Ildiko Dobranyi Foundation
Opening speech
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to be here at the Christian Museum at Esztergom and it is a real honour for me to be asked by the organizers to do the opening speech for the exhibition ‘Historical and Contemporary Tapestries in Hungary’.
As the title of the exhibition says, you will see a combination of old and newly created tapestries. The museum has an interesting collection of Flemish pieces, woven in Tournai, Oudenaarde and Brussels. They cover a period of several centuries and show different subjects. If you visit the exhibition you also will see different styles. The Tournai-tapestry from the end of the 15th century with the Calvary shows Christ at the cross, with big figures around Him, filling the whole composition and showing only a little bit of landscape in the far distance.
From the end of the 16 century are The Betrothal of David and Bathsheba and Alexander the Great before the high priest Jaddua. Those are Oudenaarde tapestries with big figures in an open landscape rolling out in the back, and with a wide luxurious border around the central scene. Also from Oudenaarde, from the beginning of the 17th century, is the piece with Scenes from the Story of Judas Maccabeus. It shows a lot of action and has a wonderful border with water and ducks at the bottom, landscapes with animals at the sides and sky with birds at the top border.
In the 16 century Brussels was the most important tapestry centre in Flanders, and I should say in Europe, and it would hold that position during several centuries. From the luxurious pre-Renaissance period the Christian Museum owns the Triumphal March of the Trinity. The richly clothed figures are not so stiff as in the Tournai tapestry and they have more realistic faces. The exhibition shows another Brussels tapestry you all know from the Web of Europe- project: Mercury hands over the infant Bacchus to the Nymphs, from the collection of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Budapest. It dates from around 1700 and shows, sitting in a landscape, figures in robes with Baroque drapery and a wide Baroque border with vases, flowers and animals.
With this Web of Europe- project we come to the connection between historical and contemporary tapestries and to the creation and weaving of tapestries in the 20th century up till today. Weather you are admiring an old or a new tapestry, you can look at it the same way: what is represented, how is the composition, what colours have been used, how is it woven... but also: what kind of feeling does it bring up in me when I am looking at it, what does it do with me? And that is what art is about. I don’t make the distinction here between ‘decorative art’ or ‘fine art’. The contemporary Hungarian tapestry weavers are artists who have chosen this medium to express themselves. They use a century – old tradition, because big painters like Raphael, Peter Paul Rubens, François Boucher and many many others, have made designs for tapestries.
Although the representation of the figures, the animals and the nature in Creation, The Flight into Egypt and Birth of Venus by Noemi Ferenczi, are more or less ‘naive’, these tapestries from the beginning of the 20th century still catch our attention.
It is interesting to see how you can use the same way of looking at historical and at modern tapestries: from a distance and from close by. You want to get the whole picture, the whole overview first, but you also get attracted to see the details and how it was woven. This certainly is the case with the contemporary tapestries you see at this exhibition.
Although with Ildiko Dobranyi, the country lost one of its major tapestry artists, it is a pleasure to see how tapestry is still flourishing in Hungary. The selection in this exhibition also shows the quality of the Hungarian tapestry artists and makes us realize how important they are within the European context of the last 50 years.
I want to express my hope Hungarian artists will continue to create such beautiful and interesting tapestries, whether they are figurative or abstract.
Finally, I want to congratulate the organizers of this exhibition and all the selected artists for this wonderful presentation here at the Christian Museum.
Thank you for your attention.
Dr Elsje Janssen, Director of Collections at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium