedure? One possible
explanation could be that at a place of prominence somewhere outside Florence
this painter had already earned fame with his representations of the allegories of
virtue. News of this achievement must have reached Florence in 1470, after the
commission was issued to Pollaiuolo. It was important for the Medici – and even
worth a court trial – to have at least one of the allegories by this painter near the
town hall, the Signoria. Where had Botticelli painted the figures that had
brought his name into such great repute, and who had commissioned the work?
It seems unlikely that they would have been done in any other city state or ducal
court in Italy, as none had the prestige of Florence or the leading Medici family.
There were, however, neighbouring states of considerable importance to
Florence. Florentine merchants and bankers had subsidiaries and depots in
various countries in Europe, and through these channels a network of artistic
relations evolved as well.
In the 15th century the Hungarian Kingdom was saliently important for Florence.
Hungary represented a safe place for Florentines to accumulate wealth and earn
fame, particularly following the career of Filippo Scolari (+1427), who turned
from a merchant’s apprentice into the leading military commander and hence the
mightiest lord of the kingdom in the service of the Hungarian king Sigismund of
Luxemburg. It was natural for Masolino da Panicale to give up his commission to
decorate the chapel of Felice Brancacci, Florentine ambassador to Cairo, andcomply with an invitation to go to Hungary. Though no works created by
Masolino in Hungary survive, it was there that he met cardinal Branda
Castiglione, from whom he would later receive commissions in Rome and
Castiglione d’Olona that contributed significantly to the consummation of his art.
In the eyes of the Florentines, the Kingdom of Hungary had stood in some esteem
for over a century. Dante’s undying masterpiece of the early 14th century, the
Divine Comedy, which has a whole chapter (Paradiso, Canto VIII) extolling the
titular Hungarian king Charles Martel of Anjou (1271–95) and Hungary, was
well known in the 15th century. Charles Martel, the first-born son of Charles I of
Anjou, king of Naples and Mary of Hungary, the daughter of the Hungarian kingStephen V, was heir to the Neapolitan throne. He was received with great
ceremony by Dante on behalf of the city of Florence in 1294. Charles Robert
I, the son of Charles Martel, was king of Hungary from 1308. I In the socioeconomic
and cultural reorganization of the country Charles Robert relied largely
on the Florentines as well. One sign of this was the introduction of a currency on
Florentine model, the golden florin. Throughout the 14th century Florence gave
testimonies of its respect for the Hungarian Kingdom. One notable manifestation
was the festive reception – despite the papal prohibition – of Louis the Great of
Anjou on his way against Naples. From the early 15th century, when Sigismund
of Luxemburg’s reign in Hungary had been consolidated, and later, during the 32
years when Matthias Corvinus was in power, the involvement of the Florentines
in the economic and cultural life of the Hungarian kingdom increased.
Bernardo Vespucci of Florence, brother to Amerigo, spent many years in Buda during
Matthias’ reign as a job agent for Florentines. Large numbers of Italian – mainly
Florentine – merchants and craftsmen arrived in Hungary, including outstanding artists,
such as Chimenti Camicia, Benedetto da Maiano, Giovanni Dalmata, and others.
As part of the search for clues as to the identity of the master of the Esztergom
frescoes, a search that has been going on for years, art historians have thoroughly
investigated the art of Filippo Lippi and his contemporaries and pupils. The
findings were presented in a separate volume of studies.11
It will unquestionably take several more years for restorers to complete the work
of cleaning the renaissance frescoes of Esztergom. Nonetheless, the research
undertaken by both conservators and art historians so far offers persuasive
evidence in support of the contention that the entire mural decoration of the
studiolo was designed on the basis of a unified artistic conception. The whole room
was decorated by a single artist, as the research of art historians and technical
specialists clearly suggests. It seems likely, considering the aforementioned
details of history and the relationships between the two countries at the time,
that this painter was the young Sandro Mariano of Florence, who was twenty
years old at the time.
It is highly likely that Sandro was also encouraged by Bernardo Vespucci to set
out on the long road to the Hungarian Kingdom. The Vespucci family was in the
highest echelons of society in Florence: they gave three gonfaloniers and 24
priors to the city between 1350 and 1524. Their palace is in the Ognissanti
neighbourhood of the city, in Borgo Ognissanti, next to the Ospedale di Santa
Maria dell’Umilta, which they founded around 1382. Sandro Mariano’s father,
master tanner Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, purchased a house in Via Nuova (today
Via del Porcellana) opening at the side of the Vespucci Palace. The Mariano and
Vespucci families became next-door neighbours. Later the Vespucci family
commissioned Botticelli, already of great renown in Florence, to paint the fresco
Saint Augustine in his Study for their family chapel in the Ognissanti. It is still one
of the finest ornaments of the church.In the light of all this, it would be no surprise to find the twenty-year-old Sandro
Mariano among the hosts of Italian, particularly Florentine merchants and artisans who
came to work in Hungary. Given the lack of written documents (so far), conjectures
concerning his activity in Esztergom rest on observation of the form and content of the
in situ frescoes, which however have as much persuasive force as any written mention.
