An introspective pantheon: The Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum in the nineteenth century

An introspective pantheon: The Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum in the nineteenth... Abstract The Hungarian National Museum was founded in 1808 with an encyclopaedic scope, and its art collection – the Picture Gallery – was originally formed within this cross-disciplinary framework. The acquisition of objects classified as art was often motivated by historical interest or political significance, rather than aesthetic value. Nineteenth-century efforts to reshape this assemblage of objects as a fine art collection were hampered by the persistence of its historical context, especially in the case of the collection of Hungarian art. This article examines how this complex process was reflected in the permanent exhibitions of the Picture Gallery from the 1850s to the 1880s. The usual paradigm for the analysis of nineteenth-century art galleries is that of the ‘universal survey museum’, which separated works of art from their historical context and recontextualized them as parts of a purely art historical narrative.1 By guiding the visitor through the chronological development of different national schools, while also highlighting great masters and works of art worthy of special contemplation, such galleries not only promoted the idea of national difference, but also required a certain kind of polite, erudite, disinterested engagement which mirrored contemporary ideas of citizenship. Hence, as has often been emphasized, universal survey museums underpinned the ideology of the modern nation-state.2 Nationalist ambitions, however, manifested themselves in manifold ways in different regions of Europe: rarely did the circumstances allow a straightforward path towards a fully-fledged nation-state. The museums that came into being in the course of the century were just as diverse as the movements that engendered them – the model of the universal survey gallery was far from ubiquitous. Many publicly owned and managed art collections formed part of national museums with a broader disciplinary scope. In these collections fine art objects were integrated into a framework where historical and scientific interest played a much more decisive role than the ideas of aesthetic autonomy and disinterested contemplation. The Hungarian National Museum was one of these establishments. Founded in 1808 as an institute of ‘national scholarship’, its collection was to encompass all fields of knowledge. The fine art collection that gradually developed within this structure was shaped by these expectations. Consequently, the objects acquired by the museum were not necessarily selected for their aesthetic or art historical value. This does not mean that they did not have such a value to contemporaries, but in the context of the collection as a whole they conveyed a host of further meanings. The way those meanings came to be reconfigured in the course of the century reflected fundamental shifts not only in the role that art was expected to perform in society, but also in the relationship between museum, state and nation. This article will explore late nineteenth-century efforts to redefine the collection in terms of art history and the resistance encountered in the face of such endeavours. In particular, it was the collection of Hungarian art that proved difficult to integrate into an encompassing art historical survey. In its ideal form, the universal survey museum presents an apotheosis of the Western canon; hence, idiosyncratic, non-canonical phenomena can be awarded no more than an unstable position. Consequently, museums in the art historical ‘centre’ can adopt the model more easily, while institutions of the ‘periphery’ must negotiate the discrepancy between the prestige afforded by the authoritative model and the necessity of displaying their difference.3 Scholarship on museums and the nation-state tends to take for granted that displays of national art fitted smoothly into the system of schools and chronology: placed at the peak of the evolutionary process, they were supposed to demonstrate the superiority of national culture.4 This view, however, universalizes the position of the culturally and politically powerful states of Western Europe without accounting for the insecurities faced by ‘peripheral’ nations when engaging with the culture of the ‘centre’. Such insecurities made the relationship between national and international art more complex than a simple story of triumph. Furthermore, even when aiming for a universal survey, museums were limited by the scope of the collection at hand. This is typical of museums on the ‘periphery’, where possibilities for the acquisition of internationally renowned masterpieces were scarce.5 Hence, collections of local art vastly surpassed the international collections not merely in size, but in consistency. Suffused with idiosyncratic meanings that pointed beyond the aesthetic or the art historical, these collections had the potential to reflect a more nuanced, introspective, many-sided concept of national culture. Universal survey or national self-reflection? The history of the Hungarian National Museum began in 1802, when Count Ferenc Széchényi donated his large collection of books and documents to the Hungarian nation. The institution was effectively established in 1808, when the Hungarian Diet enshrined its existence in law (see Table 1).6 To aid the legislative process, the custos of the collections, Jakob Ferdinand Miller, compiled a memorandum detailing the functions of the institution, which was to comprise ‘all that belongs to national literature’.7 When detailing the planned sections of the museum building (yet to be constructed), Miller provided an outline of the envisioned collections: books and manuscripts; coins; antiquities and rarities; weapons; natural history; products of craftsmanship; stones, urns and statues; and – finally – representations of famous men.8 No collection of fine art was planned, and the works of art acquired in the next three decades were integrated into the above categories. Table 1. Outline history of the development of the national picture collection. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. View Large Table 1. Outline history of the development of the national picture collection. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. View Large The art collection – known as the Picture Gallery – was finally established in 1844, when the 190 paintings that Johann Ladislaus Pyrker, Archbishop of Eger and former Patriarch of Venice had donated to the museum in 1836, were finally transferred to Pest. The collection consisted mainly of Venetian Old Masters, but also contained a few nineteenth-century works, as well as Northern masterpieces such as a portrait by Albrecht Dürer.9 On 9 March 1845 the director of the museum, Ágoston Kubinyi founded the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery with the aim of complementing the Pyrker Gallery with a collection of Hungarian paintings by calling on artists and the public for donations.10 From that date onwards the Picture Gallery was not just a separate collection, but a constantly developing, living one. The establishment of a collection of paintings meant that the notions of art historical and aesthetic value were now present within the walls of the museum, but – at least in the case of the Hungarian collection – they did not function as exclusive guiding principles. Hungary was, at the time, part of the Austrian Empire, its political life suppressed after the failed Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–9. Cultural institutions such as the National Museum gained crucial importance as sites of public discourse. In a period when funding was scarce, most works of art were acquired thanks to gifts from the public, and such donations often expressed political sentiment.11 Most of these gifts enriched the Hungarian collection, underscoring its non-aesthetic nature. In 1867 Hungary and Austria ratified a treaty known as the Compromise. What was previously the Austrian Empire now became Austria-Hungary. Within its dual structure, Hungary enjoyed considerable autonomy and began asserting itself as a quasi-nation-state with its own government and centralized bureaucracy. The museum reforms that followed reinterpreted the art collections in accordance with this new situation. First of all, an art gallery was established as a separate institution. This was made possible by the purchase by government of the Esterházy collection, a rich assemblage of Old Masters formed by the wealthiest Hungarian aristocratic family.12 The works of art had been on loan to the Hungarian state since 1865 and exhibited at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, about two kilometres from the National Museum. Having passed into public ownership, the collection was renamed the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in 1871.13 In 1875 the pre-1800 art collections of the National Museum were transferred to this new institution. The picture gallery that remained in the main building of the National Museum was to display recent and contemporary art. The most important figure behind these developments was Ferenc Pulszky, director of the Hungarian National Museum from 1869 to 1894, as well as Chief Inspector of Museums and Libraries, Chairman of the Association of Fine Arts, and Member of the Hungarian Parliament representing the governing Liberal Party.14 Pulszky had studied law at university, but developed an interest in art and archaeology at an early date. Due to his involvement in the events of 1848–9 he was forced to emigrate and settled in London, where he pursued his antiquarian interests at the British Museum and took part in the activities of the Archaeological Institute. It was during this period of exile that his interest in museums crystallized and deepened. He became a passionate advocate of universal survey museums. In 1851 he presented a paper at University Hall, London, outlining his vision of an all-encompassing collection of global art, arranged by national schools and chronology, so that it would ‘give a perfect view of the history of art in every civilized nation’.15 Having returned to Hungary in 1865, Pulszky was soon in a position where he could put his ideas into practice. In an essay published in 1875 he reiterated the idea of a comprehensive survey museum – albeit a Eurocentric one – that would fill in the lacunae in its collections with copies and plaster casts.16 He also laid out a plan for transforming the newly founded State Picture Gallery and the Picture Gallery of the National Museum so that the former would become a collection of Old Masters and the latter an assemblage of modern art, both of them encompassing foreign and Hungarian works. To Pulszky, this was a process of modernization. He argued that ʻthe cultural level of different nations is demonstrated by the number and richness of their museums’; furthermore, museums ʻalso display what kind of political status a particular nation lays claim to in the world’.17 Setting up an art gallery that could compete on the world stage was an act of national self-representation. Pulszky’s reasoning presupposed that museums were fundamentally similar everywhere. Indeed, as new museums came into being, they took their cues from older counterparts elsewhere in Europe. In this vein, Pulszky’s vision of twin galleries was based on cities where collections of older paintings and sculpture were juxtaposed with galleries of more recent art – Paris or Munich, for instance. Nevertheless, even if the framework was general, the face of every collection was formed by individual factors – local history, politics, culture – which determined not only the decisions made by museum officials, but also the opportunities arising for acquisitions. Reforms based on universal models connected the institutions they reshaped to international discourses, but at the same time risked erasing the local specifics that made those institutions unique. This was a risk acknowledged by Arnold Ipolyi, art historian and president of the Hungarian Historical Society, who proposed a different model. For Ipolyi the National Museum should be reserved for objects from Hungary, that is, relics of local history and national culture. His model was the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, which, as he put it, ‘placed emphasis on the preservation not of the rare, the foreign, but of monuments from [Germany’s] own past’.18 Ipolyi’s and Pulszky’s opposing stances have been read as manifestations of an inward-looking nationalism and a more cosmopolitan, liberal worldview, respectively.19 This is certainly a valid interpretation, but not a completely satisfactory one, and not just because the viewpoints of both scholars were nuanced: Ipolyi had donated his ‘cosmopolitan’ collection of Old Master paintings to the State Picture Gallery in 1872, while Pulszky’s concept of a ‘universal’ museum on a par with the great institutions of the world was strongly connected to the nationalist – even if liberal – aims of the Hungarian state. The main difference between their opinions was not political, but museological. In order to understand this, it is worthwhile to quote a passage from Ipolyi’s speech: Our [national] development can undoubtedly become much more solid, secure and purposeful if we get to know the past better, including its strengths as well as its weaknesses. If we gain the ability to view it not just through the nimbus woven by poetry, amidst rays of glory, but also not simply through the lens of cold, disdainful scepticism provided by frigid erudition; not biased by one-sided, conservative or liberal political doctrines . . . or see it as empty and bare due to ignorance . . . These are the reasons why previous generations enthused for the past in a preposterous, empty way, and why today’s generation despises the past in its unconditional worship of future progress.20 In Ipolyi’s view, museum objects facilitated a qualified, realistic, and hence instructive understanding of the past, something that was – according to him – indispensable to national progress. Consequently, in this regard he did not draw a rigid line between archaeological and art historical objects, fine and applied art, high art and folk art. As monuments of national culture, all had historical value, a capacity to illuminate the past.21 By contrast, Pulszky’s ideas of museum reform relied on the clear separation of collections along disciplinary lines. The establishment of a gallery of Old Masters was only part of the process that saw the foundation of the museums of Applied Art and Ethnography, while the National Museum itself came to focus on archaeology and history.22 In the case of the fine art collections, the ultimate aim was to establish a separate museum that would house both the old and the modern collections;23 this was realized in 1906 with the opening of a new Museum of Fine Arts. In this model the fine arts constituted a distinct field of knowledge. The objects categorized as such were appreciated precisely because of an intrinsic value held to be independent of historical circumstances. The nascent discipline that dealt with them – art history – aimed to arrange these objects in narratives centred around the evolution of formal, stylistic qualities supposedly inherent to these objects. The discipline has undergone many changes since then. Art historians have critically reconsidered the depoliticized idea of ‘art’ and its history, questioning the universalism of categories such as ‘fine art’. From this viewpoint it is possible to disentangle Pulszky’s and Ipolyi’s opinions from the interpretational dichotomy of nationalism and cosmopolitanism and note how they raised questions familiar to anyone interested in museum policy today. Should museums serve aesthetic contemplation or historical education? Should they address the educated few or society as a whole? Should they concentrate on overarching narratives or on individual objects as unique sources of knowledge? On engaging with the local community or on drawing in tourists? It is not that Pulszky and Ipolyi necessarily represented the two poles of each of these questions, but their essays articulated positions within these coordinates. Ipolyi’s vision of a self-reflective display with a historical, rather than art historical focus acknowledged a fundamental aspect of the collection of Hungarian art: its intricate connections with Hungarian cultural and political life in a broader sense. It was not simply that the subject-matter of certain works, or the original reason for their acquisition was