Collecting Central Europe  
  The History of Collecting of Central and Eastern Europe  

Paris Bordone, Venus and Flora, 1550s, Saint Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum


26 April 2022

Elisabeth Reitter, Ambras Castle, Innsbruck, Austria, guided tour to the Museum of Castle Ambras
Tour of the Ambras Kunstkammer with a special focus on the Estate Inventory of 1596
Given the rather peaceful situation in Tyrol during the second half of the sixteenth century, Archduke Ferdinand II (1529 – 1595) was able to indulge his interests in the arts and sciences. He is known as one of the great renaissance collectors - i.e. the founder of the Ambras Collections.  Besides armour and weapons, portraits and books, he also collected copious amounts of objects for his kunst- and wunderkammer. Items made of rock crystal, gold and silver, hand stones, corals, as well as turned artefacts made of wood and ivory and artistic glass objects were housed in the kunstkammer together with exotic and peculiar naturalia. To accommodate his collections, Ferdinand built dedicated rooms - most of which are preserved to this day. Ambras can thus justifiably be described as one of the oldest museums in the world. The 1596 Estate Inventory describes the objects in the collection and provides information on the way in which they were stored and presented. The current museum presentation will be just as much a topic of the presentation as the contemporary description of the collections from the Estate Inventory.
Elisabeth Reitter studied Art History and French in Innsbruck and Padua/Italy. In January 2019, she started as project assistant at Ambras Castle /KHM Vienna on the edition of the 1596 inventory of Archduke Ferdinand's estate . In this inventory, all the objects in Archduke Ferdinand's many properties (Ambras Castle, Innsbruck Castle, Ruhelust, several hunting lodges) were recorded by hand, making it the most important source of the Ambras collections. The inventory transcipt will be turned into a database linked to the existing objects to index the collections of the Tyrolean archduke. The results of this work will be made accessible both digitally and in print.
To find out more, please visit:

22 March 2022

Štěpán Vácha (Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague): Emperor Rudolf II’s Paintings Collection Revisited: New Ideas and Perspectives

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

Rudolf’s art collections represent an extensive field of research with a wide range of opinions. The current discourse oscillates between the idea of a private museum accessible only to the emperor and court artists and a semi-public collection conceived in the symbolic meaning as the form of sovereign representation. Scholars have mainly paid attention to the kunstkammer, but not as much to the paintings collection (picture gallery). The clues are clear: the collection was already scattered by the middle of the seventeenth century and there is no exact documentation of its original extent and shape. The use of computation methods and intensive team research raised new questions, which had not been asked yet. The lecture not only offers a fresh look at the location and spatial arrangement of the picture gallery but also encourages a rethinking of the relationship between the picture collection and Rudolf’s personality.
Štěpán Vácha, PhD, is a research scholar at the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences and editor-in-chief of the journal Studia Rudolphina. His primary research interest concerns Rudolfine and Baroque painting in Bohemia. He teaches art history at Charles University in Prague and the Academy of Fine Arts. Since 2020, he has been a principal investigator of the team research project "Art for Display: The paintings collection of Emperor Rudolf II within the context of collecting practices ca. 1600". For more information visit

22 February 2022

Amber Collections Workshop: Ruth Sargent Noyes (National Museum of Denmark), Tomasz Grusiecki (Boise State University), Rachel King (The British Museum, London)