WHO COMMISSIONED THE FRESCOES IN ESZTERGOM?
Recent findings confirm the hypothesis made by art historian Antal Leopold in the
1930s and 1940s, notably that the chancellor of King Matthias and archbishop of
Esztergom János Vitéz was the client who ordered the frescoes for his study.12 He began
his administrative career in King Sigismund’s chancery. After the death of King Albert
in 1439, he became the leader of the group of magnates actually governing the
country: they elected Vladislav I Jagiello king of Hungary to rule during the infancy
of King Ladislas V and then put János Hunyadi at the helm of the country. Later, Vitéz
also served as Ladislas’ chancellor, and when the king died he freed Matthias Hunyadi
(Corvinus), who had been detained by Czech George of Poděbrady, and helped him to
the throne. After six years of diplomatic wrangling, Vitéz got the Hungarian Holy
Crown back from Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. At the same time, Europe
lauded him as Lux Pannoniae for his humanist erudition and patronage of the arts.
The surviving letters and orations of János Vitéz13 clearly reveal that the governing
principle of his life was to promote the reign of virtues. The painted allegories of the
virtues, known for some two-thousand years from Aristotle’s Ethics, survive on the
walls of the first-floor room of the archiepiscopal palace, on the ‘piano nobile’. The
attributes of the solemn female figures of the allegories and the inscriptions above
them clearly indicate their identities: PRUDENTIA, TEMPERANTIA,
FORTITUDO, and JUSTITIA. On the basis of the fresco fragments, research has
established that the painted loggia ran around the studiolo on all four walls, providing
room for at least twelve figures. 15–16th century literary and art relics usually feature
exactly twelve virtues.14 Above the allegories of virtue of the Esztergom palace,
allegories of the planets were designed in a triumphal procession, as suggested by the
fresco fragments of the collapsed vault of the room, such as the armoured figure of
Mars, the god of war, standing above a chariot wheel, lion legs, an eagle, etc. Architect
Dezsõ Várnai already pieced together the archivolt of the vaulting in 1935. It showed
the constellations, the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Thus, above the allegories of virtue
the cosmos triumphed, in accordance with the program prescribed by the archbishop
who ordered the work, just as it triumphs in Dante’s vision of the first seven spheres
of Paradise, in which each virtue is controlled by a planet. Above the theological virtues
Faith, Hope, and Love, the Moon, Mercury and Venus appear, while the cardinal
virtues are governed by the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Prudence triumphs in the
Sun, Fortitude in Mars, Justice in Jupiter and Temperance in Saturn.Knowledge about the close connection between man and the planets was transmitted
from the ancient East to Europe by Hellenism. It was disseminated widely from the
13th century with the translation of the Arabic astrological writings into Latin. This
knowledge was greatly improved upon by the scholars – physicists, mathematicians
and astronomers – of 15th century humanism. One of the European centres of this
scholarship was the court of János Vitéz in Nagyvárad (today Oradea, Romania) and
later in Esztergom. It was on his commission that Georg Peuerbach, professor of
Vienna University, made tables that helped calculate the eclipses of the moon and the
sun in advance. They are called Tabulae Varadienses, as they took the longitude of Várad
as the prime meridian. Peuerbach sent his work to János Vitéz, bishop of Várad,
together with an eloquent letter in which he extolled the bishop’s scholarly merits and
outstanding library. The book was a standard manual of European astronomers for two
hundred years. A pupil of Peuerbach, Regiomontanus was also glad to comply with
Archbishop János Vitéz’s invitation in 1465 to come and teach astronomy in
Esztergom at the Academia Istropolitana. The archbishop had an observatory built for
him in Esztergom and had various instruments produced so that he could continue
with his research. Regiomontanus worked out the tables of the paths, orbits and
declinations of the planets in Esztergom and dedicated them to the archbishop.His dedication includes the following: “Thou art adorned with an awe-inspiring measure
of scholarship and virtuosity. Although thou art ready to learn from the practitioners of
the sciences, thou surpassest all of them with the wealth of thy knowledge. We who have
come to thee as teachers acknowledge that we are thy pupils.”15
Archbishop János Vitéz’s character, which also shaped his activity as a politician, was
admired throughout Europe. In a letter in which he dedicated his work on Man, De
homine, to János Vitéz Galeotto Marzio writes, “Who could be a worthier possessor of
this book on Man than the most outstanding one, who alone among all his
contemporaries deserves to be called Man in the strictest sense of the word? Searching
all over the world, I have found no one whom I could compare with thee.”16
Johannes Argyropulos, who was the first person to publish the Latin translation
of Aristotle’s works, dedicated the four books on the sky to János Vitéz: “If
outstanding works are to be dedicated to outstanding persons, who else can
I dedicate this work to but thee?... Father, it has reached us that thou art
outstanding and perfect... thou art praised as one who is temperate, persevering,
just and wise. Thy generosity and splendour, great intellect and rare amiability
are blazoned... Receive, my wisest Father, this work, which I have translated from
Greek into Latin for thee and for thy delight.”
