Peter Pollág

St. John’s wort

A painting from the latest period of Peter Pollág’s work (1958) was purchased because of the topic which has a strong autobiographical context and a connotation to the history of the artist’s native town of Levoča. It represents the latest painter’s creation and, at the same time, is a reflection of the work by a Levoča photographic studio of Eugene Kopasz from the 1930’s.
The painting is part of the, so far, small series called Herbal Plants and also a series of exhibitions of the same name. The inspiration and the starting point for the artist was a photography from a family album which had been made shortly after the first world war in the Levoča photograpic studio of Eugene Kopasz. It is a group portrait of the artist’s grandparents Anna and Stephen Pollág and their oldest children, those who had survived until adulthood, son Paul (the artist’s father) and daughter Hanka. It is a traditional photograph of an urban craftsman’s family. The artist’s father was a tailor and the whole family of several generations lived in Levoča.
The artist has emphasized a certain formality of the studio photograph by overexposing the studio – the floor, the stage and the falling snowflakes on the right. A surreal supplement to it is a figure of a naked woman with a hat that is a personification of emotion and energy hovering at the back of the photograph. According to the artist, it is „ a personification of a genuine spontaneity of the family which the old formal studio photographs were suppressing. At the same time, it is an allegory of an erotic charge, love, positive relationships in the family, a picture of mutual love (hence the title of the painting: Ľubovník (love invoking plant in Slovak)- St John’s wort).

Peter Pollág

(born on 19 February 1958 in Levoča) comes from an old Levoča family. In the years 1977 – 1983 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava. Having graduated he stayed at the Academy as a lecturer in the years 1983 – 1990. He has enhanced his study of painting by studying at foreign academies, such as the Accademia de Belle Arti Pietro Vannucci in Perugia in 1980, in the years 1984 – 1989 the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, in 1986 – 1987 the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, in 1988 the faculty de Bellas Artes na Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Madrid. Following the year 1990 he has been devoted to his artistic work, small size as well as monumental paintings, stained glass windows, drawings, graphics, book illustrations and scuplture.

Eugene Kopasz

was a Levoča photographer. In 1918 he had finished a two year course in photography in Budapest and started working in a Levoča branch of the Helios and Rosenbach photographic studio, originally from Budapest. In 1921 he bought it and carried on in the activities of the studio under his own name. The studio was in No.2, Nová Street and until 1932 it was very popular. In addition to family portraits and pictures of individuals from the town and its surroundings he also took pictures of the Levoča barracks. Due to his Jewish origin he was detained by the Gestapo and deported to the former concentration camp in Sachsenburg in 1944 which, at that time, functioned as a testing operation for the Bruno Tautenhaun company and was also a shooting range. He died there under unknown circumstances.

Portrait 2

Anna Normann-Ehrenfels. Sketchbook

1871
Valpovo (Walpacher), Slavonia, in today’s north-eastern Croatia, paper, cardboard, pencil drawing, black chalk, tempera, 31 x 29 cm
Signed on all drawings with the artist’s first name: Anna

The sketchbook contains 52 sheets depicting flowers, fruits, studies of two female portraits and vedutas of her native Valpovo and the surroundings, all made in pencil. Three sheets have a precise date of the drawings origin – gezeichnet im Mai / Juny 1871 (made in May/June 1871).
The drawings were made by Countess Anna Csáky, neé Normann-Ehrenfels, before the marriage, probably as part of her education in her native town which she had left after the wedding with Count Vidor Csáky de Körösszégh et Adorján. She moved to Spišský Hrhov where the married couple had built a neo-baroque mansion.

Rudolf Csáky. Caricatures from 1835

Smokovec, the High Tatras, paper, pencil drawing, 22 x 28,7 cm
signed at the bottom right hand corner: RUD pinx Schmecks 835 / Von Conten Rudolph Csaky gezeichnet

Two caricatures depicting male figures which the artist must have been fairly familiar with. He recorded their typical stature and the way of walking, tailcoat clothing, with top hats in their hands or on their heads, walking sticks or umbrellas in their hands. Several similar caricatures have been preserved in the State archive in Prešov, the Spiš archive in Levoča and the Csáky fund in Spišský Hrhov.