Three ten-minute presentations followed by discussion

Ruth Sargent Noyes: Amber materialities of Sanctity between the seventeenth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Florence
My talk explores an exchange of luxury gifts in the 1670s-80s between Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici and scions of the Pacowie clan in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Medici-Pacowie gift exchange climaxed in the translatio (ritual relocation) of relics of two early modern saints between Vilnius and Florence: Polish-Lithuanian prince Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk (1458-84) and Florentine nun Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (1566–1607). In 1678 a femur bone of Kazimierz journeyed south; in 1683 hair and a tooth of Maria Maddalena traveled north, outfitted with sumptuous reliquary containers. My talk explores how intertwined discursive strands across epistemic fields—including theories of the emotions, hagiography, spiritual exercises, humoral theory, metaphorics and metaphysics of materials, and conceptual geography—converged in the series of reliquaries manufactured in Danzig (Gdańsk) and Florence of amber, ivory, rock crystal, diamonds, and silver to transport, safeguard, and exegete numinous bodily remains. With a particular focus on the discursive materiality of amber, which featured prominently not only in the reliquaries but also across the Medici-Pacowie gift exchange, and constituted an especially sought-after luxury material by the Medici both in its raw natural state and worked by human facture, I explore how the reliquaries’ haptic and thermal material facture not only instantiated a particular mode of sanctity associated with the saints enclosed within, but also indexed the emotional malleability of the pious devotee interacting with the relics, while also reifying period notions regarding cultural differences between southern and north-eastern Europe.
Ruth Sargent Noyes, PhD, is Marie Skłodowska-Curie EU Senior Research Fellow at the National Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen). Her research takes up the intersection of art, religion and science of the Early Modern period in its global context, with special focus on cross-cultural perspectives between Italy and Northern Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, and the Nordic-Baltic region. A 2014 Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Dr. Noyes currently leads a Marie Skłodowska-Curie EU Project, The art of (re)moving relics and reforming holiness in Europe’s borderlands (TRANSLATIO), from which her talk is taken.
Tomasz Grusiecki: A Material to Think With: Prussian Carved Ambers, Self-Reflexivity, and a New Geography of Art
There is no material linked more closely to early modern Prussia than amber, and both the Hohenzollerns (rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia) and the Vasas (overlords of Royal Prussia) used it extensively as diplomatic gifts, linking this prized material to their territories. Amber was also one of the most enigmatic materials of the period, with its alchemical nature often examined by natural philosophers who sought to determine its origins and physical makeup. Prussian artisans participated in these explorations by foregrounding amber’s metamorphic qualities. Many amber artefacts carved in Königsberg and Danzig self-reflectively depict the transformation of the Heliades (the Sun’s daughters) into poplar trees, an Ovidian trope important for the understanding of amber as a material that was once something else. This article explores how the physical properties of cups, caskets, and altarpieces carved in amber had consequences for how these objects were used and activated as a vehicle of elite sociability. By tapping into natural philosophy treatises, descriptions of places, gift records, and poetry, it proposes that amber’s material rhetoric was twofold: (first) to frame the geographically peripheral Prussia as a centre of cultural activity and material exploration; and (second) to simultaneously encourage the perception of amber-made artefacts as multivalent media capable of evoking multiple geographic locations, thus delving into transcultural implications of amber, a Prussian material that simultaneously publicized and obfuscated its origins.
Tomasz Grusiecki is Assistant Professor of Art History at Boise State University. He specialises in the study of visual and material culture in Poland-Lithuania, 1500-1700, focusing on early modern nationalism, cultural entanglement, and perceptions of selfhood and alterity. He is currently revising his first book, Transcultural Things and the Invention of Tradition in Early Modern Poland-Lithuania, contracted to Manchester University Press.
Rachel King: Making under the Microscope: Signed Ambers and the Stories they Tell
Although many early-modern objects made from Baltic amber – a fossilised resin extruded some 40 million years ago – survive today, they represent a fraction of what once was.
A small number of amber artisans were feted internationally in their own lifetimes. Celebrated craftspeople like Christoph Maucher or Christian Porschinen are not known to have signed their pieces, although pieces by and attributed to them exist. Conversely, a small number of signed works do survive. These are particularly significant, not least because they attest to the names of a small number of artisans.
This contribution will engage with works signed by and linked to craftsperson Jacob Heise, seeing these objects as a portal to a career about which absolutely nothing is known for the records of the Königsberg guild records are no longer extant. How can approaches developed by historians of material culture help us understand who Heise was, where, how and when he trained and worked, who he worked with, and the routes he took to market?
This contribution explores the ways in which engaging closely with surviving objects can raise and answer questions, as well as enrich and be enriched by recent work on the cultural, natural and material history of amber in the early-modern era.
Rachel King, PhD is Curator of Renaissance Europe and the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, London. She has previously held curatorial positions at The Burrell Collection, National Museums Scotland, and the Bavarian State Museums and Galleries. Her articles on early-modern amber in Italy and elsewhere have been important in garnering greater scholarly attention for the history of European interest in this material. Rachel’s book Amber. Nature and Culture, a Global History of Amber, is forthcoming with Reaktion Books.

25 January 2022

Baiba Vanaga, Rundāle Palace Museum: Rundāle Palace Museum: The Rebirth of the Ducal Residence
Recorded guided tour to the Rundāle Palace Museum (Latvia) followed by live q&a session
The Russian court architect Francesco Rastrelli designed Rundāle Palace for the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron. Although the palace was built between 1736 and 1740, the interior decorations were finished later, between 1765 and 1768. Duke Peter, son of Duke Ernst Johann, can be considered a serious art collector and part of his collection was also kept in Rundāle Palace. In 1795, after the annexion of the Duchy of Courland by the Russian Empire, the last Duke Peter left Courland and took the furnishings of his palaces to his properties abroad. The interior objects and works of art accumulated during the nineteenth century by later owners of Rundāle Palace were moved to St. Petersburg before World War I.
The Rundāle Palace Museum was founded in 1964 as a branch of the Bauska Museum of Regional Studies and Art. In 1972, it became an independent museum. At the time when the museum was established the premises of the palace were completely empty. The accommondation of the museum in the former summer residence of the Dukes of Courland determined to a certain degree the nature of its collections. The palace interior arrangement is aimed at reflecting the former functional role of the rooms, echoing the tastes of the former owners and creating the best possible collection of fine and decorative arts. The tour will focus on the museum’s collecting history.
Baiba Vanaga is an art historian and head of the Art Research Department at the Rundāle Palace Museum. She studied art history and theory at the Art Academy of Latvia and museology at the Latvian Academy of Culture. In 2015, she received her doctorate from the Art Academy of Latvia. Her research interests are women artists, historical collections and the artistic life in Latvia from the late eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth centuries.
Baiba has published on women artists in Latvia; two essays on historical collections are forthcoming: "The Art Collection of Duke Peter of Courland" (proceedings of the conference For the Eyes and for the Soul: Private Art Collections in Lithuania, organised by the National Museum of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute; Vilnius) and "Women Artists’ Works in Public Collections in Latvia, 1870–1918’ (Proceedings of the Art Museum of Estonia, issue 11 (16): Women Artists in Baltic and Nordic Museums; Tallinn).

14 December 2021

Julia Rössel (KONDA, Foto Marburg), Spaces of Collecting: From Physical Matter to Digital Object

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

Prints were always made to circulate through time and space. When they would join a collection they were extracted from the art marked and, so it seems, they would stop their circulation for a while to stay there. They would be glued in albums or fixed within a mount. Within the collection the physical object is relatively fixed in space within the topological structure of a spacial and virtual classification system. What happens next?

By cataloguing objects in museum databases, by reproducing it via digital photography and by publishing text and image information of the object on the museums website or aggregating databases like Europeana the print is also circulating as a digital object.

The lecture asks which paths a print being part of a Museum’s collection took before and takes within the Museums space. I like to describe this journey as a sequence of transformations and translations that changes the object itself in certain ways.

As example, I will follow the path of a print from the prints and drawings collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Brunswick.

Julia Rössel completed her studies in art history and book studies the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz by the with a master's thesis on almanacs from Paris publishers during the reign of Louis XIV. Since 2014, she has been working on her doctorate under Salvatore Pisani at Gutenberg-University Mainz on the topic "Change of Media Systems - Graphic Collections and their Digital Translation". In addition to various study visits to the Statens Museum in Copenhagen, the Kunstistorisches Institut in Florence and the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel, she worked as an art mediator at the Städelmuseum Frankfurt and the Museum Wiesbaden. She has been working as research assistant in the project Kupferstichkabinett Online of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. Currently she is project coordinator for an interdisciplinary project in the field of digital humanities at Philipps University Marburg.