Yet another facet of primate and royal chancellor János Vitéz’s character was his
patronage of the arts. The thirty-six known volumes of his famous library17 and theirsplendid painted ornamentation – outstanding among the European libraries of his
time – offer clear proof of the archbishop Vitéz’s versatile humanist culture and great
artistic sensitivity. Aware of the formative impact of art on man and society, he must
have deemed it important to depict the moral principles – the foundations of
individual and society – at the highest artistic level in his representative first-floor
working room, also the reception room, of the archiepiscopal palace.
It is noteworthy that the Signoria of Florence wrote two letters to the archbishop
of Esztergom János Vitéz in 1469 asking him reverently to intercede with King
Matthias as his chancellor and persuade him not to pay heed to the machinations
of Venice and not to break relations with Florence. In tribute, the city of Florence
also sent the archbishop a lion at the same time.18 This indicates that Florence was
in direct contact with Archbishop János Vitéz and deeply respected his authority.
In 1943, towards the end of his life, the noted humanist Vespasiano da Bisticci
(1421–98) of Florence – who provided for the mightiest personages of the
cultured world from his large copying workshop and book trade and was
personally related to most of them – recorded the lives of 120 humanists
grouped by social rank. After the popes and kings, his narratives of the lives of
the 28 archbishops and bishops also include a profound eulogy of the archbishop
of Esztergom János Vitéz. He writes, “the castle of Esztergom, which he has
formed in large part, was the finest one in the world.” He expresses his great
admiration “for the famous Greco-Latin library in which all important works
could be found. He invited painters, sculptors, marquetry artists and masters in
all branches of the arts to elevate his country to higher standards. His career as
statesman and politician has always been governed by the moral virtues.”19 The
warm tone and intimacy of the biography suggests that Vespasiano da Bisticci knew
János Vitéz personally. He embarks with deep pity on the archbishop’s political clash
with king Matthias, in which he was led by his love for the country. The details of
the description of Vitéz’s arrest and detention by the king and his subsequent death
reveal that the narrative was written by an eye-witness. The fact that Vespasiano da
Bisticci considered it imperative to record the events of Vitéz’s life some twenty years
after his death offers further evidence of the respect he had for the archbishop.
WHEN MIGHT THE FRESCOES OF ESZTERGOM HAVE BEEN PAINTED?
As noted above, on the basis of the critical analyses of the style of the frescoes
one can date the representations of virtue the mid-15th century. Also, mention
has been made of János Vitéz’s scientific work and role as a patron of scholarship,
which earned him the Lux Pannoniae title. Again, it is common knowledge that
he did much for the schooling of Hungarian youth, the best known of whom was
Janus Pannonius, and that he was the founder and chief chancellor of the
Hungarian university of the age of King Matthias, the Academia Istropolitana.20The internationally renowned university of four faculties equipped with papal
permission and equal rights to Bologna opened its gates in Esztergom on June
20th, 1467. Prominent scholars of Europe were only too glad to give up their
chairs in Vienna, Paris, or Krakow for a teaching post in Esztergom, because they
knew János Vitéz, who provided them with auspicious conditions for research
and publication. One should keep in mind that Vitéz had an observatory built for
Regiomontanus to promote his research in Esztergom. He lent considerable
support to the natural sciences. The painted decoration of János Vitéz’s palace in
Esztergom as the visual presentation of the program of the university was most
likely completed by the festive inauguration of the university. Since János Vitéz
was appointed archbishop in 1465, one can presume that the frescoes were
painted between 1465 and 1467. This dating might also shed light on the
beginning of Botticelli’s career, on the background of the artist’s first known
commission (so far), the painting of the Allegory of Fortitude for Florence’s
Mercanzia in 1470. When Botticelli appeared in Florence in 1470, he had not
only won this significant commission, but had also founded a workshop of his
own. His pupils included the son of his master Filippo Lippi, Filippino. He would
not have had such great prestige and wealth had he not been in possession of
great artistic achievements that had already won him considerable renown.