politically charged. The National Museum itself was a product of the very same context that produced the works of art, and developments in recent Hungarian art were inseparable from the expansion of the collection itself. Subject matter, style, reason and manner of acquisition belonged together in one inseparable whole. The following sections will argue that these characteristics of the collection were indeed made explicit in the displays on view from the 1850s to the 1880s. The persistence of contexts Following the reforms of the mid-1870s, when its Old Masters were transferred to the State Picture Gallery, the Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum underwent another great transformation in 1884, prompting a major rehanging of the galleries. The collection of portraits of famous personalities, up to that point an integral part of the collection, was now moved to a separate institution, the Historical Picture Gallery, set up in the so-called Castle Garden Bazaar near the Royal Palace. This decision, which changed fundamentally the character of the collection, was in line with the aims of the earlier reforms pointing towards a clarification of the profiles of the collections in terms of scholarly disciplines. The aim of the Historical Picture Gallery was to provide a fact-based overview of Hungarian history.24 As a consequence, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum had to become purely art historical, presenting a story of style and masterly skill, with historical context stripped out and relegated to the background. The problem was, however, that the collection itself was embedded in a rich historical context. It was still housed in the same building as the archeological and historical collections, and few visitors would have viewed it in true isolation. More importantly, the collection bore the marks of its history, of all the purposes it had to fulfil as part of the museum. Shedding those marks was not easy. When rehung in 1884, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum was conceived not with an overarching art historical narrative but as a tribute to certain great Hungarian artists. Thus, it reaffirmed one of the museum’s earliest purposes: that of a national pantheon. The idea of the pantheon had played a crucial role in the history of the Hungarian National Museum from the beginning.25 The previously mentioned memorandum compiled by Jakob Ferdinand Miller for the Hungarian Diet in 1807, listed a collection of ‘representations of famous men’ among the future sections of the institution.26 As the preliminary designs annexed to the memorandum show, this was to be placed in a prominent, central space on the upper floor of the building.27 In the Latin version of the text its name described its purpose concisely: ‘Pantheon’. The National Museum, as conceived in those early years, was to be ‘national’ in two senses. Firstly, it was to focus on objects related to Hungary – a limitation soon to be relaxed. Secondly, it was to be set up and maintained by the ‘nation’: that is, the Hungarian Diet, and all the noblemen and intellectuals interested in furthering ‘national scholarship’. Miller’s memorandum was effectively a plea calling for donations. The optimism he expressed regarding the ‘noble and generous Hungarian nation’ rose to its most endearing naïvety when discussing the Pantheon, for which ‘no funds whatsoever are needed, as all those who wish to display their ancestors to the public will have their portraits made and will bear all other related costs.’28 Apart from some sculptures in the collection of antiquities, the Pantheon was the closest thing the planned museum had to a fine art collection, but it was still very far from being one. This collection of pictures was to be based on the notions of history, nation and exemplary virtue; aesthetic value played no role whatsoever. In this regard the collection reflected its cultural context. In early nineteenth-century Hungary, the concept of the ‘nation’ referred to those members of society who enjoyed political rights: the nobility. The ideology that upheld this social order maintained that those rights had been acquired by heroic ancestors as a reward for their great deeds.29 With its documents from family archives, its tombstones, monuments, and Pantheon of heroes, the museum envisioned in Miller’s memorandum was based on these ideas. In the following decades the concept of the nation underwent radical changes in Hungary. In line with developments elsewhere in Europe, it came to function as a category that connected members of an ‘imagined community’ regardless of class, profession, education, or political rights. At the same time, the requirement of a separate collection of art, which would help refine public taste and educate young artists, became more and more pronounced. Nevertheless, the idea of the pantheon was not eclipsed by these new developments. On the contrary: one of the chief aims of the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery was to build a collection of portraits. As part of this project, it issued a plea to Hungarian artists to donate their self-portraits to the museum. The collection of portraits and self-portraits remained a prominent part of the collection and was exhibited separately, in its own rooms from the 1860s until its transfer to the Historical Picture Gallery in 1884.30 The empty space it left behind had to be filled: not simply in a material sense – by filling the rooms – but by rethinking and reconceptualizing the idea of the pantheon. The display on view from 1884 was curated by Antal Ligeti, a landscape painter employed as curator of the Picture Gallery since 1868. Ligeti incorporated the idea of the pantheon into the new hanging by dedicating three of the eight rooms (Rooms 3, 4 and 6) to three respective painters: Károly Markó the Elder (1793–1860), Mihály Munkácsy (1844–1900) and Mihály Zichy (1827–1906) (Figs 1–2).31 The busts of these artists were each placed in the centre of their respective rooms, and the displays in the rooms highlighted their achievements. Markó, a painter of Claude Lorrainesque landscapes who had lived in Tuscany and achieved international fame during his lifetime,32 was introduced as the father of Hungarian landscape painting; his bust was surrounded by a number of his own works and paintings by younger Hungarian landscapists. Munkácsy, who lived in Paris and made his name there with solemn peasant genre scenes, later earning further success with happier scenes set in Paris salons,33 was cast as a great representative of Hungarian genre painting: both of his works owned by the museum were displayed among a selection of genre paintings and other figurative compositions by nineteenth-century Hungarian artists. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide The Munkácsy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 486. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide The Munkácsy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 486. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide The Zichy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 487. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide The Zichy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 487. In this way, both Markó and Munkácsy were incorporated into narratives that told the history of one strand of recent Hungarian art. In the case of Zichy – a painter who had earned critical recognition in Paris and subsequently worked in the Russian imperial court34 – there was no such art historical narrative. The room dedicated to him displayed one of his works: the monumental Empress Elizabeth by the Bier of Ferenc Deák, which was surrounded by portraits of members of the imperial family by other artists. Ferenc Deák (1803–1876) was a Hungarian politician who had played a crucial part in the negotiation of the Compromise. The Zichy Room was not the only space in the museum where he was honoured: his personal belongings and wreaths from his funeral were displayed in a separate Deák Memorial Room.35 Hence it is hard to tell who the real protagonist of the Zichy Room was – but perhaps this is not in any case an important question. What is notable here is the seamless way in which the art historical pantheon could be integrated with a historical-political one: another reminder that art history did not – could not – exist in isolation within the National Museum. The history of the display on view in the Zichy Room is a particularly striking example of how narratives presented in museums are shaped by the political context. The portraits surrounding Zichy’s painting originated from the Habsburg Room the museum had to set up on imperial order in 1854. After 1867, the room was dismantled, and the portraits were interspersed among the other paintings.36 When the Historical Portrait Gallery moved out, these pictures remained. Centred around Zichy’s painting, which had been commissioned by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture, the imperial portraits acquired new meanings: they accentuated the greatness of a Hungarian politician who was – as the room as a whole suggested – admired even by the royals.37 The Zichy Room embodied the partly wishful, partly pragmatic ideology of the Compromise: the possibility of the Hungarian nation regaining the ancient glory so often visualized in history paintings, while remaining within the framework of the Empire. It should be evident by now how the Picture Gallery of the National Museum differed from the classic model of the universal survey. Instead of creating one triumphant narrative it presented a fragmented one, and instead of placing the national school at the pinnacle of art historical development it embedded it within a multi-disciplinary collection and hence into a historical context. At the same time, it eschewed recounting art historical developments outside the ‘national school’. The foreign paintings held by the gallery were somewhat randomly grouped in Rooms 5 and 7 (categorized into works by ‘significant’ and ‘lesser’ foreign masters) and little attempt was made to integrate them with the Hungarian collection.38 Nevertheless, the display of Hungarian works was anything but inward-looking. In fact, its most fundamental guiding principle was the relationship with the wide world. This was inherent in the choices made by the curator when he selected the three artists honoured in the gallery, for Markó, Munkácsy and Zichy had all risen to fame abroad. The celebration of ‘great’ artists was not alien to universal survey museums; in fact, it was on the interplay of individual greatness and historical progress that the concept of the universal survey hinged. At the Hungarian National Museum, however, the celebration of genius was conditional: it sought validation from outside. The greatness of Hungarian artist-heroes needed to be certified by the culture of the ‘centre’. Far from placing the national school at the forefront of international developments, this arrangement reflects a certain kind of inferiority complex. At the same time, on a more positive note, it allowed Ligeti to conjure up the European context of Hungarian art despite the scarcity of relevant foreign masterpieces in the collection. By involving the contacts between Hungarian artists and the international art scene, he placed Markó, Munkácsy, Zichy and all the others into a complex network of transnational interactions. This conceptualization of the relationship between national schools differed fundamentally from the competing parallel narratives offered by a ‘universal survey museum’. Telling stories The narrative structure of the 1884 hanging of the Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum diverged from the schools/chronology model, but that does not mean that it completely lacked narrative structure. Ever since the foundation of the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery in 1845, the exhibitions of the National Museum had been expected to catalyse and represent the emergence of a Hungarian national school39 – a requirement that presupposed a continuous storyline; preferably one of rise and triumph. The 1884 hang was conscious of this requirement; in fact, it addressed it from several angles and it was this very multifaceted nature that ultimately disrupted the underlying master narrative. The roots of the problem can, yet again, be traced in the history of the collection and its displays. The formal opening of the Picture Gallery in the recently constructed museum building40 was held in 1851. The displays on view at the time were far from satisfactory to those who expected art historical narratives. The three parts of the collection were clearly separated: the Pyrker Gallery occupied two rooms, the General Picture Gallery (which held all the foreign paintings originating from sources other than Pyrker’s gift) was placed in the largest space, a great hall with skylights, while the National Picture Gallery – the collection of Hungarian paintings assembled by the Association – was situated in the last two rooms.41 Art historical narratives failed to unfold within the individual collections. On one of the longer side walls of the General Gallery, two monumental history paintings by the Austrian Peter Krafft – the Coronation of Francis I and Zrínyi’s Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár – were displayed next to each other. On the opposite wall, the portrait of the museum’s founder, Ferenc Széchényi by Johann Ender (Fig. 3) was flanked by the portraits of Empress Maria Theresa and her consort, Francis of Lorraine by Martin van Meytens, which were in turn surrounded by two history paintings by the eighteenth-century Veronese artist Giambettino Cignaroli, The Death of Cato and The Death of Socrates. Critics voiced their dismay by pointing out that the arrangement lacked any logic other than symmetry.42 One reviewer declared that it amounted only to a ‘museum of curiosities’ and not a proper gallery.43 In his opinion, it was imperative to merge the three collections in order to create a chronological separation between Old Masters and modern paintings. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Johann Ender, Portrait of Ferenc Széchényi, 1823. Hungarian National Museum, Historical Picture Gallery. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Johann Ender, Portrait of Ferenc Széchényi, 1823. Hungarian National Museum, Historical Picture Gallery. Setting aside the expectation of a chronological arrangement, it is nevertheless possible to discern a logic in the hanging: it showcased the development of the collection. In the great hall, the central position of the portrait of the founder, Széchényi, requires no explanation. Besides alluding to the political framework, the Habsburg portraits surrounding it represented an important purchase: they came from the Jankovich collection an assemblage of books, documents, and pictures of historical interest – which had been bought in 1832.44 The two paintings by Krafft were among the first significant acquisitions: proposed by Palatine Joseph Habsburg, governor of Hungary and official protector (‘Principal’) of the museum, they had been commissioned by the Hungarian Diet and funded by a public campaign in 1825–6.45 They functioned as reminders of the Palatine’s patronage of the museum, as well as of the efforts of the Hungarian public. Finally, the Cignaroli paintings had been donated by Count Károly Andrássy in 1847 and thus stood for the contributions of further individuals. This commemoration of patrons fitted well into the idea of the museum as pantheon, but at the same time it also presented a special narrative: the history of the museum as an important and integral part of the recent cultural history of Hungary. Similarly, by keeping the Pyrker collection intact, the museum not only commemorated the archbishop as a great individual, but conceptualized Pyrker’s act of donation as a crucial event in that broader story. In 1851, art historical narratives had been abandoned in favour of historical context. By 1884 this was no longer acceptable – not only because the collection had grown significantly, reflecting the developments that had indeed unfolded in Hungarian art, but also because the idea that art galleries have to tell art histories had by then become widely accepted. Since the early 1870s the National Museum’s Picture Gallery had a counterpoint: the State Picture Gallery, the collection of Old Masters that had come into being as an independent art museum and was hence predicated on a distinctively art historical arrangement. That arrangement was itself subject to evolution. When the State Picture Gallery was established in early 1871, following the purchase of the Esterházy collection, the casual visitor might not even have noticed the change in ownership. The gallery was set up in the location it had occupied since 1865 – the top floor of the Academy of Sciences. In 1871, as in 1866, the paintings were grouped by schools (French, German, Netherlandish, various Italian and Spanish), but within those groups chronology was not always observed.46 The arrangement seems to have been a hybrid between the modern model of the universal survey (hence the separation into schools) and the more casual, decorative ‘gentlemanly hang’ typical of private collections before the age of museums.47 The employment of the custos who had worked for the Esterházys, Gusztáv Kratzmann, was continued by the Hungarian government.48 In 1875 the gallery had to be rehung due to the transfer of Old Masters from the National Museum to the Academy of Sciences.49 Major reorganization, however, took place only in 1881, after Kratzmann’s retirement. He was replaced by Ferenc Pulszky’s son, Károly Pulszky: a specialist in the Italian Renaissance who had studied art history at the University of Leipzig.50 As a contemporary article put it, the rehang was necessary because ‘the original Esterházy Gallery had not been set up with the most discerning critical sense and had not been divided into appropriate categories’.51 Now attributions were meticulously checked, a conservator was invited from Munich to restore the paintings, and the collection was grouped rigorously according to chronology and schools.52 Provisionally appointed as director of the State Picture Gallery after Kratzmann’s retirement, Antal Ligeti, the art curator of the Hungarian National Museum, collaborated with Pulszky on the rehang.53 He could have striven to arrange the National Museum’s paintings in a similar way but opted for something different. What he had in mind can only be deduced from the arrangement itself, because Ligeti was rather laconic when it came to articulating his curatorial principles. In an article explaining the previous (1876) rehang, he argued that the main thing was for the arrangement to conform to ‘practical and aesthetic requirements’, which meant that the most excellent works had to be highlighted, and colours and groupings had to be harmonious and proportionate.54 Instead of labelling this as an archaic viewpoint, it is more fruitful to interpret it as a proposal for an artistic approach, as opposed to a strictly scholarly one. Far from being naively decorative, the hanging on view after 1884 did indeed incorporate art historical narratives, and did so rather intricately. Apart from a few exceptions, Ligeti’s arrangement drew a clear line between Hungarian and foreign works. The first of the six rooms was occupied by copies of Old Master paintings produced by Hungarian artists. The second room – the large room with skylights – displayed works by Hungarian artists, mostly large-scale history paintings. The third and the fourth rooms were the Markó and the Munkácsy Rooms, described above. The fifth room, as Ligeti explained, contained paintings by significant nineteenth-century foreign painters; works by lesser ones were displayed in the seventh room. The sixth room was the Zichy Room, while the eighth and final room contained the bequest of Abbot Béla Tárkányi, consisting mostly of copies after Old Masters. The exhibition began and ended with copies. Copies of important masterpieces were essential to the idea of the comprehensive museum in the nineteenth century. For the story to be complete, certain canonical works of art had to be present – the grand art historical narrative hinged on them. This was part of Ferenc Pulszky’s vision of a universal survey museum.55 At the Picture Gallery of the National Museum, however, the copies were not there to represent the Old Masters on which they were based. Instead, they demonstrated the skills of the nineteenth-century Hungarian painters who had produced them. Providing young Hungarian artists with opportunities for copying had been one of the original functions of the Picture Gallery, and the fact that it could now display first-rate copies of canonical works from all over Europe could be seen as a sign that a flowering had finally begun. Displayed in the very first room, these copies stood both for humble beginnings and subsequent triumph, defining the narrative that followed as an evolutionary one: the story of the rise of Hungarian art(ists) through diligent learning. Accordingly, from the room of copies the visitor continued into the grand room with skylights to admire the highest genre, to which an academic education and the intimate study of Old Masters was thought to be essential: history painting (Fig. 4). Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide The room of history painting (the Great Hall) in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 489. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide The room of history painting (the Great Hall) in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 489. The hang of the history paintings seems to have aimed at drawing up their art historical, stylistic lineage. This is evident from the way Ligeti placed a few non-Hungarian history paintings among the Hungarian works. The monumental Nero Walking on the Ashes of Rome (1861) by Karl von Piloty, professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Art, occupied a central position on one of the longer walls. Next to it, to the right, Ligeti hung two paintings by Bertalan Székely, who had been Piloty’s student at the Academy. The Munich Academy, and Piloty in particular, played a significant role in the evolution of Hungarian history painting in the second half of the nineteenth century.56 Apart from Székely, three other important history painters had been Piloty’s students: Gyula Benczúr, Sándor Wágner and Sándor Liezen-Mayer. Ligeti’s acknowledgement of these connections is demonstrated by the somewhat startling juxtaposition of two very different paintings on the shorter wall: Liezen-Mayer’s depiction of the charity of St Elisabeth of Hungary (Fig. 5) and Benczúr’s drunken, nude Bacchante. The only thing that connects these two pictures is their relationship to Piloty and the Munich school. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Sándor Liezen-Mayer, St Elizabeth of Hungary, 1882. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Sándor Liezen-Mayer, St Elizabeth of Hungary, 1882. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Munich was a huge influence, but it was not the only one. Opposite Piloty’s monumental canvas Ligeti placed The Mourning of László Hunyadi (Fig. 6) by Viktor Madarász, a Hungarian history painter who had lived and worked in Paris in the 1850s and 1860s. Hungarian critics of the time often highlighted the differences between two tendencies – German and French – within European (and hence Hungarian) history painting, and it is perfectly plausible that Ligeti was doing the same by setting up an opposition between Piloty and Madarász. In this way, the emergence of history painting in Hungary was told as an art historical story: a story of different schools. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Viktor Madarász, The Mourning of László Hunyadi, 1859. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Viktor Madarász, The Mourning of László Hunyadi, 1859. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Nevertheless, the social significance of history paintings reached far beyond a purely art historical context. Widely popularized in reproductions, they existed outside the confines of this exhibition space. The stories they visualized were known from countless novels, poems and operas; they were essential in shaping the narrative of Hungarian national identity in the nineteenth century.57 The historical scenes represented in the pictures often alluded to the contemporary situation; hence, their very acquisition had a political significance. In the period preceding the Compromise, history paintings promoting Hungarian heroism in the face of oppression were often acquired via civil initiatives. After 1867 the Ministry of Culture organized competitions for history painters where winning sketches were commissioned on a monumental scale and presented to the museum.58 The tragic, heroic compositions favoured by private patrons were replaced by glorious, optimistic scenes representing the historical legitimacy of Hungarian statehood. Visitors to the gallery could not disregard these meanings and admire the paintings purely as artistic achievements. Neither were they expected to: from 1870 the gallery’s catalogues provided detailed descriptions of the historical events, often praising the Hungarian heroes. The exhibition offered a wide selection of Hungarian history paintings, drawing up connections and contrasts between them in art historical terms. Its catalogue reminded the viewer of the wider social significance of these images. What they did not do was provide one encompassing narrative of the evolution of history painting and single out its greatest masters. By contrast, the room of landscapes (the Markó Room) seemed to do exactly that – but the narrative presented there had its own kind of ambiguity. Unlike the Munkácsy and Zichy Rooms, which were set up in 1884, the Markó Room had a longer history. Its establishment had been decided in 1860 by the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery, which initiated a campaign to fund the purchase of paintings from the recently deceased artist’s estate (Fig. 7). The purchase materialized in 1862, and the paintings were exhibited together from then on; Ligeti's contribution was to connect them to the history of Hungarian landscape painting.59 The art historical narrative he presented was preformed by a previously decided act of pantheonization. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Károly Markó the Elder, Aqua Nera in Rome, 1858. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Károly Markó the Elder, Aqua Nera in Rome, 1858. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. A landscape painter proud of his art, Ligeti used his position in the Hungarian art world to raise the profile of the genre. In 1881, applying for a grant to paint a large seascape, he argued that landscape painting merited government patronage because it had the potential to produce the long-awaited distinctive Hungarian school, not only because the ‘diverse impressions provided by our homeland’ were a rich source of subject matter, but also because – thanks to Markó – this genre had been the first to earn Hungarian painting international admiration.60 One possible reading of the Markó Room is that it promoted landscape painting in the same vein, honouring Markó as the initiator of the new Hungarian ‘school’. This evolutionary narrative had a strong historical basis: Markó was indeed regarded as a model by several painters of the younger generation, and many had been mentored personally by the artist on their Italian tours. Ligeti himself was one of them. In his article published in 1876 Ligeti explained the Markó Room in a slightly different way. Referring to Markó as ‘our internationally renowned compatriot’, he added modestly that ‘[t]he room also holds paintings by [Markó’s children], as well as by me, his grateful pupil, but these are intended only to demonstrate our inability to rise to the same heights.’61 No doubt this is partly a rhetorical device whose function is to tame the awkwardness of a situation where the curator has to curate himself into the display, but it is not just that. It constructs a different sort of evolutionary narrative, according to which Hungarian landscape painting had peaked decades earlier and was now in a state of decline. This was a valid type of art historical storytelling, but it certainly did not comply with the cultural optimism of the post-1867 Hungarian state; furthermore, in a way it negated the very thing the Picture Gallery was supposed to represent: the triumphant rise of the Hungarian school. The fragmented narrative unfolding in the exhibition allowed for two different conceptualizations of Markó’s place within the evolutionary process. Indeed, that process itself was far from defined; its temporality was fluid. Hungarian painting rose and reached previously unknown heights, that message was clear – but when and how that happened was described in a different way in each of the rooms. From the landscape room the visitor continued into the room of genre painting, which identified the period of triumph with the present: its central figure, Mihály Munkácsy was a contemporary artist at the peak of his career. The gallery owned only two paintings by Munkácsy: Storm on the Puszta (Fig. 8) and Recruitment (1877). In the gallery the paintings were surrounded by other genre paintings, mostly older than Munkácsy’s, but some more recent – suggesting, yet again, a decline or at least stagnation following the climax represented by the Parisian master. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Mihály Munkácsy, Storm on the Puszta, 1867. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Mihály Munkácsy, Storm on the Puszta, 1867. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. When first exhibited in Pest in 1867, Munkácsy’s Storm on the Puszta was met with incomprehension on the part of Hungarian critics: its loose brushstrokes were shocking compared to the academic landscape paintings usually on view in Pest. It had been Ligeti who persuaded the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery to acquire the painting for the collection.62 Within the narrative structure of the exhibition, the Markó and Munkácsy Rooms told the parallel stories of two genres, but the two painters could also be understood as representatives of tradition and modernity. The overarching narrative unfolding in Rooms 1–4 was not chronological – all the spaces contained paintings from the early to the late nineteenth century – but it still suggested an evolutionary process by leading the viewer from academic copies towards the heralds of modernity. This narrative was, however, interrupted by the two rooms containing foreign paintings, as well as by the Zichy Room, which connected the development of Hungarian (history) painting back to its historical/political context. Overall, the hanging curated by Antal Ligeti in 1884 cannot be described as purely art historical in the sense that nineteenth-century champions of art museums understood the term. Instead of aiming for the definitiveness of survey museums such as the State Picture Gallery, Ligeti’s curatorial arrangement revealed the historical coincidences that had given shape to the collection: the large Markó purchase, which gave occasion to a landscape room; the copies, which referred to the earliest function of the gallery; the abundance of history paintings; even Ligeti’s personal connections to two of the artists he chose to commemorate. The reason for that lay in the collection itself. In strong contrast to the State Picture Gallery, which was formed from a few private collections that had passed into public ownership, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum was a product of public effort constantly evolving with the changing times. Both galleries were products of a larger project to create a centralized, national, modern institutional framework, but they addressed the task in different ways. One of them concentrated on the duty of projecting ‘what kind of political status [the] nation lays claim to in the world’ by presenting internationally acclaimed treasures arranged in a system modelled on the great museums of Europe. The other, by contrast, invited self-reflection and ambivalence. Conclusion When the State Picture Gallery and the Picture Gallery of the National Museum were reorganized in 1875, their relationship was envisioned as a chronological one: the Picture Gallery was to pick up the thread where the State Picture Gallery left off. In reality the two institutions were more like two sides of a coin; their guiding principles differed fundamentally. This was a problem inherent to the model followed by the reforms. For reasons to do with cultural politics and opportunities for acquisition, collections of post-1800 art tended to focus on local art, even if they included works by foreign artists.63 By contrast, any self-respecting Old Master collection had to display works from the most important major schools. The difference was even more conspicuous in Hungary, where old Hungarian art was almost non-existent in the State Picture Gallery,64 while at the National Museum Hungarian works outnumbered the slender collection