23 November 2021

University Collections Workshop:

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk (Museum of the University of Wrocław), Fabienne Huguenin (The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT), Sofia Talas (Museum of the History of Physics at the University of Padua)

Three ten-minute presentations followed by discussion

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk

Between Science and Education. Historical Collections at the University on the Example of the University of Wrocław

Collecting at universities has been practiced from the start. Universities needed research and teaching facilities and collected objects that were useful during lectures and classes with students. Today's universities own historical, scientific and didactic collections that reflect the history of the university, its structural and material transformations. This is also the case with the University of Wrocław, which takes care of its historical collections. The exception of the University of Wrocław, however, is that in 1945 it changed its nationality (from German to Polish). Its collections have largely been dispersed, partly also destroyed. Research in this extremely interesting cultural heritage shows that over the centuries, an attempt to balance the scholarly interests of professors managing collections with teaching at the university is evident in university collections.

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk is an art historian and museologist. She studied in Wrocław, Frankfurt (Oder) and Warsaw. She held several important scholarships and is the author and co-author of books and numerous scientific articles. Urszula is a member of the Polish Association of Art Historians, the Association of University Museums in Poland, the Association of Polish Museologists, and the Silesian Historical Commission in Germany. Her research interests focus on the history of art and culture around 1800 and the history of museology in Wrocław.

Fabienne Huguenin

The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT

The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT was founded as a central facility of the University of Tübingen in 2006. It functions as an umbrella institution for the approximately 70 university collections. Some of the tasks of the MUT are to organise the scientific collections responsibly, to preserve them for future generations and to make them usable for research, teaching, public education and profiling of the university. The determination of the origin of objects and human remains as well as the evidence of possible contexts of injustice has also been recognised as an important research desideratum. Some examples illustrate the challenges we face.

Fabienne Huguenin studied Art History, Classical Archaeology and Romance Languages in Tübingen and Djon. After completing her doctorate in Art History in 2011, she worked on several digitisation projects at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, most recently as team leader in the project „Deutsches Museum Digital“ for the scientific indexing of the holdings of the object collection, the archive and the library. She was also responsible for acquiring third-party funding in the field of provenance research at the Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology. Her second book, an inventory catalogue of the portrait painting collection of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, received the publication prize of the museum. Since August 2020, Fabienne Huguenin has been a research associate at the Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT. Her areas of focus include collection and provenance research as well as third-party funding acquisition.

Sofia Talas

The new History of Physics Museum in Padua - Exploring the Potentialities of a University Physics Collection

The Museum of the History of Physics holds thousands of scientific instruments that were used for physics research and teaching in Padua from the 18 th century onwards. It was founded in 1995. We have just developed a project to renovate the Museum, with the aim of shedding new light on the potentialities of Padua university physics collection.

The paper will discuss some of the main peculiarities of the new display, which actually brings the public into Padua's Cabinet of Physics to show how physics was taught and studied in Padua from the 18th century onwards. We will see how connections with the global developments of physics, as well as links with other disciplines, such as art and architecture, emerge from Padua collection of scientific instruments. Stories of successes and failures come to light, often connected to the political, social and economic context, and we will see how instruments themselves offer food for thought on current issues in science and society.

Sofia Talas is curator of the Museum of the History of Physics at the University of Padua. Her research focuses on scientific instruments, their history and interpretation. From 2011 to 2017, she was President of Universeum, the European network aiming at the preservation and promotion of academic heritage. Sofia is currently a Board member of the History of Physics Group (European Physical Society) and the Scientific Instrument Commission (International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science).

18 October 2021

Franciszek Skibiński (Gdańsk National Museum) The National Museum in Gdańsk: Collection, War Losses, Research, Guided tour to the National Museum in Gdańsk

Recorded guided tour of the museum followed by live q & a session

The National Museum in Gdańsk was established by the merger of two institutions: the City Museum (est. 1870) and the Museum of Applied Arts (est. 1881). The core collection of Jacob Kabrun (1759–1814) comprises several thousand paintings, drawings and prints by European masters from the end of the fifteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. In the first half of the twentieth century the museum further enriched its collection by acquiring works by modern German artists. Since a large part of the original collection was lost in 1945, the National Museum is now rebuilding and developing its collection, while actively researching its history before and after 1945.

The tour will focus on the museum’s history, war losses and acquisitions as well as current research by the curatorial team. It will be hosted by Franciszek Skibiński, PhD, Vice Director of the Museum and Magdalena Mielnik, PhD, head of the Pre-1945 Fine and Applied Arts Department.