1 Prokopp Mária: Gli affreschi quattrocenteschi dello Studiolo del Primate del Regno d’Ungheria a Esztergom: una
nuova attribuzione. Firenze, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The
proceedings of the conference are forthcoming.
2 Prokopp – Vukov – Wierdl: Az Erények nyomában [In the wake of The Virtues], Budapest, Studiolo, 2009.
3 Wierdl Zsuzsanna: Az esztergomi palotakápolna és a Vitéz János – Studiolo falképeinek restaurálása
[Restoration of the palace chapel and the frescoes in János Vitéz’s Studiolo in Esztergom castle].
Mûemlékvédelmi Szemle, XI (2001), 1–2, 89–110. – Prokopp Mária: Új eredmények Vitéz János esztergomi
érsek dolgozószobájának falképeirõl [New findings about the frescoes of the study in archbishop of Esztergom
János Vitéz’s study], Debreceni Disputa, 2007, V (2007), 7–8, 113–121. – Prokopp Mária: Az esztergomi Vár
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5 Prokopp Mária: Az esztergomi várkápolna falképeinek stílusvizsgálata [Stylistic analysis of the frescoes in
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6 Balogh Jolán: Magister Albertus pictor florentinus. Annuario, 1947, Istituto Ungherese di Storia dell’Arte,
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7 Prokopp Mária: Johannes Vitéz, arcivescovo di Esztergom e Leon Battista Alberti, in: In memoriam Hajnóczi
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birthday of Mária Prokopp], Budapest, CentrArt Egyesület, 2009, 171–176.
8 Nagy Z: Ricerche cosmologiche nella corte umanistica di Giovanni Vitéz. In: Rapporti veneto-ungheresi
all’epoca del Rinascimento. Ed. T. Klaniczay, Budapest, 1975, 65–93. – Nagy Zoltán: A Nap diadala a Mátyás
Kálvária talapzatán [The triumph of the Sun on the foot of the Matthias Calvary]. In: Filológiai közlöny,
1968/3–4, 435–460.
9 Prokopp Mária: Vitéz János esztergomi palotája [The Esztergom palace of János Vitéz], Memoria Saeculorum
Humgariae, 2: Janus Pannonius, Budapest, 1975, 255–264. – Prokopp Mária: Italian Renaissance Frescoes in
the Castle of the Hungarian Archbishop at Esztergom, Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh Smyth, II,
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10 Prokopp – Vukov – Wierdl: Az Erények nyomában [In the wake of the Virtues], Budapest, Studiolo, 2009,
36–74.
11 Prokopp Mária: Az esztergomi vár reneszánsz falképeinek stílusvizsgálata a 2000-tõl folyó restaurálással
párhuzamosan [Stylistic analysis of the renaissance frescoes in Esztergom castle parallel with restoration work
since 2000]. In: Prokopp – Vukov – Wierdl: Az Erények nyomában [In the wake of the Virtues], Budapest,
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12 Lepold Antal: Vitéz János esztergomi dolgozószobája [János Vitéz’s study in Esztergom]. Szépmûvészet, 1944, 115–119.
13 Boronkai Iván: Vitéz János levelei és politikai beszédei [The letters and political speeches of János Vitéz],
in: Magyar Ritkaságok [Hungarian rarities], Budapest, 1987.
14 Knapp Éva: Egy XVII. század eleji vers képi hátteréhez [On the visual background of an early 17th century
poem], Omnis creatura significans. Tanulmányok Prokopp Mária 70. születésnapjára [Studies for the 70th birthday
of Mária Prokopp], Budapest, 2009, 375-382. – Jankovics József: “Akadtam egy picturára...” Rimay János és
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of János Rimay’s and Gáspár Madách’s allegorical poems with visual arts], Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 86
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15 Johannes De Königsberg: Tabulae directionum. Nürnberg, 1475. (The first printed publication)
16 Galeotti Narniensis: De homine, libro duo, Bazel, 1517.
17 Csapodi-Gárdonyi, Klára: Die Bibliothek des Johannes Vitéz, Studia Humanitatis, Budapest, 1984.
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in the shadow of the raven. János Vitéz and the beginnings of humanism in Hungary], exhibition at the
National Széchényi Library: 14 March–15 June 2008.
18 HAS Coll. of Manuscrips, Florentine document, collection of copies for the Historical Committee, Ms 4994/I.
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20 Prokopp Mária: Az egyetem-szervezõ Vitéz János esztergomi érsek [Archbishop of Esztergom János Vitéz,
the organizer of the university], in: Változatok a történelemre, Tanulmányok Székely György tiszteletére
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