Hungary's grand exhibition: "Art and Culture in the Era of King Sigismund of Luxembourg"

The Budapest Museum of Fine arts is celebrating its centenary with the country's largest art exhibition of all time which opened under the title "Art and Culture in the Era of King Sigismund of Luxembourg". The exhibition, featuring 400 works of art from about 100 museums, libraries and church treasuries from 19 countries, focuses on the colourful personality, political career and art patronage of King Sigismund.

The show features masterpieces of 14-15th century painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, codex illuminators and gunsmiths. One sensational piece on display is the ceremonial sword of the city of York, which Sigismund donated to King Henry V of England, and which has never been removed from Britain until now. Contributors to the exhibition, which is open until June 18th, include the British Museum, the Louvre, the National Gallery in Washington, the Biblioteca Apostolica in the Vatican, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Agi Varga of Radio Budapest talked to curator Zsombor Jekely:

"In this exhibition, we decided to focus on one of the most colourful and interesting rulers of the late middle ages - Sigismund of Luxemburg who was king of Hungary for fifty years from 1387 to 1437 and later also became Holy Roman Emperor. His personality truly marks a turning point in European history. I think we can justifiably say that this was not the end of reigning of the middle ages but the start of a new period, the start of a new kind of Europe and he as a ruler, ruling over a vast territory of Europe, played a very important role in this period as a diplomat - his role in organising the Council of Constance, for example, which meant the end of the division of the Christian Church, was crucial and also this entire period of change and transformation is demonstrated in the exhibition."

What was his influence like in Hungary?

"It took some time for him to establish himself as a ruler in Hungary. The first fifteen years of his rule were characterised by internal struggle. But after that, I think we can call him one of the great Hungarian kings even if he has been somewhat forgotten. He had been overshadowed by, for example king Mathias, the other great 15th century ruler. But during these fifty years that he ruled in Hungary, he really made Hungary and his castles here, especially in Buda in present day Budapest and the castle in present day Bratislava, the centres of a European wide empire. These places became diplomatic centres, which foreign rulers and dignitaries visited and at the same time Hungary and especially these cities became very important artistic centres as well."

Can we say that this is a kind of rediscovery of medieval art?

"It certainly is a rediscovery of this particular period because, like I said before, the period of Sigismund has been overshadowed by the period of King Mathias and also by the period of the Angeline kings, in the earlier 14th century. But this particular period, the decade around 1400, the period of the international gothic, has never been exhibited on this scale and many of the works exhibited here are quite unknown, often even to specialists. So, the exhibition presents a one time chance to see the art - the best of the art - of this one-time period."