Temporary deposits of artworks, confiscated fortunes

Part I: Kolozsvár

MúzeumCafé 36.

The idea that Budapest, which had developed into a metropolis, could encourage artistic initiatives in the country, infuse life into local associations and galleries, as well as share the experience of exhibitions with provincial Hungarian towns was born in the period of great plans for the 1896 Millennium celebrations. It was as if the aim of reparation had been formulated, given that Budapest with its far greater opportunities drew talented artists from the provinces with the promise of success. This is the first in a series of articles aiming to give an account of the transfer and fate of deposits of four Transylvanian picture galleries – in Kolozsvár, Marosvásárhely, Torda and Nagybánya – as reflected in the historic changes of fortune. In autumn 1902 Kolozsvár, Transylvania’s intellectual capital, was preparing for the ceremonial inauguration of its King Matthias statue, which was commissioned for the Millennium but erected with a few years’ delay. 1899 had seen the formation of the Transylvanian Fine Arts Society, which had set the opening of its debut exhibition to the day of the inauguration. A collection of 200 items was sent from Budapest, which were presented alongside works created by the society’s members. A state deposit of ten paintings sent to Kolozsvár on the minister’s instruction was more important than all else. Its aim was to give a boost to the picture gallery that had been organised by the Transylvanian Museum Society since 1859. That first deposit given to the town was selected from the National Picture Gallery, one of the basic collections of the Fine Arts Mu-seum. Thanks to Professor Béla Pósta (1863–1919) the collection, which grew mainly from donations, bequests and later purchases, finally found its home after many setbacks in the imposing Classicist Petrichevich–Horváth building.