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. When setting up his collection, Ráth – just like many of his contemporaries – was inspired by interior design. In 1901 Ráth bought the villa in Városligeti fasor, which he and his wife furnished with artworks.
Ráth left all his worldly goods to his wife, Gizella Melcsiczky, 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”.
Architectural photograph – Facade of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1900) by György KlöszMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Façade of the György Ráth villa (1907)
As a result, the National Ráth György Museum was established in the villa from Ráth's collection. In November 1906, the new attraction in the capital was opened to members of the press in a solemn ceremony, and on 8 January 1907 it was visited by the ruler himself, Franz Joseph I.
Two years after the death of György Ráth in 1907, the György Ráth Museum opened in the ground floor rooms of the villa on Városligeti fasor 12. The front hall, study, Gems room, parlor, sitting room, and picture gallery 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.
After Ráth’s death (1905), his widow lived on the upper floor of the villa for the remainder of her life, until 1917. The rooms were remodeled according to her needs, which meant the layouts and functions of some rooms changed. The large and stately upstairs dining parlor, which had been used for receiving guests of the family prior to 1905, was now occasionally used by the museum for larger receptions.
Entrance hall and staircase
Visitors passed through the vestibule into a small entrance hall with white painted paneling and a staircase. A decorative Art Nouveau frieze runs along the top part of the wall and above the wallpapered door to the picture gallery.
Like the wrought iron works in the Hungarian Royal Palace in Buda, the Hungarian House of Parliament and the Budapest Opera House, the Art Nouveau balustrade of the staircase was made in Gyula Jungfer's factory. Large decorative dishware from the East made the otherwise understated entrance room special.
So-called Gems room in the György Ráth Villa (photograph) (1906) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
We have no archival photos of the hall; we gain just a glimpse from one picture of the Gems room.
When the villa was remodeled in 1901–1902, Pál Horti, a versatile master of Hungarian applied arts who passed away at an early age, designed the basic fixtures around which the hall was redone: the staircase, the wood paneling, and the chandelier.
Armchair from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (1901) by Pál Horti and Imre MahunkaMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
In 1901, Horti exhibited a dining room suite along with several other designs at the Christmas exhibition of the Society of Applied Arts. The following year, the ensemble was presented at the International Exhibition of Applied Arts in Turin; later György Ráth acquired four armchairs from the suite.
Pair of vases from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1890) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Pair of vases – Gourd shaped with Gödöllő pattern
In the archival photo just one of two Herend vases in the shape of a butternut squash can be seen on the inner windowsill of the hall. Its companion almost certainly graced the left side of the sill.
Mirror from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1902) by Pál HortiMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
The mirror with a bead mosaic frame, also designed by Horti, was placed above the radiator.
Floor vase from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (circa 1902) by Georges de Feure and Jakab RapoportMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
The Art Nouveau masterpiece in the Hall was a decorative vase made in the enamel workshop of Jakab Rapoport (Rappaport); this object also appeared in the International Exhibition of Applied Arts in Turin in 1902, where the master received a gold medal.
Floor vase (detail)
The mount for the vase was made by the renowned French artist Georges de Feure.
Interior photograph – Study of György Ráth (1906) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Study of György Ráth
According to early twentieth-century newspapers, two Rembrandt paintings hung in the study, and this information appeared in the museum’s catalog of 1906 too. To this day, however, these paintings have not been identified—presumably the works were later listed and catalogued under the name of a different artist.
Prayer (niche) rug containing six columns
The floors and walls of the villa were covered in Oriental carpets. A seventeenth-century Ottoman–Turkish six-column prayer rug hung above the door of the study.
Next to the entrance to the study was a late eighteenth-century Italian chest of drawers upon which stood a likewise eighteenth-century German carved wooden clock, painted white and partially gilt. The metal face of the clock was adorned with military decorations. Above the chest hung a so-called verdure tapestry (named for its exclusively vegetal decoration).
According to the contemporary inventory of objects in the György Ráth collection, a fireproof cabinet was also located in the study. Ráth had purchased it from one of the best-known antique dealers, Joseph Egger, at the end of the nineteenth century. He probably kept valuables and important documents in it. The small cabinet, dating to c. 1700, had several drawers decorated with standing human figures, griffins and floral ornaments in niches.
Writing desk from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (late 19th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
What was György Ráth’s desk like?
Ráth's walnut desk was decorated with carved and turned elements. In keeping with the custom of the time, numerous objects were placed on the baize-covered desktop: a leather folder, a bronze inkstand, a pen, several wooden boxes, a paperweight, a pen cleaner, a paper-cutting knife, a ruler and a calendar. Several of these objects are preserved in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts.
Writing box from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (second half of the 18th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Paperweight from the original fittings of the György Ráth Villa (1896) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Ruler from the original furnishings of the György Ráth Villa (late 19th century) by unknownMuseum of Applied Arts, Budapest
by Hilda Horváth, PhD