of foreign modern art. Nevertheless, the long-term goal was to unite the two galleries, hence integrating Hungarian and international art into one encompassing system.65 This happened in 1906 when the Museum of Fine Arts was opened. Housed under the same roof and integrated into a school/chronology system, the collections still preserved their differences in character. The Hungarian collection – which grew much more rapidly than its international counterpart – became harder and harder to manage as part of a larger whole. Consequently, attempts were made to set up the Hungarian works in a different space, which culminated in the establishment of a separate institution, the Hungarian National Gallery, in 1957.66 In 2012 this decision was reversed with the intention to display the Hungarian works within the context of the international collection. Critics of the plan have often pointed out the imbalance described above. This article has focused on demonstrating that the Hungarian art collection of the Hungarian National Museum was shaped by ideas and expectations other than those of ‘pure’ art history, and that this was reflected in its displays between 1851 and 1884. This was, however, far from unique. It may be more obvious in the case of collections of national art, but it is in the nature of all museums to be inextricably rooted in the local context. A few exceptional collections in metropolitan centres of once-great empires can mask this by their sheer size and diversity, but even they bear the marks of their unique histories. In the case of museums in less central regions these particularities are easier to spot. Attempts to fit such collections into models abstracted from international examples are often driven by the urge to demonstrate ‘what kind of political status a certain nation lays claim to in the world’, while the acknowledgement of the accidental, the idiosyncratic, and even the imperfect can lead towards the critical self-awareness so eloquently described by Arnold Ipolyi. This also has implications for the scholarly study of museums. The employment of the museums of European ‘centres’ as universal models can obscure the particularities of institutions on the ‘periphery’. The Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum was not an imperfect attempt at a classic art historical survey, but a self-sufficient product of its own history, the expectations and conditions that had shaped it and the singular objects it contained. This is not to disparage comparisons between museums in different countries – the example discussed in this article amply demonstrates the significance of international connections. It is, however, necessary to ‘de-centre’ our discussions of these complex relationships. Just as museums themselves are formed by a fruitful interaction between the singular and general, their study has to consider singular collections and generalized models, national(ist) aims and international horizons, outside influence and creative reception in endless dynamic interplay. Footnotes 1 Carol Duncan and Alan Wallach, ‘The universal survey museum’, Art History 3 no. 4 (1980), pp. 48–69. 2 Ibid.; Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside public art museums (London, 1995); Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, theory, politics (London, 1995); Sharon Macdonald, ‘Museums, national, postnational and transcultural identities’, Museum and Society 1 no.1 (2003), pp. 1–16. 3 For a fruitful reconceptualization of the art historical periphery see Foteini Vlachou, ‘Why spatial? Time and the periphery’, Visual Resources 32 nos 1–2 (2016), pp. 9–24. 4 For a seminal analysis of the permanent exhibition of the Louvre see Duncan and Wallach, op. cit. (note 1). See also Bennett, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 166–8. Macdonald, op. cit. (note 2), p. 3 presents a similar argument, but specifically addresses colonialist states. 5 For an approach that takes this into account see Simon Knell, National Galleries: The art of making nations (Abingdon and New York, 2016). 6 Several publications have dealt with the history of the Hungarian National Museum hnm. Seminal studies on the histories of the individual collections written by their curators were published in: A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum múltja és jelene (Budapest, 1902), compiled by the officers of the hnm; the Picture Gallery was discussed by László Éber, pp. 179–208. A similar volume appeared 100 years later: János Pintér (ed.), Two Hundred Years’ History of the Hungarian National Museum and its Collections (Budapest, 2002); on the Picture Gallery see Beatrix Basics, pp. 277–307. The most detailed account of the early history of the institution is provided by Jenő Berlász, Az Országos Széchényi Könyvtár története 1802–1867 (Budapest, 1981). Katalin Sinkó’s book (Nemzeti Képtár: ‘Emlékezet és történelem között’ [Budapest, 2009]) traces the idea of a ‘national gallery’ from 1802 to the late twentieth century. Ferenc Tóth’s Mű-Kincs-Tár: Művészeti közgyűjtemények Magyarországon, 1802–1906 (Budapest, 2017) focuses on the process that led to the establishment of the Museum of Fine Arts. 7 [Jakob Ferdinand Miller], A nemzeti gyűjtemények elintézésének feltételei Magyar Ország hazafiai számára (Buda, 1807), p. 4. 8 Ibid., p. 7. For more details on the envisioned collections see pp. 8–19. 9 Péter Kiss, ‘A Pyrker-képtár sorsa Egerben a 19–20. században és Pesten 1848-ig,’ Művészettörténeti Értesítő 36 (1987) pp. 131–41. Today the paintings can be found in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. 10 Imre Fejős, ‘A Magyar Nemzeti Képcsarnok Alapító Egyesület története’, Művészettörténeti Értesítő 6 no.1 (1957), pp. 37–47; Mária Csernitzky, ‘A József Nádor Nemzeti Képcsarnok kezdeti évei (1845–1862),’ Művűészettörténeti Értesítő 43 (1995) pp. 247–51. 11 For examples see Katalin Sinkó (ed), Aranyérmek, ezüstkoszorúk: Művészkultusz és műpártolás Magyarországon a 19. században (Budapest, 1995). 12 On this process and the collection itself see see Gabriella Szvoboda Dománszky, ‘Az Esterházy Képtár a magyar fővárosban’, Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 28 (1999), pp. 219–59; Orsolya Radványi, ‘Les collections d’art de la famille Esterházy aux xviiie et xixe siècles et la naissance de la pinacothèque nationale’, in Laurence Posselle (ed.), Nicolas II Esterházy: 1765–1833; un prince hongrois collectionneur; une histoire du goût en Europe auxxviiie–xixe siècles (Paris, 2007), pp. 86–91. 13 The literal meaning of ‘Országos Képtár’ was ‘Gallery of the Country’, subtly differentiating it from a ‘Gallery of the Nation’. The translation ‘State Picture Gallery’ has been chosen because it conveys this nuance, while underlining the idea of public ownership implicit in the Hungarian original. 14 On Pulszky see Ernő Marosi et al. (eds), Pulszky Ferenc emlékére / Ferenc Pulszky Memorial Exhibition (Budapest, 1997). 15 The lecture was published as Francis Pulszky, ‘On the progress and decay of art; and on the arrangement of a national museum’, The Museum of Classical Antiquities 2 no. 5 (1852), pp. 1–15 (quote from p. 12). See David M. Wilson, ‘A Hungarian in London: Pulszky’s 1851 lecture’, Journal of the History of Collections 22 (2010), pp. 271–8. See also János György Szilágyi, ‘“I know my place”: the biography of the other Pulszky’, in Marosi et al., op. cit. (note 14), pp. 136–7. 16 Ferenc Pulszky, ‘A múzeumokról’, in Ernő Marosi (ed), A magyar művészettörténet-írás programjai [Budapest, 2000], pp. 53–65. 17 Pulszky, op. cit. (note 16), p. 53. 18 Arnold Ipolyi, ‘A magyar műtörténeti emlékek tanulmánya (1878)’, in Ipolyi, Kisebb munkái, vol. iv:Műtörténelmi tanulmányok (Budapest, 1887), pp. 93–4. 19 See Ferenc Tóth, Donátorok és képtárépítők: A Szépművészeti Múzeum modern külföldi gyűjteményének kialakulása (Budapest, 2012), p. 23–24. For an interpretation that takes into account the two authors’ differing conceptions of art-historical evolution see Katalin Sinkó, ‘The changing world of art collections’, in The Hidden Treasures of Hungarian Painting: Selection from Hungarian private collections, vol. i [Budapest, 2004], pp. 24–5. 20 Ipolyi, op. cit. (note 18), pp. 9–10. 21 On Ipolyi’s vision of an art history integrated into the broader study of the history of culture see Katalin Sinkó, ‘Ipolyi Arnold’, in Enigma 13 no. 47 (2006), pp. 51–72. 22 The Museum of Applied Arts was founded in 1872. Provisionally housed in the National Museum, it was provided with a separate exhibition space in 1878 and finally moved into its own building in 1896. The Museum of Ethnography was founded in 1872 as a collection of the National Museum, but operated as an independent institution even before it formally gained independence in 1947. Certain parts of the collection of natural history – formally also an independent museum – were housed in the National Museum up until the 1990s. 23 This was already on the agenda in 1873, when the construction of a new museum building was discussed at a meeting organized by the Minister of Culture, with the participation of officials from the Academy of Sciences, as well as Ferenc Pulszky, who voiced his opinion that the galleries of old and new art should be united in a new building. See the minutes of the meeting: Hungarian National Gallery, Archives, inv. no. 25175/2015/vi/11. 24 On the Historical Picture Gallery see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), pp. 20–21. 25 See Katalin Sinkó, ‘A művészi siker anatómiája 1840–1900’, in Aranyérmek, op, cit. (note 11), pp. 15–47 (summary in German, pp. 49–55). 26 Miller, op. cit. (note 7), p. 7 27 The memorandum included plans made by the architect János Hild. These plans were never carried out. 28 Miller, op. cit. (note 7), p. 12. 29 On so-called ‘noble patriotism’ and its reflections in early-nineteenth-century Hungarian culture see Pál S. Varga, A nemzeti költészet csarnokai: A nemzeti irodalom fogalmi rendszerei a 19. századi magyar irodalomtörténeti gondolkodásban (Budapest, 2005), pp. 233–74; Erzsébet Király, Enikő Róka and Nóra Veszprémi (eds), xix. Nemzet és művészet – Kép és önkép (Budapest, 2010), pp. 297–310. 30 On the portrait collection (which was returned to the National Museum in 1934) see György Rózsa, Selected Paintings of the Historical Gallery (Budapest, 1977). 31 The reconstruction of the exhibition is based on an illustrated article published in the February 1888 issue of the magazine Magyar Salon, which was dedicated to the National Museum (Antal Ligeti, ‘A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum képtára’, Magyar Salon (February 1888), pp. 485–8), as well as on the catalogues Katalog der Bildergallerie im National-Museum, intr. by Antal Ligeti (Budapest, 1887), pp. 7–8, Katalog der Bildergallerie im National-Museum, mit Anhang, intr. by Antal Ligeti (Budapest, 1890), pp. 7–8. On this arrangement as an example of a pantheon see also Sinkó, op. cit. (note 25), pp. 21–7. 32 Orsolya Hessky et al. (eds.), Markó Károly és köre: Mítosztól a képig (Budapest, 2011). 33 Judit Boros, ‘A Hungarian painter in Paris: Mihály Munkácsy’s career between 1870 and 1896’, in Ferenc Gosztonyi (ed.), Munkácsy in the World (Budapest, 2005), pp. 33–60. 34 Enikő Róka and Orsolya Hessky (eds), Zichy Mihály, a ‘rajzoló fejedelem’ (Budapest, 2009). 35 Sinkó, op. cit. (note 25), p. 25. 36 See the arrangement in August v. Kubinyi, Katalog der Bildergalerie der Ungarischen Nat. Museums (Pest, 1868). 37 On the commission and the installation see Enikő Róka, ‘Egy kultuszkép története: Zichy Mihály: Erzsébet királyné Deák Ferenc ravatalánál’, in Enikő Róka and István Rónay-Csicsery (eds), Zichy Mihály (Budapest, 2001), pp. 36–44 38 On the development of the collection of foreign paintings see Tóth, op. cit. (note 19). 39 As emphasized for instance in the speeches delivered on the occasion of the reopening of the Picture Gallery in 1851; see Gábor Mátray, A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeumban létező nemzeti képcsarnok ünnepélyes megnyitása (Pest, 1851). 40 The neo-classical building was designed by Mihály Pollack and built between 1837 and 1847. 41 A detailed description of the General Picture Gallery can be found in [Károly Maria Kertbeny], ‘Die Bildergallerie des ungrischen National-Museums’, in K. M. Kertbeny (ed.), Ungrische Malerrevue: Beiträge zu näherem Verständniss der bildenden Künste in Ungarn (Pest, 1855), pp. 65–70. A partial reconstruction is offered by Fejős, op. cit. (note 10), p. 41. 42 ‘Hírharang’, Hölgyfutár, 24 July 1852, p. 678. 43 Kertbeny, op. cit. (note 41), p. 68. 44 Árpád Mikó (ed.), Jankovich Miklós (1772–1846) gyűjteményei (Budapest, 2002). 45 S. K. [Katalin Sinkó], ‘Peter Krafft: Zrínyi kirohanása Szigetvárból’, in Árpád Mikó and Sinkó (eds), Történelem-kép: Szemelvények múlt és művészet kapcsolatából Magyarországon (Budapest, 2000), pp. 529–31. 46 See the catalogues Műsorozata a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia palotájában elhelyezett Eszterházy herczegi képtárnak (Pest, 1866) and A Magyar Akadémia épületében lévő Országos Képtár műsorozata (Pest, 1871). 47 On the ‘gentlemanly hang’ see Duncan, op. cit. (note 2), p. 24. 48 As stipulated in the purchase agreement: Hungarian National Gallery, Archives, inv. no. 25175/2015/iv/21. 49 On the rehang see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), pp. 17–20. 50 On Károly Pulszky see László Mravik (ed.), Pulszky Károly emlékének (Budapest, 1988). 51 ‘Az Országos Képtár megnyitása’, Vasárnapi Ujság, 8 May 1881, p. 302. 52 Ibid., pp. 302–3. Two years later Pulszky co-authored a new, illustrated catalogue of the collection with Hugo von Tschudi, the future director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin: Hugo von Tschudi and Károly Pulszky, Die Landes-Gemälde-Galerie in Budapest, vormals Esterházy-Galerie (Vienna, 1883). Many new attributions were published in this volume. 53 ‘Az Országos Képtár megnyitása’ op. cit. (note 51), pp. 302. Ligeti’s appointment was a provisional measure, only in effect until Károly Pulszky was freed from other duties and could assume full responsibility as director. 54 Ligeti Antal, ‘A múzeumi képtárról’, Fővárosi Lapok no. 53 (1876), pp. 246–7. 55 Pulszky, op. cit. (note 16), pp. 53–65. 56 See Orsolya Hessky et al. (eds), München magyarul: Magyar művészek Münchenben 1850–1914 (Budapest, 2009). 57 For examples and critical analysis of these functions of history painting see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 11); Mikó and Sinkó, op. cit. (note 45); Király et al., op. cit. (note 29). 58 See S. K. [Katalin Sinkó], ‘Staatliche Preisausschreiben für Historienbilder’, in Sinkó, op. cit. (note 11), pp. 314–16. 59 On the purchase see Fejős, op. cit. (note 10), p. 44. The first incarnation of the Markó Room is known from the catalogue Antal Ligeti, A Nemzeti Múzeum képcsarnokának ismertető lajstroma a festészek rövid életrajzával (Budapest, 1870) 60 Quoted in Judit H. Rapaics, Ligeti Antal (Budapest, 1938), p. 32. 61 Ligeti, op. cit. (note 54), p. 247. 62 See Lajos Végvári, Munkácsy Mihály élete és művei (Budapest, 1958), p. 82–3. 63 For examples see James Sheehan, Museums in the German Art World: From the end of the Old Regime to the rise of modernism (Oxford and New York, 2000), pp. 93–8, 159–62; Sara Tas, ‘Between patriotism and internationalism: contemporary art at the Musée du Luxembourg in the nineteenth century’, Journal of the History of Collections 27 (2015), pp. 227–40. 64 The Old Master collection included eleven works from Hungary, which were exhibited in a separate room from 1881. This number grew to eighteen only in 1906. See Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), p. 19. 65 On this process and its critics see ibid., pp. 22–31. 66 On these developments see ibid., pp. 40–81. For a detailed account of problems of space in the early twentieth century and the external venues that were consequently used see Miklós Rajnai, ‘Az Új Magyar Képtár’, in Ö. Gábor Pogány and Béla Bacher eds., A Szépművészeti Múzeum 1906–1956 (Budapest: Képzőművészeti Alap Kiadóvállalata, 1956), p. 176–7. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the History of Collections Oxford University Press

An introspective pantheon: The Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum in the nineteenth century

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
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0954-6650
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1477-8564
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Abstract