Franciszek Skibiński holds a PhD from Utrecht University. He is assistant professor at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland, where he held a position of Vice-dean responsible for scholarly matters and international exchange. Currently, he is  Vice Director for scholarly matters at the National Museum in Gdańsk. In his research he explores the phenomenon of artistic exchange in Early Modern Europe, in particular in relation to sculpture and architecture.

Recently, he published a book Willem van den Blocke. A Sculptor from the Low Countries in the Baltic Region (Brepols, 2020). His other publications include "Early Modern Netherlandish Sculptors in Danzig and East-Central Europe. A study in dissemination through interrelation and workshop practice." Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 63 (2013), and "Between Paris, the Low Countries and the Baltic: an episode in the history of artistic exchange in sixteenth-century Europe." In Arts et artistes du Nord a la cour de Francois Ier, eds. Laure Fagnart and Isabelle Lecocq, Paris 2017.

20 July 2021

Orsolya Bubryák (Institute of Art History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Budapest)Hans Steininger (1552–1634) and his ‘studio famosissimo’ in Augsburg

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

The lecture will be dedicated to the Kunstkammer of Hans Steininger (1552–1634), a wealthy textile merchant of Augsburg. Although less well-known today, the collection was one of the most prestigious collections of its times in Augsburg and mainly comprised paintings and antique statues. Hans Steininger built his collection in the 1610s and 1620s, but it was sold off by his son not long after Steininger’s death, in the 1640s. The high quality of the collection is proven by the fact that pieces from it were purchased by the greatest collectors of the day including Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria, Christina, Queen of Sweden, Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici Among the prospective buyers also was Cardinal Jules Mazarin.

The only item of Steininger’s Kunstkammer known so far was a painting cycle on a mythological theme by Paris Bordone which has long been traced back to the Fugger family and which was believed to be acquired by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria. Some of these paintings have even been identified in the imperial collections of Vienna and Prague. The lecture will argue that Hans Steininger neither owned the paintings associated with him by researchers nor that he acquired them from the Fugger. Neither were the works of Paris Bordone sold by his heir in Vienna nor were they purchased by Archduke Leopold Wilhelm. Rather, the presentation will show how Steininger's painting cycle by Paris Bordone can be reconstructed, which of his works of art were acquired by the imperial family and which painting can actually be traced back to the Fugger family.

Orsolya Bubryák, PhD, is an art historian, senior research fellow at the Institute of Art History, Research Center for the Humanities (former Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Budapest, Hungary. She received her doctorate in art history from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest in 2010. Between 2011 and 2013 she was chief curator of the Art Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Since 2016 she has been editor-in-chief of the Ars Hungarica, scholarly journal published by the Institute of Art History. She is the author of two books: Family History and its Visual Representation. Collections of the Erdődy Castle in Galgóc (2013) [in Hungarian] and Collecting Clues. In Search of an Art Collector in Seventeenth-Century Vienna (2018) [in English]

22 June 2021

Armoury Workshop with
Maurizio Arfaioli (Medici Archive Project, Florence),
Stefan Krause (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna),
Szabolcs László Kozak (ELTE-MTA, Budapest)

Three ten-minute presentations followed by discussion

Maurizio Arfaioli

The Medici Armoury in its European Courtly Context

In 1775, the Lorraine Grand Dukes of Tuscany finally (and regrettably) scattered what was left of the Medici armoury in the Palazzo Ducale (Palazzo Vecchio). It had been equal – and often superior – to any of the other great European dynastic collections of arms and armour. Its formation had however followed a rather unique trajectory. The Medici had become Dukes of Florence as late as in 1532 and as such were a new, late and, in many respects, unwelcome addition to the Italian and European aristocratic system.

As an enclave in a largely republican context, the small and new court of Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574), second duke of Florence and future first Grand Duke of Tuscany, presented itself as more “martial” than most, lacking much of the veneer of ceremony and etiquette that characterised other, well-established Italian princely families. The guardaroba (the office in charge of the ducal household’s moveable goods) handled the flow of weapons and ammunition which sustained the court’s military lifestyle and functions, making of the Palazzo Ducale “slightly less than an arsenal, much more than a personal armoury.” This short presentation will discuss the origins and later development of the Medici armoury.

