The National Hungarian György Ráth Museum (1907) II.

Gems room / Gallery

By Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

György Ráth (1828–1905) was the first director general of the Museum of Applied Arts. Thanks to his art collection, he was considered one of the greatest private collectors of his day. Ráth left all his worldly goods to his wife, who carried out his wish that his art collection be given to the Museum of Applied Arts after his death, with the stipulation that they would form “the National Hungarian György Ráth Museum constituting an auxiliary part of the Museum of Applied Arts, which is inalienable and must be maintained together with its collection”.

As a result, the National Ráth György Museum was established in the ground floor rooms of the villa from Ráth's collection. The front hall, study, Gems room, parlor, sitting room, and picture gallery of the villa were opened to the public. These rooms preserved the furnishings as they were in Ráth’s lifetime, with only a few display cabinets added. The former library became the museum office. In November 1906, the new attraction in the capital was opened to members of the press in a solemn ceremony.

Interior photograph – So-called Gems room in the György Ráth Villa (1906) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

So-called Gems room

But my most beautiful memory was when [my tutor, Jenő Lázár] took me unexpectedly to the Ráth György Museum one evening: the sun was shining and the spectacle of the translucent [gems], the gold display cabinet, the Persian carpets, the Egyptian cat and the fine French furniture was intoxicating” (Károly Tolnay's diary entry, 23 October 1956).

The Gems room was in fact György Rath’s parlor, named for the works of art kept there. Gems, precious stones that have been cut, were favorite object in antique Greek–Roman art and were popular in the modern period too among art collectors. This led to copies and forgeries of antique gemstones in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The collection contained thirty-three gems mounted in footed settings and placed in front of windows, where the sunlight glistened through emerald, topaz, carnelian, sapphire, agate and onyx gemstones.

Cameo with the portrait of Paris from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, circa 2nd /3rd century BC, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Cameo with the portrait of Empreor Augustus from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, first half of the 1st century, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Cameo with the portrait of Empress Julia Domna from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, 3rd century BC, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Ráth published several of his gems in the second volume of Az iparművészet könyve [The Book of Applied Art], which he edited. As most of Ráth’s gems disappeared in World War II, this book is our only source for some of them. Of the survivors, a few are in the Museum of Applied Arts, but the rest were transferred to the Museum of Fine Arts in 1951, along with Ráth’s old paintings and his collection of Egyptian and Greco-Roman antiquities.

Interior photograph – So-called Gems room in the György Ráth Villa (1906) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

The furnishings of the Gems room

Armchair from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (first half of the 16th century early 17th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Renaissance armchair

Among the furniture, two leather upholstered, Renaissance armchairs located on either side of the carved display case stand out for their craftsmanship and value as antiques. This type of chair is from Italy: its companion piece can be found in the Palazzo Davanzati in Florence.

Pair of mirrors from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (early 18th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Pair of mirrors

The pair of eighteenth-century carved, gilt mirror frames placed opposite each other above the doors played an important role in the interior décor.
The frame of the mirror consists of two parts: a base frame made of pine, and an ornamental one made of limewood. The ornamental frame is open-worked, egg-shaped, gilt. The surface of the internal oval frame features lily ornaments. 

Pair of mirrors (detail)

Rich, open-worked carved parts are connected to this: mascaron at the bottom, with two leaf motifs starting out from it to the two sides. In the middle winged caryatids, on the top there is a female figure between leaf motifs and above that a fruit basket. 

Pair of mirrors (detail)

The central, oval, faceted mirror is surrounded by nine smaller ones of various sizes, fitting into the gaps of the open-worked carving.
The pair of gilt mirrors was made at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

Rug from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (16-17th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Safavid Herat Spiral Vine and Palmette Rug

Behind the carved cabinet hung the oldest piece in the carpet collection, a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century Persian “Herat” carpet. We have no information on the provenance of Ráth’s carpets, but he probably acquired them via art dealers. 

Stand from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (19th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Stand

Carving played an important role in the Gems room. Not only were the gems carved (cut) but the furniture too. Busts and the antique vase (krater) were placed on richly carved columns. 

Stand from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (16th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Stand

Photograph – Cabinet from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1900) by Antal WeinwurmMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Photograph of the cabinet from the original furnishings

The two spectacular display cabinets that defined the Gems room are no longer there. The cabinet on the right in the photograph, once thought to be a specimen of French Renaissance furniture, is now housed in the István Báthori Museum in Nyírbátor.

Interior photograph – So-called Gems room in the György Ráth Villa (1906) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Gems room—wood carvings and jewelry collection

One of the carved display cases contained György Ráth’s rather large collection of wood carvings, while the other housed ancient Greek, fired clay statues and Roman bronzes.