Abstract The Hungarian National Museum was founded in 1808 with an encyclopaedic scope, and its art collection – the Picture Gallery – was originally formed within this cross-disciplinary framework. The acquisition of objects classified as art was often motivated by historical interest or political significance, rather than aesthetic value. Nineteenth-century efforts to reshape this assemblage of objects as a fine art collection were hampered by the persistence of its historical context, especially in the case of the collection of Hungarian art. This article examines how this complex process was reflected in the permanent exhibitions of the Picture Gallery from the 1850s to the 1880s. The usual paradigm for the analysis of nineteenth-century art galleries is that of the ‘universal survey museum’, which separated works of art from their historical context and recontextualized them as parts of a purely art historical narrative.1 By guiding the visitor through the chronological development of different national schools, while also highlighting great masters and works of art worthy of special contemplation, such galleries not only promoted the idea of national difference, but also required a certain kind of polite, erudite, disinterested engagement which mirrored contemporary ideas of citizenship. Hence, as has often been emphasized, universal survey museums underpinned the ideology of the modern nation-state.2 Nationalist ambitions, however, manifested themselves in manifold ways in different regions of Europe: rarely did the circumstances allow a straightforward path towards a fully-fledged nation-state. The museums that came into being in the course of the century were just as diverse as the movements that engendered them – the model of the universal survey gallery was far from ubiquitous. Many publicly owned and managed art collections formed part of national museums with a broader disciplinary scope. In these collections fine art objects were integrated into a framework where historical and scientific interest played a much more decisive role than the ideas of aesthetic autonomy and disinterested contemplation. The Hungarian National Museum was one of these establishments. Founded in 1808 as an institute of ‘national scholarship’, its collection was to encompass all fields of knowledge. The fine art collection that gradually developed within this structure was shaped by these expectations. Consequently, the objects acquired by the museum were not necessarily selected for their aesthetic or art historical value. This does not mean that they did not have such a value to contemporaries, but in the context of the collection as a whole they conveyed a host of further meanings. The way those meanings came to be reconfigured in the course of the century reflected fundamental shifts not only in the role that art was expected to perform in society, but also in the relationship between museum, state and nation. This article will explore late nineteenth-century efforts to redefine the collection in terms of art history and the resistance encountered in the face of such endeavours. In particular, it was the collection of Hungarian art that proved difficult to integrate into an encompassing art historical survey. In its ideal form, the universal survey museum presents an apotheosis of the Western canon; hence, idiosyncratic, non-canonical phenomena can be awarded no more than an unstable position. Consequently, museums in the art historical ‘centre’ can adopt the model more easily, while institutions of the ‘periphery’ must negotiate the discrepancy between the prestige afforded by the authoritative model and the necessity of displaying their difference.3 Scholarship on museums and the nation-state tends to take for granted that displays of national art fitted smoothly into the system of schools and chronology: placed at the peak of the evolutionary process, they were supposed to demonstrate the superiority of national culture.4 This view, however, universalizes the position of the culturally and politically powerful states of Western Europe without accounting for the insecurities faced by ‘peripheral’ nations when engaging with the culture of the ‘centre’. Such insecurities made the relationship between national and international art more complex than a simple story of triumph. Furthermore, even when aiming for a universal survey, museums were limited by the scope of the collection at hand. This is typical of museums on the ‘periphery’, where possibilities for the acquisition of internationally renowned masterpieces were scarce.5 Hence, collections of local art vastly surpassed the international collections not merely in size, but in consistency. Suffused with idiosyncratic meanings that pointed beyond the aesthetic or the art historical, these collections had the potential to reflect a more nuanced, introspective, many-sided concept of national culture. Universal survey or national self-reflection? The history of the Hungarian National Museum began in 1802, when Count Ferenc Széchényi donated his large collection of books and documents to the Hungarian nation. The institution was effectively established in 1808, when the Hungarian Diet enshrined its existence in law (see Table 1).6 To aid the legislative process, the custos of the collections, Jakob Ferdinand Miller, compiled a memorandum detailing the functions of the institution, which was to comprise ‘all that belongs to national literature’.7 When detailing the planned sections of the museum building (yet to be constructed), Miller provided an outline of the envisioned collections: books and manuscripts; coins; antiquities and rarities; weapons; natural history; products of craftsmanship; stones, urns and statues; and – finally – representations of famous men.8 No collection of fine art was planned, and the works of art acquired in the next three decades were integrated into the above categories. Table 1. Outline history of the development of the national picture collection. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. View Large Table 1. Outline history of the development of the national picture collection. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. 1808: Foundation of the Hungarian National Museum as an encyclopaedic collection. 1836: Johann Ladislaus Pyrker donates his collection of paintings to the museum. 1844: The Pyrker collection is transferred to Budapest. 1845: The Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery is founded. 1847: The museum opens in its new building. 1851: Official opening of the Picture Gallery in the National Museum. 1871: The Hungarian government purchases the collection of the Esterházy family and establishes the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. 1875: The Old Masters from the National Museum are transferred to the State Picture Gallery. 1884: Portraits and other historically relevant images are moved to the Castle Garden Bazaar, establishing the Historical Picture Gallery. 1906: Opening of the Museum of Fine Arts. Most of the state-owned art collections in Budapest are brought together in this new institution. View Large The art collection – known as the Picture Gallery – was finally established in 1844, when the 190 paintings that Johann Ladislaus Pyrker, Archbishop of Eger and former Patriarch of Venice had donated to the museum in 1836, were finally transferred to Pest. The collection consisted mainly of Venetian Old Masters, but also contained a few nineteenth-century works, as well as Northern masterpieces such as a portrait by Albrecht Dürer.9 On 9 March 1845 the director of the museum, Ágoston Kubinyi founded the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery with the aim of complementing the Pyrker Gallery with a collection of Hungarian paintings by calling on artists and the public for donations.10 From that date onwards the Picture Gallery was not just a separate collection, but a constantly developing, living one. The establishment of a collection of paintings meant that the notions of art historical and aesthetic value were now present within the walls of the museum, but – at least in the case of the Hungarian collection – they did not function as exclusive guiding principles. Hungary was, at the time, part of the Austrian Empire, its political life suppressed after the failed Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–9. Cultural institutions such as the National Museum gained crucial importance as sites of public discourse. In a period when funding was scarce, most works of art were acquired thanks to gifts from the public, and such donations often expressed political sentiment.11 Most of these gifts enriched the Hungarian collection, underscoring its non-aesthetic nature. In 1867 Hungary and Austria ratified a treaty known as the Compromise. What was previously the Austrian Empire now became Austria-Hungary. Within its dual structure, Hungary enjoyed considerable autonomy and began asserting itself as a quasi-nation-state with its own government and centralized bureaucracy. The museum reforms that followed reinterpreted the art collections in accordance with this new situation. First of all, an art gallery was established as a separate institution. This was made possible by the purchase by government of the Esterházy collection, a rich assemblage of Old Masters formed by the wealthiest Hungarian aristocratic family.12 The works of art had been on loan to the Hungarian state since 1865 and exhibited at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, about two kilometres from the National Museum. Having passed into public ownership, the collection was renamed the State Picture Gallery (Országos Képtár) in 1871.13 In 1875 the pre-1800 art collections of the National Museum were transferred to this new institution. The picture gallery that remained in the main building of the National Museum was to display recent and contemporary art. The most important figure behind these developments was Ferenc Pulszky, director of the Hungarian National Museum from 1869 to 1894, as well as Chief Inspector of Museums and Libraries, Chairman of the Association of Fine Arts, and Member of the Hungarian Parliament representing the governing Liberal Party.14 Pulszky had studied law at university, but developed an interest in art and archaeology at an early date. Due to his involvement in the events of 1848–9 he was forced to emigrate and settled in London, where he pursued his antiquarian interests at the British Museum and took part in the activities of the Archaeological Institute. It was during this period of exile that his interest in museums crystallized and deepened. He became a passionate advocate of universal survey museums. In 1851 he presented a paper at University Hall, London, outlining his vision of an all-encompassing collection of global art, arranged by national schools and chronology, so that it would ‘give a perfect view of the history of art in every civilized nation’.15 Having returned to Hungary in 1865, Pulszky was soon in a position where he could put his ideas into practice. In an essay published in 1875 he reiterated the idea of a comprehensive survey museum – albeit a Eurocentric one – that would fill in the lacunae in its collections with copies and plaster casts.16 He also laid out a plan for transforming the newly founded State Picture Gallery and the Picture Gallery of the National Museum so that the former would become a collection of Old Masters and the latter an assemblage of modern art, both of them encompassing foreign and Hungarian works. To Pulszky, this was a process of modernization. He argued that ʻthe cultural level of different nations is demonstrated by the number and richness of their museums’; furthermore, museums ʻalso display what kind of political status a particular nation lays claim to in the world’.17 Setting up an art gallery that could compete on the world stage was an act of national self-representation. Pulszky’s reasoning presupposed that museums were fundamentally similar everywhere. Indeed, as new museums came into being, they took their cues from older counterparts elsewhere in Europe. In this vein, Pulszky’s vision of twin galleries was based on cities where collections of older paintings and sculpture were juxtaposed with galleries of more recent art – Paris or Munich, for instance. Nevertheless, even if the framework was general, the face of every collection was formed by individual factors – local history, politics, culture – which determined not only the decisions made by museum officials, but also the opportunities arising for acquisitions. Reforms based on universal models connected the institutions they reshaped to international discourses, but at the same time risked erasing the local specifics that made those institutions unique. This was a risk acknowledged by Arnold Ipolyi, art historian and president of the Hungarian Historical Society, who proposed a different model. For Ipolyi the National Museum should be reserved for objects from Hungary, that is, relics of local history and national culture. His model was the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, which, as he put it, ‘placed emphasis on the preservation not of the rare, the foreign, but of monuments from [Germany’s] own past’.18 Ipolyi’s and Pulszky’s opposing stances have been read as manifestations of an inward-looking nationalism and a more cosmopolitan, liberal worldview, respectively.19 This is certainly a valid interpretation, but not a completely satisfactory one, and not just because the viewpoints of both scholars were nuanced: Ipolyi had donated his ‘cosmopolitan’ collection of Old Master paintings to the State Picture Gallery in 1872, while Pulszky’s concept of a ‘universal’ museum on a par with the great institutions of the world was strongly connected to the nationalist – even if liberal – aims of the Hungarian state. The main difference between their opinions was not political, but museological. In order to understand this, it is worthwhile to quote a passage from Ipolyi’s speech: Our [national] development can undoubtedly become much more solid, secure and purposeful if we get to know the past better, including its strengths as well as its weaknesses. If we gain the ability to view it not just through the nimbus woven by poetry, amidst rays of glory, but also not simply through the lens of cold, disdainful scepticism provided by frigid erudition; not biased by one-sided, conservative or liberal political doctrines . . . or see it as empty and bare due to ignorance . . . These are the reasons why previous generations enthused for the past in a preposterous, empty way, and why today’s generation despises the past in its unconditional worship of future progress.20 In Ipolyi’s view, museum objects facilitated a qualified, realistic, and hence instructive understanding of the past, something that was – according to him – indispensable to national progress. Consequently, in this regard he did not draw a rigid line between archaeological and art historical objects, fine and applied art, high art and folk art. As monuments of national culture, all had historical value, a capacity to illuminate the past.21 By contrast, Pulszky’s ideas of museum reform relied on the clear separation of collections along disciplinary lines. The establishment of a gallery of Old Masters was only part of the process that saw the foundation of the museums of Applied Art and Ethnography, while the National Museum itself came to focus on archaeology and history.22 In the case of the fine art collections, the ultimate aim was to establish a separate museum that would house both the old and the modern collections;23 this was realized in 1906 with the opening of a new Museum of Fine Arts. In this model the fine arts constituted a distinct field of knowledge. The objects categorized as such were appreciated precisely because of an intrinsic value held to be independent of historical circumstances. The nascent discipline that dealt with them – art history – aimed to arrange these objects in narratives centred around the evolution of formal, stylistic qualities supposedly inherent to these objects. The discipline has undergone many changes since then. Art historians have critically reconsidered the depoliticized idea of ‘art’ and its history, questioning the universalism of categories such as ‘fine art’. From this viewpoint it is possible to disentangle Pulszky’s and Ipolyi’s opinions from the interpretational dichotomy of nationalism and cosmopolitanism and note how they raised questions familiar to anyone interested in museum policy today. Should museums serve aesthetic contemplation or historical education? Should they address the educated few or society as a whole? Should they concentrate on overarching narratives or on individual objects as unique sources of knowledge? On engaging with the local community or on drawing in tourists? It is not