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Recovery of a Monumental Feszty Painting
Recovery of a  Monumental Feszty Painting

After almost half a century, Feszty Árpád’s triptych entitled  “Christ’s Burial” came to light again on March 1st, 2017, at the Arad County Museum of Fine Arts.  This colossal artwork was stored in the museum’s basement for safekeeping since 1977, rolled up on a drum or cylinder.

Present at this sensational event were members of the Kölcsey Art Association (Kölcsey Egyesület) of Arad, the museum’s manager, the mayor of Arad, and Hungarian and Rumanian art experts and restorers.  To the great surprise of everyone, the first painting that was unrolled was of King Mathias (Mátyás király) by Liezen-Mayer Sándor, followed by the three pieces of the triptych, the first of which was the largest of the three, the 7 meter long “Funeral Procession”. 

Painter and art restorer Szentkirályi Miklós Béla reported that it took professional know-how  and care to unroll and remove the four paintings –  the triptych and the Liezen-Mayer picture.  It was feared that they would be greatly damaged, but to their surprise most parts were in good condition.  The specialists noted, however, that because they were rolled and  rerolled many times for several decades as they were being shipped, there was damage on the edges and the corners, and they could not tell at first glance what had been previously restored and painted.  The most important parts, however, the faces, are in  perfect condition.  The wood stretcher will also have to be replaced where the originals were lost.  It  will take at least six months,  according to the art restorers, to repair the damages.  It has not been decided where this would take place, either in Hungary or in Rumania.

It was due to the efforts and persistence of the Kölcsey Association for the last 27 years that this sensational event was achieved.  The cost to restore the paintings could run into millions of Euros, and it will be up to the County management to find the sources to fund  this work.

Feszty Árpád (1856-1914) was born in Ógyalla, Hungary  (now Slovakia).  His ancestors were German settlers.  His father, Silvester Rehrenbeck, an affluent landowner at  Ógyalla, was ennobled by the Emperor in 1887 and the family took the name Martosi Feszty, or Feszty von Martos in German.  Feszty studied in Munich, and later in Vienna (1880-81).  After his return to Hungary,  he became famous by his two works entitled ”Golgota” (Calvary) and ”Bányaszerencsétlenség”  (Accident in a Mine).  Several of his smaller paintings are in the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest. Among his best known frescoes are those that adorn the walls of the Budapest Opera House.

Feszty lived in Florence, Italy, from 1899 to 1902 with his wife Jókai Róza, also a painter (the adopted daughter of Jókai Mór and granddaughter of his wife, Laborfalvi Róza, the famous actress) when he painted the monumental 13 meter long and 4 meter high triptych, the  “Burial of Christ”.  First exhibited in Budapest in 1903,  he later sent the paintings on an international tour and to Arad in 1913, the exhibit coinciding with the opening of the Palace of Culture in that city.  He died on June 1st, 1914.

He is best known for another monumental commissioned work, his cyclorama, a circular panoramic painting, oil on canvas, depicting the arrival of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin in 895, ”A magyarok bejövetele”.  It was completed in 1884 for the 1000th anniversary of the event, with the help of many noted painters including Barcsay Jenő, Mihalik Dániel and Mednyánszky László.   The size of that painting is 50 feet tall by almost 400 feet in length, or 15 x 120 meters. The canvas was later transported to London for the 1899 Great Britain Exhibition, and brought back to Budapest in  1909. It was seriously damaged during WWII, and for safekeeping  it was cut up in 8 meter long pieces, rolled up and stored in various museum warehouses.  It was restored in 1995 and is on exhibit at  Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park in Hungary.

Eva Wajda is a member of Magyar News Online Editorial Board.


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