Maurizio Arfaioli is Senior Research Fellow at the Medici Archive Project (MAP) in Florence, overseeing scholarly research activities involving the Project’s digital platform (BIA). He has published essays and articles on Florentine military history and iconography. In 2019, he curated an exhibition at the Uffizi on the Medici German Guards. Maurizio’s current projects focus on the Florentine military system during the reign of Cosimo I de’ Medici and on the Italian troops in Spanish service in the Low Countries.

Stefan Krause

Heroes and Ancestors – Habsburg Armour Collecting

The Imperial Armoury in Vienna numbers among the best of its kind in the world. It preserves the key parts of the former imperial armoury, i. e. the collection of arms and armour for war, tournament and representation for the personal use of members of the Habsburg family. The two most important sources of the collection are the former imperial armoury in Vienna and the collection of Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol at Ambras Castle near Innsbruck.

The origin of the Habsburg armoury in Vienna can be traced back to the early 15 th century, but the core of this collection dates from the Renaissance. As early as the Middle of 16 th century we have the first archival documents proofing historic armour of family members to be kept in the imperial palace for dynastic reasons. The most important Habsburg armoury in Vienna was housed at the so called Stallburg-Wing of the Palace. At first installed for the personal use of the young Emperor Maximilian II it continued to be used as an armoury with museum-like installation well into the 18th century.

Archduke Ferdinand II. of Tyrol is one of the most important collectors of arms and armour of all times. At Ambras, he realised a very early systematic presentation of objects based on a novel museum idea of methodically collecting. The core of his armour collection was the Heroes’ Armoury with armours that had been owned by famous personalities of his and previous times. He wanted his armoury to preserve the memory of their deeds and to emphasize the leading historical role of the Habsburg dynasty.

Stefan Krause is Ronald S. Lauder Director of the Imperial Armoury at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. He studied Art History at the University of Vienna. In 2010, he was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2014, he was Paul Mellon Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

His research focuses on arthistorical and cultural aspects of arms and armour, particularly from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. He has published on the decoration of German renaissance armour, armour as fashion, the history of the Habsburg collections and tournament manuscripts. One of his most recent publications is: Fashion in Steel. The Landsknecht Armour of Wilhelm von Rogendorf (Yale University Press 2017).

Szabolcs László Kozak

Arms and Armour at the Royal Court of Hungary in the Late Middle Ages: Collecting, Exchange and Use

In 1408, Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387–1437) moved his court from Visegrád to Buda castle. Entries from the royal account books tell us that the court employed several weaponsmiths. Precious arms were a symbol of high status and nobility; therefore the Hungarian kings tried to impress their illustrious guests with tournaments, processions and military games. Late mediaeval sources indicate the existence of a royal armoury in the royal palace, destroyed in 1686 during the recapture from the Ottomans. From accounts, testaments and reports of envoys we know about the colour schemes in the rooms and can also indentify some of the objects once stored in the castle.

At the turn of the fifteenth to the sixteenth centuries, Prince Sigismund (then King of Poland) spent a few years in Buda as the guest of his older brother Wladislaus, King of Hungary. His account books provide precise details of the court‘s everyday life, including information on dozens of target shooting games and jousts. The court’s account books also suggest that the tournaments were executed by a handful of professionals during the reign of the Jagellonian dynasty. The kings’ amourers (politors) maintained the equipment for knightly jousts (rennen and stechen).

Szabolcs László Kozak is a mediaevalist historian and PhD student at ELTE University, Budapest and has been working on projects related to mediaeval and renaissance arms and armour at the Hungarian National Museum. In 2020, he started to work at ELKH (ELTE–MTA) as a research assistant.

Szabolcs believes in a comprehensive scientific approach including craftsmen and guilds as well as technical aspects. As part of his ongoing PhD research, he has published on the production of weapons and on civic roles in self-defence and parades,  arsenals and military games (shooting games and jousting) in the most important cities of Transylvania during the late middle ages. Arms and armour are therefore regarded as part of the mediaeval culture uniting practice and fashion.

In his recent work, Szabolcs focuses on the late Royal Armoury of Buda.