that Pulszky and Ipolyi necessarily represented the two poles of each of these questions, but their essays articulated positions within these coordinates. Ipolyi’s vision of a self-reflective display with a historical, rather than art historical focus acknowledged a fundamental aspect of the collection of Hungarian art: its intricate connections with Hungarian cultural and political life in a broader sense. It was not simply that the subject-matter of certain works, or the original reason for their acquisition was politically charged. The National Museum itself was a product of the very same context that produced the works of art, and developments in recent Hungarian art were inseparable from the expansion of the collection itself. Subject matter, style, reason and manner of acquisition belonged together in one inseparable whole. The following sections will argue that these characteristics of the collection were indeed made explicit in the displays on view from the 1850s to the 1880s. The persistence of contexts Following the reforms of the mid-1870s, when its Old Masters were transferred to the State Picture Gallery, the Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum underwent another great transformation in 1884, prompting a major rehanging of the galleries. The collection of portraits of famous personalities, up to that point an integral part of the collection, was now moved to a separate institution, the Historical Picture Gallery, set up in the so-called Castle Garden Bazaar near the Royal Palace. This decision, which changed fundamentally the character of the collection, was in line with the aims of the earlier reforms pointing towards a clarification of the profiles of the collections in terms of scholarly disciplines. The aim of the Historical Picture Gallery was to provide a fact-based overview of Hungarian history.24 As a consequence, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum had to become purely art historical, presenting a story of style and masterly skill, with historical context stripped out and relegated to the background. The problem was, however, that the collection itself was embedded in a rich historical context. It was still housed in the same building as the archeological and historical collections, and few visitors would have viewed it in true isolation. More importantly, the collection bore the marks of its history, of all the purposes it had to fulfil as part of the museum. Shedding those marks was not easy. When rehung in 1884, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum was conceived not with an overarching art historical narrative but as a tribute to certain great Hungarian artists. Thus, it reaffirmed one of the museum’s earliest purposes: that of a national pantheon. The idea of the pantheon had played a crucial role in the history of the Hungarian National Museum from the beginning.25 The previously mentioned memorandum compiled by Jakob Ferdinand Miller for the Hungarian Diet in 1807, listed a collection of ‘representations of famous men’ among the future sections of the institution.26 As the preliminary designs annexed to the memorandum show, this was to be placed in a prominent, central space on the upper floor of the building.27 In the Latin version of the text its name described its purpose concisely: ‘Pantheon’. The National Museum, as conceived in those early years, was to be ‘national’ in two senses. Firstly, it was to focus on objects related to Hungary – a limitation soon to be relaxed. Secondly, it was to be set up and maintained by the ‘nation’: that is, the Hungarian Diet, and all the noblemen and intellectuals interested in furthering ‘national scholarship’. Miller’s memorandum was effectively a plea calling for donations. The optimism he expressed regarding the ‘noble and generous Hungarian nation’ rose to its most endearing naïvety when discussing the Pantheon, for which ‘no funds whatsoever are needed, as all those who wish to display their ancestors to the public will have their portraits made and will bear all other related costs.’28 Apart from some sculptures in the collection of antiquities, the Pantheon was the closest thing the planned museum had to a fine art collection, but it was still very far from being one. This collection of pictures was to be based on the notions of history, nation and exemplary virtue; aesthetic value played no role whatsoever. In this regard the collection reflected its cultural context. In early nineteenth-century Hungary, the concept of the ‘nation’ referred to those members of society who enjoyed political rights: the nobility. The ideology that upheld this social order maintained that those rights had been acquired by heroic ancestors as a reward for their great deeds.29 With its documents from family archives, its tombstones, monuments, and Pantheon of heroes, the museum envisioned in Miller’s memorandum was based on these ideas. In the following decades the concept of the nation underwent radical changes in Hungary. In line with developments elsewhere in Europe, it came to function as a category that connected members of an ‘imagined community’ regardless of class, profession, education, or political rights. At the same time, the requirement of a separate collection of art, which would help refine public taste and educate young artists, became more and more pronounced. Nevertheless, the idea of the pantheon was not eclipsed by these new developments. On the contrary: one of the chief aims of the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery was to build a collection of portraits. As part of this project, it issued a plea to Hungarian artists to donate their self-portraits to the museum. The collection of portraits and self-portraits remained a prominent part of the collection and was exhibited separately, in its own rooms from the 1860s until its transfer to the Historical Picture Gallery in 1884.30 The empty space it left behind had to be filled: not simply in a material sense – by filling the rooms – but by rethinking and reconceptualizing the idea of the pantheon. The display on view from 1884 was curated by Antal Ligeti, a landscape painter employed as curator of the Picture Gallery since 1868. Ligeti incorporated the idea of the pantheon into the new hanging by dedicating three of the eight rooms (Rooms 3, 4 and 6) to three respective painters: Károly Markó the Elder (1793–1860), Mihály Munkácsy (1844–1900) and Mihály Zichy (1827–1906) (Figs 1–2).31 The busts of these artists were each placed in the centre of their respective rooms, and the displays in the rooms highlighted their achievements. Markó, a painter of Claude Lorrainesque landscapes who had lived in Tuscany and achieved international fame during his lifetime,32 was introduced as the father of Hungarian landscape painting; his bust was surrounded by a number of his own works and paintings by younger Hungarian landscapists. Munkácsy, who lived in Paris and made his name there with solemn peasant genre scenes, later earning further success with happier scenes set in Paris salons,33 was cast as a great representative of Hungarian genre painting: both of his works owned by the museum were displayed among a selection of genre paintings and other figurative compositions by nineteenth-century Hungarian artists. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide The Munkácsy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 486. Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide The Munkácsy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 486. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide The Zichy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 487. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide The Zichy Room in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 487. In this way, both Markó and Munkácsy were incorporated into narratives that told the history of one strand of recent Hungarian art. In the case of Zichy – a painter who had earned critical recognition in Paris and subsequently worked in the Russian imperial court34 – there was no such art historical narrative. The room dedicated to him displayed one of his works: the monumental Empress Elizabeth by the Bier of Ferenc Deák, which was surrounded by portraits of members of the imperial family by other artists. Ferenc Deák (1803–1876) was a Hungarian politician who had played a crucial part in the negotiation of the Compromise. The Zichy Room was not the only space in the museum where he was honoured: his personal belongings and wreaths from his funeral were displayed in a separate Deák Memorial Room.35 Hence it is hard to tell who the real protagonist of the Zichy Room was – but perhaps this is not in any case an important question. What is notable here is the seamless way in which the art historical pantheon could be integrated with a historical-political one: another reminder that art history did not – could not – exist in isolation within the National Museum. The history of the display on view in the Zichy Room is a particularly striking example of how narratives presented in museums are shaped by the political context. The portraits surrounding Zichy’s painting originated from the Habsburg Room the museum had to set up on imperial order in 1854. After 1867, the room was dismantled, and the portraits were interspersed among the other paintings.36 When the Historical Portrait Gallery moved out, these pictures remained. Centred around Zichy’s painting, which had been commissioned by the Hungarian Ministry of Culture, the imperial portraits acquired new meanings: they accentuated the greatness of a Hungarian politician who was – as the room as a whole suggested – admired even by the royals.37 The Zichy Room embodied the partly wishful, partly pragmatic ideology of the Compromise: the possibility of the Hungarian nation regaining the ancient glory so often visualized in history paintings, while remaining within the framework of the Empire. It should be evident by now how the Picture Gallery of the National Museum differed from the classic model of the universal survey. Instead of creating one triumphant narrative it presented a fragmented one, and instead of placing the national school at the pinnacle of art historical development it embedded it within a multi-disciplinary collection and hence into a historical context. At the same time, it eschewed recounting art historical developments outside the ‘national school’. The foreign paintings held by the gallery were somewhat randomly grouped in Rooms 5 and 7 (categorized into works by ‘significant’ and ‘lesser’ foreign masters) and little attempt was made to integrate them with the Hungarian collection.38 Nevertheless, the display of Hungarian works was anything but inward-looking. In fact, its most fundamental guiding principle was the relationship with the wide world. This was inherent in the choices made by the curator when he selected the three artists honoured in the gallery, for Markó, Munkácsy and Zichy had all risen to fame abroad. The celebration of ‘great’ artists was not alien to universal survey museums; in fact, it was on the interplay of individual greatness and historical progress that the concept of the universal survey hinged. At the Hungarian National Museum, however, the celebration of genius was conditional: it sought validation from outside. The greatness of Hungarian artist-heroes needed to be certified by the culture of the ‘centre’. Far from placing the national school at the forefront of international developments, this arrangement reflects a certain kind of inferiority complex. At the same time, on a more positive note, it allowed Ligeti to conjure up the European context of Hungarian art despite the scarcity of relevant foreign masterpieces in the collection. By involving the contacts between Hungarian artists and the international art scene, he placed Markó, Munkácsy, Zichy and all the others into a complex network of transnational interactions. This conceptualization of the relationship between national schools differed fundamentally from the competing parallel narratives offered by a ‘universal survey museum’. Telling stories The narrative structure of the 1884 hanging of the Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum diverged from the schools/chronology model, but that does not mean that it completely lacked narrative structure. Ever since the foundation of the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery in 1845, the exhibitions of the National Museum had been expected to catalyse and represent the emergence of a Hungarian national school39 – a requirement that presupposed a continuous storyline; preferably one of rise and triumph. The 1884 hang was conscious of this requirement; in fact, it addressed it from several angles and it was this very multifaceted nature that ultimately disrupted the underlying master narrative. The roots of the problem can, yet again, be traced in the history of the collection and its displays. The formal opening of the Picture Gallery in the recently constructed museum building40 was held in 1851. The displays on view at the time were far from satisfactory to those who expected art historical narratives. The three parts of the collection were clearly separated: the Pyrker Gallery occupied two rooms, the General Picture Gallery (which held all the foreign paintings originating from sources other than Pyrker’s gift) was placed in the largest space, a great hall with skylights, while the National Picture Gallery – the collection of Hungarian paintings assembled by the Association – was situated in the last two rooms.41 Art historical narratives failed to unfold within the individual collections. On one of the longer side walls of the General Gallery, two monumental history paintings by the Austrian Peter Krafft – the Coronation of Francis I and Zrínyi’s Charge from the Fortress of Szigetvár – were displayed next to each other. On the opposite wall, the portrait of the museum’s founder, Ferenc Széchényi by Johann Ender (Fig. 3) was flanked by the portraits of Empress Maria Theresa and her consort, Francis of Lorraine by Martin van Meytens, which were in turn surrounded by two history paintings by the eighteenth-century Veronese artist Giambettino Cignaroli, The Death of Cato and The Death of Socrates. Critics voiced their dismay by pointing out that the arrangement lacked any logic other than symmetry.42 One reviewer declared that it amounted only to a ‘museum of curiosities’ and not a proper gallery.43 In his opinion, it was imperative to merge the three collections in order to create a chronological separation between Old Masters and modern paintings. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Johann Ender, Portrait of Ferenc Széchényi, 1823. Hungarian National Museum, Historical Picture Gallery. Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Johann Ender, Portrait of Ferenc Széchényi, 1823. Hungarian National Museum, Historical Picture Gallery. Setting aside the expectation of a chronological arrangement, it is nevertheless possible to discern a logic in the hanging: it showcased the development of the collection. In the great hall, the central position of the portrait of the founder, Széchényi, requires no explanation. Besides alluding to the political framework, the Habsburg portraits surrounding it represented an important purchase: they came from the Jankovich collection an assemblage of books, documents, and pictures of historical interest – which had been bought in 1832.44 The two paintings by Krafft were among the first significant acquisitions: proposed by Palatine Joseph Habsburg, governor of Hungary and official protector (‘Principal’) of the museum, they had been commissioned by the Hungarian Diet and funded by a public campaign in 1825–6.45 They functioned as reminders of the Palatine’s patronage of the museum, as well as of the efforts of the Hungarian public. Finally, the Cignaroli paintings had been donated by Count Károly Andrássy in 1847 and thus stood for the contributions of further individuals. This commemoration of patrons fitted well into the idea of the museum as pantheon, but at the same time it also presented a special narrative: the history of the museum as an important and integral part of the recent cultural history of Hungary. Similarly, by keeping the Pyrker collection intact, the museum not only commemorated the archbishop as a great individual, but conceptualized Pyrker’s act of donation as a crucial event in that broader story. In 1851, art historical narratives had been abandoned in favour of historical context. By 1884 this was no longer acceptable – not only because the collection had grown significantly, reflecting the developments that had indeed unfolded in Hungarian art, but also because the idea that art galleries have to tell art histories had by then become widely accepted. Since the early 1870s the National Museum’s Picture Gallery had a counterpoint: the State Picture Gallery, the collection of Old Masters that had come into being as an independent art museum and was hence predicated on a distinctively art historical arrangement. That arrangement was itself subject to evolution. When the State Picture Gallery was established in early 1871, following the purchase of the Esterházy collection, the casual visitor might not even have noticed the change in ownership. The gallery was set up in the location it had occupied since 1865 – the top floor of the Academy of Sciences. In 1871, as in 1866, the paintings were grouped by schools (French, German, Netherlandish, various Italian and Spanish), but within those groups chronology was not always observed.46 The arrangement seems to have been a hybrid between the modern model of the universal survey (hence the separation into schools) and the more casual, decorative ‘gentlemanly hang’ typical of private collections before the age of museums.47 The employment of the custos who had worked for the Esterházys, Gusztáv Kratzmann, was continued by the Hungarian government.48 In 1875 the gallery had to be rehung due to the transfer of Old Masters from the National Museum to the Academy of Sciences.49 Major reorganization, however, took place only in 1881, after Kratzmann’s retirement. He was replaced by Ferenc Pulszky’s son, Károly Pulszky: a specialist in the Italian Renaissance who had studied art history at the University of Leipzig.50 As a contemporary article put it, the rehang was necessary because ‘the original Esterházy Gallery had not been set up with the most discerning critical sense and had not been divided into appropriate categories’.51 Now attributions were meticulously checked, a conservator was invited from Munich to restore the paintings, and the collection was grouped rigorously according to chronology and schools.52 Provisionally appointed as director of the State Picture Gallery after Kratzmann’s retirement, Antal Ligeti, the art curator of the Hungarian National Museum, collaborated with Pulszky on the rehang.53 He could have striven to arrange the National Museum’s paintings in a similar way but opted for something different. What he had in mind can only be deduced from the arrangement itself, because Ligeti was rather laconic when it came to articulating his curatorial principles. In an article explaining the previous (1876) rehang, he argued that the main thing was for the arrangement to conform to ‘practical and aesthetic requirements’, which meant that the most excellent works had to be highlighted, and colours and groupings had to be harmonious and proportionate.54 Instead of labelling this as an archaic viewpoint, it is more fruitful to interpret it as a proposal for an artistic approach, as opposed to a strictly scholarly one. Far from being naively decorative, the hanging on view after 1884 did indeed incorporate art historical narratives, and did so rather intricately. Apart from a few exceptions, Ligeti’s arrangement drew a clear line between Hungarian and foreign works. The first of the six rooms was occupied by copies of Old Master paintings produced by Hungarian artists. The second room – the large room with skylights – displayed works by Hungarian artists, mostly large-scale history paintings. The third and the fourth rooms were the Markó and the Munkácsy Rooms, described above. The fifth room, as Ligeti explained, contained paintings by significant nineteenth-century foreign painters; works by lesser ones were displayed in the seventh room. The sixth room was the Zichy Room, while the eighth and final room contained the bequest of Abbot Béla Tárkányi, consisting mostly of copies after Old Masters. The exhibition began and ended with copies. Copies of important masterpieces were essential to the idea of the comprehensive museum in the nineteenth century. For the story to be complete, certain canonical works of art had to be present – the grand art historical narrative hinged on them. This was part of Ferenc Pulszky’s vision of a universal survey museum.55 At the Picture Gallery of the National Museum, however, the copies were not there to represent the Old Masters on which they were based. Instead, they demonstrated the skills of the nineteenth-century Hungarian painters who had produced them. Providing young Hungarian artists with opportunities for copying had been one of the original functions of the Picture Gallery, and the fact that it could now display first-rate copies of canonical works from all over Europe could be seen as a sign that a flowering had finally begun. Displayed in the very first room, these copies stood both for humble beginnings and subsequent triumph, defining the narrative that followed as an evolutionary one: the story of the rise of Hungarian art(ists) through diligent learning. Accordingly, from the room of copies the visitor continued into the grand room with skylights to admire the highest genre, to which an academic education and the intimate study of Old Masters was thought to be essential: history painting (Fig. 4). Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide The room of history painting (the Great Hall) in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 489. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide The room of history painting (the Great Hall) in 1888. Illustration from Magyar Salon, February 1888, p. 489. The hang of the history paintings seems to have aimed at drawing up their art historical, stylistic lineage. This is evident from the way Ligeti placed a few non-Hungarian history paintings among the Hungarian works. The monumental Nero Walking on the Ashes of Rome (1861) by Karl von Piloty, professor at the Munich Academy of Fine Art, occupied a central position on one of the longer walls. Next to it, to the right, Ligeti hung two paintings by Bertalan Székely, who had been Piloty’s student at the Academy. The Munich Academy, and Piloty in particular, played a significant role in the evolution of Hungarian history painting in the second half of the nineteenth century.56 Apart from Székely, three other important history painters had been Piloty’s students: Gyula Benczúr, Sándor Wágner and Sándor Liezen-Mayer. Ligeti’s acknowledgement of these connections is demonstrated by the somewhat startling juxtaposition of two very different paintings on the shorter wall: Liezen-Mayer’s depiction of the charity of St Elisabeth of Hungary (Fig. 5) and Benczúr’s drunken, nude Bacchante. The only thing that connects these two pictures is their relationship to Piloty and the Munich school. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Sándor Liezen-Mayer, St Elizabeth of Hungary, 1882. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 5. View largeDownload slide Sándor Liezen-Mayer, St Elizabeth of Hungary, 1882. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Munich was a huge influence, but it was not the only one. Opposite Piloty’s monumental canvas Ligeti placed The Mourning of László Hunyadi (Fig. 6) by Viktor Madarász, a Hungarian history painter who had lived and worked in Paris in the 1850s and 1860s. Hungarian critics of the time often highlighted the differences between two tendencies – German and French – within European (and hence Hungarian) history painting, and it is perfectly plausible that Ligeti was doing the same by setting up an opposition between Piloty and Madarász. In this way, the emergence of history painting in Hungary was told as an art historical story: a story of different schools. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Viktor Madarász, The Mourning of László Hunyadi, 1859. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 6. View largeDownload slide Viktor Madarász, The Mourning of László Hunyadi, 1859. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Nevertheless, the social significance of history paintings reached far beyond a purely art historical context. Widely popularized in reproductions, they existed outside the confines of this exhibition space. The stories they visualized were known from countless novels, poems and operas; they were essential in shaping the narrative of Hungarian national identity in the nineteenth century.57 The historical scenes represented in the pictures often alluded to the contemporary situation; hence, their very acquisition had a political significance. In the period preceding the Compromise, history paintings promoting Hungarian heroism in the face of oppression were often acquired via civil initiatives. After 1867 the Ministry of Culture organized competitions for history painters where winning sketches were commissioned on a monumental scale and presented to the museum.58 The tragic, heroic compositions favoured by private patrons were replaced by glorious, optimistic scenes representing the historical legitimacy of Hungarian statehood. Visitors to the gallery could not disregard these meanings and admire the paintings purely as artistic achievements. Neither were they expected to: from 1870 the gallery’s catalogues provided detailed descriptions of the historical events, often praising the Hungarian heroes. The exhibition offered a wide selection of Hungarian history paintings, drawing up connections and contrasts between them in art historical terms. Its catalogue reminded the viewer of the wider social significance of these images. What they did not do was provide one encompassing narrative of the evolution of history painting and single out its greatest masters. By contrast, the room of landscapes (the Markó Room) seemed to do exactly that – but the narrative presented there had its own kind of ambiguity. Unlike the Munkácsy and Zichy Rooms, which were set up in 1884, the Markó Room had a longer history. Its establishment had been decided in 1860 by the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery, which initiated a campaign to fund the purchase of paintings from the recently deceased artist’s estate (Fig. 7). The purchase materialized in 1862, and the paintings were exhibited together from then on; Ligeti's contribution was to connect them to the history of Hungarian landscape painting.59 The art historical narrative he presented was preformed by a previously decided act of pantheonization. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Károly Markó the Elder, Aqua Nera in Rome, 1858. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 7. View largeDownload slide Károly Markó the Elder, Aqua Nera in Rome, 1858. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. A landscape painter proud of his art, Ligeti used his position in the Hungarian art world to raise the profile of the genre. In 1881, applying for a grant to paint a large seascape, he argued that landscape painting merited government patronage because it had the potential to produce the long-awaited distinctive Hungarian school, not only because the ‘diverse impressions provided by our homeland’ were a rich source of subject matter, but also because – thanks to Markó – this genre had been the first to earn Hungarian painting international admiration.60 One possible reading of the Markó Room is that it promoted landscape painting in the same vein, honouring Markó as the initiator of the new Hungarian ‘school’. This evolutionary narrative had a strong historical basis: Markó was indeed regarded as a model by several painters of the younger generation, and many had been mentored personally by the artist on their Italian tours. Ligeti himself was one of them. In his article published in 1876 Ligeti explained the Markó Room in a slightly different way. Referring to Markó as ‘our internationally renowned compatriot’, he added modestly that ‘[t]he room also holds paintings by [Markó’s children], as well as by me, his grateful pupil, but these are intended only to demonstrate our inability to rise to the same heights.’61 No doubt this is partly a rhetorical device whose function is to tame the awkwardness of a situation where the curator has to curate himself into the display, but it is not just that. It constructs a different sort of evolutionary narrative, according to which Hungarian landscape painting had peaked decades earlier and was now in a state of decline. This was a valid type of art historical storytelling, but it certainly did not comply with the cultural optimism of the post-1867 Hungarian state; furthermore, in a way it negated the very thing the Picture Gallery was supposed to represent: the triumphant rise of the Hungarian school. The fragmented narrative unfolding in the exhibition allowed for two different conceptualizations of Markó’s place within the evolutionary process. Indeed, that process itself was far from defined; its temporality was fluid. Hungarian painting rose and reached previously unknown heights, that message was clear – but when and how that happened was described in a different way in each of the rooms. From the landscape room the visitor continued into the room of genre painting, which identified the period of triumph with the present: its central figure, Mihály Munkácsy was a contemporary artist at the peak of his career. The gallery owned only two paintings by Munkácsy: Storm on the Puszta (Fig. 8) and Recruitment (1877). In the gallery the paintings were surrounded by other genre paintings, mostly older than Munkácsy’s, but some more recent – suggesting, yet again, a decline or at least stagnation following the climax represented by the Parisian master. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Mihály Munkácsy, Storm on the Puszta, 1867. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. Fig. 8. View largeDownload slide Mihály Munkácsy, Storm on the Puszta, 1867. © Szépművészeti Múzeum / Museum of Fine Arts, 2017, Tibor Mester. When first exhibited in Pest in 1867, Munkácsy’s Storm on the Puszta was met with incomprehension on the part of Hungarian critics: its loose brushstrokes were shocking compared to the academic landscape paintings usually on view in Pest. It had been Ligeti who persuaded the Association for the Establishment of a National Picture Gallery to acquire the painting for the collection.62 Within the narrative structure of the exhibition, the Markó and Munkácsy Rooms told the parallel stories of two genres, but the two painters could also be understood as representatives of tradition and modernity. The overarching narrative unfolding in Rooms 1–4 was not chronological – all the spaces contained paintings from the early to the late nineteenth century – but it still suggested an evolutionary process by leading the viewer from academic copies towards the heralds of modernity. This narrative was, however, interrupted by the two rooms containing foreign paintings, as well as by the Zichy Room, which connected the development of Hungarian (history) painting back to its historical/political context. Overall, the hanging curated by Antal Ligeti in 1884 cannot be described as purely art historical in the sense that nineteenth-century champions of art museums understood the term. Instead of aiming for the definitiveness of survey museums such as the State Picture Gallery, Ligeti’s curatorial arrangement revealed the historical coincidences that had given shape to the collection: the large Markó purchase, which gave occasion to a landscape room; the copies, which referred to the earliest function of the gallery; the abundance of history paintings; even Ligeti’s personal connections to two of the artists he chose to commemorate. The reason for that lay in the collection itself. In strong contrast to the State Picture Gallery, which was formed from a few private collections that had passed into public ownership, the Picture Gallery of the National Museum was a product of public effort constantly evolving with the changing times. Both galleries were products of a larger project to create a centralized, national, modern institutional framework, but they addressed the task in different ways. One of them concentrated on the duty of projecting ‘what kind of political status [the] nation lays claim to in the world’ by presenting internationally acclaimed treasures arranged in a system modelled on the great museums of Europe. The other, by contrast, invited self-reflection and ambivalence. Conclusion When the State Picture Gallery and the Picture Gallery of the National Museum were reorganized in 1875, their relationship was envisioned as a chronological one: the Picture Gallery was to pick up the thread where the State Picture Gallery left off. In reality the two institutions were more like two sides of a coin; their guiding principles