The most beautiful carvings were framed and hung on the wall. To the right of the decoratively carved display case hung a sculptural ensemble carved from pearwood, dating to c. 1720. The composition, depicting Christ’s removal from the cross, recalls the altarpiece by Rubens in the cathedral of Antwerp.

One of the showcases presented jewelry and various remarkable metalworks. Their golden glow filled the room.

Mount from the collection of György Ráth (4th/ 5th century BC) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Mount from the collection of György Ráth


The two bearded, crowned masks, made of pressed gold plate, are unique antique items. 

Double wedding ring from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, circa 1600, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Outstanding among the jewelry pieces was the engagement ring of Transylvanian chancellor János Petki and Kata Kornis, made in Transylvania c. 1600. When the two bands of this double (gimmel) ring are fit together, a pair of clasped hands is formed. A contemporary record shows that Ráth bought this piece of jewelry from the Egger brothers, who dealt in both antiques and goldsmith works.

Clasp from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, 16 th century, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Clasp from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, circa 1600, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Brooch from the collection of György Ráth, unknown, 20th century (presumably), From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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The golden boglars—brooches decorated with precious stones, pearls and enamel—are masterpieces of Hungarian Renaissance jewelry. These tiny, delicate objects adorned many forms of Hungarian festive costumes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Ráth's collection was rich mainly in S-shaped and flower-shaped boglars. Similar items were found in the crypts of the sixteenth-century Reformed churches of Chengov and Küküllővár. The six-petalled flower brooch, also shown here, with its turquoise decoration, was probably made in the early twentieth century.    

Interior photograph – György Ráth’s gallery (1906) by Ödön BékeiMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Gallery

The picture gallery, where the majority of Ráth’s paintings hung, was the focal point of the museum, as these artworks—along with the Hungarica library—were the most valuable. Ráth arranged the paintings according to his own tastes:   Netherlandish landscapes, still-lifes and portraits mixed with Italian paintings of the Madonna. 

Writing desk from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (19th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Writing desk

In the corner of the gallery of the Rath György Villa was a nineteenth-century table, the special technique of which is attributed to André-Charles Boulle (1642–1732), a master carpenter of Louis XIV. György Ráth's writing desk is a copy of a piece by Boulle which was part of the original furnishings of the Palace of Versailles.

Small cabinet with fairy-tale scenes from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (1880-1902.) by Albert Schickedanz, Henrik SiposMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Cabinet

Below the atmospheric Netherlandish landscape (a work by Aelbert Cuyp) next to the painting of Mary was a cabinet by Albert Schickedanz, the architect who designed the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Schickedanz also designed a comfortable cassapanca (chest-bench) for the gallery.

Table cabinet from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (17/18 th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Cabinet

A small cabinet with many drawers was placed on the platform in the lower part of the wardrobe. 

Cabinet (detail)

Transylvanian rug from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa, unknown, mid 17th century, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Transylvanian rug from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa, unknown, first half of the 17th century, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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Prayer (niche) rug from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa, unknown, circa 1800, From the collection of: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
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The room was full of Oriental rugs that rivalled the paintings in their beautiful colorful splendor. In addition to the Mujur and Persian rugs, two superb seventeenth-century Transylvanian carpets also occupied the room.

Interior photograph – György Ráth’s gallery (1906) by Ödön BékeiMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Gallery— display table

A walnut table converted into a showcase contained György Ráth's medal collection, consisting mostly of lead coins. The cabinet also displayed small carved wood portraits, a playing piece with the likeness of Pope Clement VIII, a Renaissance wax relief and an ivory portrait.

Display table from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1880) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Display table

The table stands on four cylindrical feet, decorated with rosettes and egg-and-dart motifs at the bottom and three carved putti clinging on the horn of a ram at the top.  

Display table (detail)

The shorter sides are joint by a stretcher with scroll and rosette motifs,  while the middle stretcher has a richer decoration of a flower urn and two putti on the sides.

Relief from the collection of György Ráth (18th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Relief from the collection of György Ráth

Token from the collection of György Ráth (circa 1600) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Token from the collection of György Ráth

portrait of Pope Clement VIII

Wax relief – Portrait of Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga from the collection of György Ráth (1571) by Antonio Abondio (presumably)Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Wax relief – Portrait of Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga

The brown-haired man with a short beard and moustache is looking to the right. He is wearing a white collar and a red cardinal's gown. The portrait is encircled by small, gilt pearls.

Wax relief – Portrait of Cardinal Scipione Gonzaga

There is an inscription in the frame with the name of the man: SCIPIO.  GONZAGA SAC ROM IMP PRINCEPS AN. NAXXIX. Scipione Gonzaga (1542–1593) had a brilliant career as a cardinal. In 1565 he was serving Emperor Maximilian II, and was given a Dukedom.

Credits: Story

by Hilda Horváth, PhD

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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