Hedwig Friedländer. Portrait of Anna Csáky

1899
Spišský Hrhov, oil painting on canvas, 197 x 127 cm, in the original frame 210 x 135 cm
signed at the left hand bottom corner: Hedwig Friedlaender 1899

The paintress depicted Anna Csáky as an emancipated, self-confident woman, sitting in an armchair at a coffee table with an interesting still life behind, with a burning cigarette and an ashtray. Anna Csáky (1854 – 1927) came from an aristocratic family of Normann-Ehrenfels. On 12 October 1878 she married Count Vidor Csáky (1850 – 1932), a son of Augustine Csáky and Iphigenia, neé Prónay. They had chosen a new neo-baroque mansion in Spišský Hrhov as their residence. The married couple had themselves painted for the mansion family art gallery by the talented Viennese paintress Hedwig Friedländer (1863 – 1916), daughter of the painter Friedländer, a Knight of Malheim. According to the memory book, the paintress came to the mansion in Spišský Hrhov on 20 November 1899 and, in addition to a drawing of the mansion and her signature in the book, she made this non-conformist portrait of the Countess there.

Portrait

With artistic talent and aristocratic origin

A son of a former employee at the Csáky mansion house in Spišský Hrhov sold a sketchbook wrapped in a leather cover and designated with the exlibris of the Csáky mansion house library to the Antique bookshop in Levoča. He had found these objects when sorting out the heritage and had almost discarded them as useless things his mother had been preserving. It is quite likely that it was the drawings in the sketchbook that made him go and find out their price so that he could sell it in an antique shop. The owner of the shop knew that the SNM-Spiš Museum had been gathering objects related to the Spiš family of the Csákys for a long time and decided to offer it to them for acquisition.
The history of the Csáky de Körösszégh et Adorján family goes back to the 14th century and their agnomen, which they had obtained around the year 1396, is derived from the village Cheresig a Adrián in the Bihár County. The Csákys had settled in Spiš in 1638 when, folowing the extinction of the Thurzo family, Stephen Csáky (1603 – 1662) received from the Royal Chamber the Spiš Castle and its feud and, together with this, also the position of a hereditary Spiš governor. In 1702 the property had been divided and thus the basic family branches came to being, i.e., those of Hodkovce, Bijacovce, Kluknava and Iliašovce. The Kluknava and the Iliašovce branches had merged in the early 19th century and by the end of the 19th century their residence had been moved to Spišský Hrhov. In 1885 Count Vidor Csáky purchased Gustáv Görgey’s estate in Spišská Nová Ves, together with the mansion in Spišský Hrhov. Although he had the original Görgey mansion repaired in 1886 – 1888, the result did not satisfy his aspirations. Therefore, in 1893 – 1895 he had a new mansion built according to the project of the Viennese architect Heinrich Adam (1939 – 1905). The neo-baroque mansion was a unique example of the architecture and interior design of this neo-style in Slovakia. It was a successful synthesis of a baroque come back on the one hand and modern comfort on the other one. The Csáky family had lived there until 19 January 1945 when, as many other aristocratic families, they had to leave their residence due to the approaching front, however, hoping that they would be able to return after the war. The owner of the day, JUDr. Gustáv Csáky (1883 – 1964), son of Vidor and Anna, had indeed made an effort to come back in 1946 but the District Office in Levoča would not give its consent. The Levoča Museum had received around 318 historical objects, such as portraits, personal and every day use objects which are still an important part of its collections. Among them are two representational portraits of the married couple – Vidor and Anna Csáky – painted by the Viennese painter Hedwig Friedländer.

The museum purchased also the leather cover with the exlibris of the mansion library in Spišský Hrhov. There were several newspaper cuttings in it, among them also two older drawings – caricatures – which were made in 1835, on various occasions, by Count Rudolf Csáky (1811 – 1887), a member of the Hodkovce family branch. He was a son of Count Emmanuel Csáky (1763 – 1825) and Anna, neé Szirmay (1771 – 1838) who take the merit for the early classicist reconstruction of the mansion in Hodkovce. Rudolf, a landowner, was also a patron, as well as a collector, of art. He administered the family property which included also one of the first buildings in Starý Smokovec. He lived mainly in Košice but since 1881 he used to spend more time in Levoča. He was a member of the Hungarian parliament (House of Lords). He was also regularly supporting the Hungarian theatre in Košice and was a member of its steering committee. In addition to drawing, among his hobbies were German poetry and collection of antiques.