18 May 2021

Aistė Bimbirytė–Mackevičienė (Kazys Varnelis House-Museum)

Guided tour to the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum

Recorded guided tour to the museum followed by live discussion

The house-museum of the artist and collector Kazys Varnelis (1917–2010) is reminiscent of a residential house. Its small rooms rich in details of early Gothic architecture contain the exhibits of historical prints, maps and Western European sculptures, supplemented by sets of Renaissance and Baroque furniture and abstract paintings by Varnelis.

Harmony based on contrast makes the entire exhibition extraordinary. Accumulated for fifty years and given to Lithuania, Kazys Varnelis’s collection is a significant contribution to the collections of cultural treasures of Lithuania. It enriches the existing collections and introduces new principles of building an exhibition.

Aistė Bimbirytė-Mackevičienė’s main research focus is on the history of collecting in Lithuania and on the traditions of Lithuanian aristocratic culture with its links to Western Europe. In 2019, she gained her PhD from the Lithuanian Institute for Cultural Research with a thesis on “Count Władysław Tyszkiewicz and Western European Fine Arts in Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Collections.” In 2016, she joined the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum (the National Museum of Lithuania), where she has been researching the collection, curating exhibitions and organising conferences. Aiste has published numerous articles and conducts guided tours through the museum. In 2021, she became a lecturer at Vilnius Academy of Arts.

27 April 2021

Renate Leggatt-Hofer (independent scholar, Vienna)
The Kunstkammer of Emperor Ferdinand I in Vienna: Kunstkammer Building (1558), Collection, Garden and Residential Architecture

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

The lecture will focus on the imperial residence in Vienna, in particular on the purpose-built Habsburg Kunstkammer of 1558. As far as we know, it was the first time a dedicated building was designed to house the imperial collection. Positioned adjacent to the ballhouse in the Untere Lustgarten, it was part of the residential area but separated – an essential innovation –from the official ceremonial apartment within the Alte Burg. The connections between garden (nature), the collection in its separate building and the official ceremonial space will be analysed, as well as the terminology and meaning of “kunstkammer” and “kunsthaus” in the written sources.

What did the idea of having a separate museum in Vienna mean for the set-up of kunstkammern within the Habsburg Empire and across Europe, e.g. in Munich? After Ferdinand’s death in 1564 his son Maximilian II significantly enlarged the Viennese Kunstkammer building. In 1582, under Rudolf II, it was finally connected to the Old Castle by a bridge across the moat.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Vienna Kunstkammer was swallowed by new structures. Nevertheless, its exact position, appearance and building history were recently discovered: Between 2005 and2017, the imperial Hofburg, its building, meaning and functional history from the thirteenth century to the present time was the subject of an interdisciplinary research project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Renate Leggatt-Hofer (until 2015 Holzschuh-Hofer) completed her degree in Art History, Archaeology and Philosophy at the University of Vienna in 1984 with a PhD on ecclesiastical architecture of the sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries. After post-doctoral fellowships at The Albertina Museum (Vienna) and at the Austrian Historical Institute (Rome), she participated in numerous research projects, e.g. on the pleasure palace Neugebäude, Vienna, and several exhibitions. From 1994 to 2016, Renate worked for the Federal Monuments Authority Austria (Bundesdenkmalamt) at the Research and Scientific Inventory Department; from 2010 to 2016, she served as the Head of the Executive Department for Public Relations. From 2005 to 2014, she took part in the research project on the Vienna Hofburg organised by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Renate currently works as an independent scholar. Her main research interests include architectural iconology, central European Renaissance architecture, early modern residences, early modern art collecting displayed in residential architecture and the semantic history of Burgundian symbolism.

Inaugural Event, 17 November 2020, 19.00 CET

Workshop: Issues of Provenance – Provenance as Issue

  • Dr. Patrick Hunt, Stanford University, "Who Owns Priam’s Treasure?”
  • Dr. iur. Avraham Weber, Weber & Co., “Contemporary International Thoughts as for the Importance of Provenance Research to Identification and Understanding of Nazi Looting”
  • Dr. Andrzej Jakubowski, University of Opole, “What is Provenance Research? What Purpose does it Actually Serve?”