differed fundamentally. This was a problem inherent to the model followed by the reforms. For reasons to do with cultural politics and opportunities for acquisition, collections of post-1800 art tended to focus on local art, even if they included works by foreign artists.63 By contrast, any self-respecting Old Master collection had to display works from the most important major schools. The difference was even more conspicuous in Hungary, where old Hungarian art was almost non-existent in the State Picture Gallery,64 while at the National Museum Hungarian works outnumbered the slender collection of foreign modern art. Nevertheless, the long-term goal was to unite the two galleries, hence integrating Hungarian and international art into one encompassing system.65 This happened in 1906 when the Museum of Fine Arts was opened. Housed under the same roof and integrated into a school/chronology system, the collections still preserved their differences in character. The Hungarian collection – which grew much more rapidly than its international counterpart – became harder and harder to manage as part of a larger whole. Consequently, attempts were made to set up the Hungarian works in a different space, which culminated in the establishment of a separate institution, the Hungarian National Gallery, in 1957.66 In 2012 this decision was reversed with the intention to display the Hungarian works within the context of the international collection. Critics of the plan have often pointed out the imbalance described above. This article has focused on demonstrating that the Hungarian art collection of the Hungarian National Museum was shaped by ideas and expectations other than those of ‘pure’ art history, and that this was reflected in its displays between 1851 and 1884. This was, however, far from unique. It may be more obvious in the case of collections of national art, but it is in the nature of all museums to be inextricably rooted in the local context. A few exceptional collections in metropolitan centres of once-great empires can mask this by their sheer size and diversity, but even they bear the marks of their unique histories. In the case of museums in less central regions these particularities are easier to spot. Attempts to fit such collections into models abstracted from international examples are often driven by the urge to demonstrate ‘what kind of political status a certain nation lays claim to in the world’, while the acknowledgement of the accidental, the idiosyncratic, and even the imperfect can lead towards the critical self-awareness so eloquently described by Arnold Ipolyi. This also has implications for the scholarly study of museums. The employment of the museums of European ‘centres’ as universal models can obscure the particularities of institutions on the ‘periphery’. The Picture Gallery of the Hungarian National Museum was not an imperfect attempt at a classic art historical survey, but a self-sufficient product of its own history, the expectations and conditions that had shaped it and the singular objects it contained. This is not to disparage comparisons between museums in different countries – the example discussed in this article amply demonstrates the significance of international connections. It is, however, necessary to ‘de-centre’ our discussions of these complex relationships. Just as museums themselves are formed by a fruitful interaction between the singular and general, their study has to consider singular collections and generalized models, national(ist) aims and international horizons, outside influence and creative reception in endless dynamic interplay. Footnotes 1 Carol Duncan and Alan Wallach, ‘The universal survey museum’, Art History 3 no. 4 (1980), pp. 48–69. 2 Ibid.; Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside public art museums (London, 1995); Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, theory, politics (London, 1995); Sharon Macdonald, ‘Museums, national, postnational and transcultural identities’, Museum and Society 1 no.1 (2003), pp. 1–16. 3 For a fruitful reconceptualization of the art historical periphery see Foteini Vlachou, ‘Why spatial? Time and the periphery’, Visual Resources 32 nos 1–2 (2016), pp. 9–24. 4 For a seminal analysis of the permanent exhibition of the Louvre see Duncan and Wallach, op. cit. (note 1). See also Bennett, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 166–8. Macdonald, op. cit. (note 2), p. 3 presents a similar argument, but specifically addresses colonialist states. 5 For an approach that takes this into account see Simon Knell, National Galleries: The art of making nations (Abingdon and New York, 2016). 6 Several publications have dealt with the history of the Hungarian National Museum hnm. Seminal studies on the histories of the individual collections written by their curators were published in: A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum múltja és jelene (Budapest, 1902), compiled by the officers of the hnm; the Picture Gallery was discussed by László Éber, pp. 179–208. A similar volume appeared 100 years later: János Pintér (ed.), Two Hundred Years’ History of the Hungarian National Museum and its Collections (Budapest, 2002); on the Picture Gallery see Beatrix Basics, pp. 277–307. The most detailed account of the early history of the institution is provided by Jenő Berlász, Az Országos Széchényi Könyvtár története 1802–1867 (Budapest, 1981). Katalin Sinkó’s book (Nemzeti Képtár: ‘Emlékezet és történelem között’ [Budapest, 2009]) traces the idea of a ‘national gallery’ from 1802 to the late twentieth century. Ferenc Tóth’s Mű-Kincs-Tár: Művészeti közgyűjtemények Magyarországon, 1802–1906 (Budapest, 2017) focuses on the process that led to the establishment of the Museum of Fine Arts. 7 [Jakob Ferdinand Miller], A nemzeti gyűjtemények elintézésének feltételei Magyar Ország hazafiai számára (Buda, 1807), p. 4. 8 Ibid., p. 7. For more details on the envisioned collections see pp. 8–19. 9 Péter Kiss, ‘A Pyrker-képtár sorsa Egerben a 19–20. században és Pesten 1848-ig,’ Művészettörténeti Értesítő 36 (1987) pp. 131–41. Today the paintings can be found in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. 10 Imre Fejős, ‘A Magyar Nemzeti Képcsarnok Alapító Egyesület története’, Művészettörténeti Értesítő 6 no.1 (1957), pp. 37–47; Mária Csernitzky, ‘A József Nádor Nemzeti Képcsarnok kezdeti évei (1845–1862),’ Művűészettörténeti Értesítő 43 (1995) pp. 247–51. 11 For examples see Katalin Sinkó (ed), Aranyérmek, ezüstkoszorúk: Művészkultusz és műpártolás Magyarországon a 19. században (Budapest, 1995). 12 On this process and the collection itself see see Gabriella Szvoboda Dománszky, ‘Az Esterházy Képtár a magyar fővárosban’, Tanulmányok Budapest Múltjából 28 (1999), pp. 219–59; Orsolya Radványi, ‘Les collections d’art de la famille Esterházy aux xviiie et xixe siècles et la naissance de la pinacothèque nationale’, in Laurence Posselle (ed.), Nicolas II Esterházy: 1765–1833; un prince hongrois collectionneur; une histoire du goût en Europe auxxviiie–xixe siècles (Paris, 2007), pp. 86–91. 13 The literal meaning of ‘Országos Képtár’ was ‘Gallery of the Country’, subtly differentiating it from a ‘Gallery of the Nation’. The translation ‘State Picture Gallery’ has been chosen because it conveys this nuance, while underlining the idea of public ownership implicit in the Hungarian original. 14 On Pulszky see Ernő Marosi et al. (eds), Pulszky Ferenc emlékére / Ferenc Pulszky Memorial Exhibition (Budapest, 1997). 15 The lecture was published as Francis Pulszky, ‘On the progress and decay of art; and on the arrangement of a national museum’, The Museum of Classical Antiquities 2 no. 5 (1852), pp. 1–15 (quote from p. 12). See David M. Wilson, ‘A Hungarian in London: Pulszky’s 1851 lecture’, Journal of the History of Collections 22 (2010), pp. 271–8. See also János György Szilágyi, ‘“I know my place”: the biography of the other Pulszky’, in Marosi et al., op. cit. (note 14), pp. 136–7. 16 Ferenc Pulszky, ‘A múzeumokról’, in Ernő Marosi (ed), A magyar művészettörténet-írás programjai [Budapest, 2000], pp. 53–65. 17 Pulszky, op. cit. (note 16), p. 53. 18 Arnold Ipolyi, ‘A magyar műtörténeti emlékek tanulmánya (1878)’, in Ipolyi, Kisebb munkái, vol. iv:Műtörténelmi tanulmányok (Budapest, 1887), pp. 93–4. 19 See Ferenc Tóth, Donátorok és képtárépítők: A Szépművészeti Múzeum modern külföldi gyűjteményének kialakulása (Budapest, 2012), p. 23–24. For an interpretation that takes into account the two authors’ differing conceptions of art-historical evolution see Katalin Sinkó, ‘The changing world of art collections’, in The Hidden Treasures of Hungarian Painting: Selection from Hungarian private collections, vol. i [Budapest, 2004], pp. 24–5. 20 Ipolyi, op. cit. (note 18), pp. 9–10. 21 On Ipolyi’s vision of an art history integrated into the broader study of the history of culture see Katalin Sinkó, ‘Ipolyi Arnold’, in Enigma 13 no. 47 (2006), pp. 51–72. 22 The Museum of Applied Arts was founded in 1872. Provisionally housed in the National Museum, it was provided with a separate exhibition space in 1878 and finally moved into its own building in 1896. The Museum of Ethnography was founded in 1872 as a collection of the National Museum, but operated as an independent institution even before it formally gained independence in 1947. Certain parts of the collection of natural history – formally also an independent museum – were housed in the National Museum up until the 1990s. 23 This was already on the agenda in 1873, when the construction of a new museum building was discussed at a meeting organized by the Minister of Culture, with the participation of officials from the Academy of Sciences, as well as Ferenc Pulszky, who voiced his opinion that the galleries of old and new art should be united in a new building. See the minutes of the meeting: Hungarian National Gallery, Archives, inv. no. 25175/2015/vi/11. 24 On the Historical Picture Gallery see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), pp. 20–21. 25 See Katalin Sinkó, ‘A művészi siker anatómiája 1840–1900’, in Aranyérmek, op, cit. (note 11), pp. 15–47 (summary in German, pp. 49–55). 26 Miller, op. cit. (note 7), p. 7 27 The memorandum included plans made by the architect János Hild. These plans were never carried out. 28 Miller, op. cit. (note 7), p. 12. 29 On so-called ‘noble patriotism’ and its reflections in early-nineteenth-century Hungarian culture see Pál S. Varga, A nemzeti költészet csarnokai: A nemzeti irodalom fogalmi rendszerei a 19. századi magyar irodalomtörténeti gondolkodásban (Budapest, 2005), pp. 233–74; Erzsébet Király, Enikő Róka and Nóra Veszprémi (eds), xix. Nemzet és művészet – Kép és önkép (Budapest, 2010), pp. 297–310. 30 On the portrait collection (which was returned to the National Museum in 1934) see György Rózsa, Selected Paintings of the Historical Gallery (Budapest, 1977). 31 The reconstruction of the exhibition is based on an illustrated article published in the February 1888 issue of the magazine Magyar Salon, which was dedicated to the National Museum (Antal Ligeti, ‘A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum képtára’, Magyar Salon (February 1888), pp. 485–8), as well as on the catalogues Katalog der Bildergallerie im National-Museum, intr. by Antal Ligeti (Budapest, 1887), pp. 7–8, Katalog der Bildergallerie im National-Museum, mit Anhang, intr. by Antal Ligeti (Budapest, 1890), pp. 7–8. On this arrangement as an example of a pantheon see also Sinkó, op. cit. (note 25), pp. 21–7. 32 Orsolya Hessky et al. (eds.), Markó Károly és köre: Mítosztól a képig (Budapest, 2011). 33 Judit Boros, ‘A Hungarian painter in Paris: Mihály Munkácsy’s career between 1870 and 1896’, in Ferenc Gosztonyi (ed.), Munkácsy in the World (Budapest, 2005), pp. 33–60. 34 Enikő Róka and Orsolya Hessky (eds), Zichy Mihály, a ‘rajzoló fejedelem’ (Budapest, 2009). 35 Sinkó, op. cit. (note 25), p. 25. 36 See the arrangement in August v. Kubinyi, Katalog der Bildergalerie der Ungarischen Nat. Museums (Pest, 1868). 37 On the commission and the installation see Enikő Róka, ‘Egy kultuszkép története: Zichy Mihály: Erzsébet királyné Deák Ferenc ravatalánál’, in Enikő Róka and István Rónay-Csicsery (eds), Zichy Mihály (Budapest, 2001), pp. 36–44 38 On the development of the collection of foreign paintings see Tóth, op. cit. (note 19). 39 As emphasized for instance in the speeches delivered on the occasion of the reopening of the Picture Gallery in 1851; see Gábor Mátray, A Magyar Nemzeti Múzeumban létező nemzeti képcsarnok ünnepélyes megnyitása (Pest, 1851). 40 The neo-classical building was designed by Mihály Pollack and built between 1837 and 1847. 41 A detailed description of the General Picture Gallery can be found in [Károly Maria Kertbeny], ‘Die Bildergallerie des ungrischen National-Museums’, in K. M. Kertbeny (ed.), Ungrische Malerrevue: Beiträge zu näherem Verständniss der bildenden Künste in Ungarn (Pest, 1855), pp. 65–70. A partial reconstruction is offered by Fejős, op. cit. (note 10), p. 41. 42 ‘Hírharang’, Hölgyfutár, 24 July 1852, p. 678. 43 Kertbeny, op. cit. (note 41), p. 68. 44 Árpád Mikó (ed.), Jankovich Miklós (1772–1846) gyűjteményei (Budapest, 2002). 45 S. K. [Katalin Sinkó], ‘Peter Krafft: Zrínyi kirohanása Szigetvárból’, in Árpád Mikó and Sinkó (eds), Történelem-kép: Szemelvények múlt és művészet kapcsolatából Magyarországon (Budapest, 2000), pp. 529–31. 46 See the catalogues Műsorozata a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia palotájában elhelyezett Eszterházy herczegi képtárnak (Pest, 1866) and A Magyar Akadémia épületében lévő Országos Képtár műsorozata (Pest, 1871). 47 On the ‘gentlemanly hang’ see Duncan, op. cit. (note 2), p. 24. 48 As stipulated in the purchase agreement: Hungarian National Gallery, Archives, inv. no. 25175/2015/iv/21. 49 On the rehang see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), pp. 17–20. 50 On Károly Pulszky see László Mravik (ed.), Pulszky Károly emlékének (Budapest, 1988). 51 ‘Az Országos Képtár megnyitása’, Vasárnapi Ujság, 8 May 1881, p. 302. 52 Ibid., pp. 302–3. Two years later Pulszky co-authored a new, illustrated catalogue of the collection with Hugo von Tschudi, the future director of the Nationalgalerie in Berlin: Hugo von Tschudi and Károly Pulszky, Die Landes-Gemälde-Galerie in Budapest, vormals Esterházy-Galerie (Vienna, 1883). Many new attributions were published in this volume. 53 ‘Az Országos Képtár megnyitása’ op. cit. (note 51), pp. 302. Ligeti’s appointment was a provisional measure, only in effect until Károly Pulszky was freed from other duties and could assume full responsibility as director. 54 Ligeti Antal, ‘A múzeumi képtárról’, Fővárosi Lapok no. 53 (1876), pp. 246–7. 55 Pulszky, op. cit. (note 16), pp. 53–65. 56 See Orsolya Hessky et al. (eds), München magyarul: Magyar művészek Münchenben 1850–1914 (Budapest, 2009). 57 For examples and critical analysis of these functions of history painting see Sinkó, op. cit. (note 11); Mikó and Sinkó, op. cit. (note 45); Király et al., op. cit. (note 29). 58 See S. K. [Katalin Sinkó], ‘Staatliche Preisausschreiben für Historienbilder’, in Sinkó, op. cit. (note 11), pp. 314–16. 59 On the purchase see Fejős, op. cit. (note 10), p. 44. The first incarnation of the Markó Room is known from the catalogue Antal Ligeti, A Nemzeti Múzeum képcsarnokának ismertető lajstroma a festészek rövid életrajzával (Budapest, 1870) 60 Quoted in Judit H. Rapaics, Ligeti Antal (Budapest, 1938), p. 32. 61 Ligeti, op. cit. (note 54), p. 247. 62 See Lajos Végvári, Munkácsy Mihály élete és művei (Budapest, 1958), p. 82–3. 63 For examples see James Sheehan, Museums in the German Art World: From the end of the Old Regime to the rise of modernism (Oxford and New York, 2000), pp. 93–8, 159–62; Sara Tas, ‘Between patriotism and internationalism: contemporary art at the Musée du Luxembourg in the nineteenth century’, Journal of the History of Collections 27 (2015), pp. 227–40. 64 The Old Master collection included eleven works from Hungary, which were exhibited in a separate room from 1881. This number grew to eighteen only in 1906. See Sinkó, op. cit. (note 6), p. 19. 65 On this process and its critics see ibid., pp. 22–31. 66 On these developments see ibid., pp. 40–81. For a detailed account of problems of space in the early twentieth century and the external venues that were consequently used see Miklós Rajnai, ‘Az Új Magyar Képtár’, in Ö. Gábor Pogány and Béla Bacher eds., A Szépművészeti Múzeum 1906–1956 (Budapest: Képzőművészeti Alap Kiadóvállalata, 1956), p. 176–7. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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Published: Nov 2, 2017

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