Madonna von Pötsch


Title: Madonna von Pötsch (1676)

Artist: István Papp (commissioned by Laszlo Csigri)

Location: St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

Medium: Tempera on Wood

Dimensions: 50 cm x 70 cm (20 in. x  28 in.)

               Although little information exists about the painter of this work, there is knowledge about the man who commissioned the work, Laszlo Csigri. Csigri had just been released as a prisoner of war by the Turks, who had just invaded Hungary. To commemorate his freedom, he commissioned the work. Papp asked for about six ducats, which were gold coins used at the time. Unfortunately, Csigri must not have been able to afford the painting, because a man by the name of Laszlo Hurta bought it instead. Hurta donated the painting to the Eastern Rite Catholic Church of Pocs, located in Hungary.

                This painting is considered to be in the byzantine style of art. According to Art Past, Art Present, byzantine art was characterized by revival or preservation of the ancient Greek art and culture (p. 150).  In the painting, it appears that both Mary and Jesus are wearing garments of the Greek style. What truly makes this piece of art byzantine is that it was an iconic painting. These paintings were seen as a way to correspond with the spiritual world (p. 151).  This icon of Mary and Jesus was often prayed to, and still is today. A specific characteristic of iconic paintings is “intense staring eyes (p. 151),” which both the Virgin and Child have in the painting. Although they are not looking towards the viewer of the painting, the eyes are depicted are dark and piercing.

There is also a significant amount of symbolism in this painting. Mary’s hand points towards Jesus, indicating that He is the way to life. A cross hangs around Jesus’ neck, foreshadowing what is to come. With one hand, he gives a blessing. In the other hand, he holds a miniscule rose with three stems, which is an indication of the Holy Trinity.

Truthfully, one of the greatest elements behind this painting is its history. Originally, the artwork hung in the Catholic Church in northern Hungary. In 1696, viewers of the painting had implied that they had seen Mary in the painting cry tangible tears on two different occasions. Supposedly, the weeping lasted for a few days, attracting hundreds of people. Emperor Leopold I had the painting sent to Vienna to protect it from Muslim armies that were still present in Hungary. After five months, the painting finally arrived at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Although the painting has been in a few different locations in the cathedral, it has remained there since 1697.  There have been no tears coming from the painting since that time. However, it is still to have been thought to answer prayers.  A few copies of the artwork have been made, as well. Instead of the original artwork, the city of Pocs, Hungary received a copy. Residents there believe that this copy works miracles and has cried real tears, like the original.

Upon observation of this work, a few specific details intrigue me. The specifics in the halos on both the mother and child are captivating. Once one knows the history of the painting, however, I think Mary’s eyes become the true center of the painting. One may question, “Could this painting have actually shed tears?”  The painting is not very naturalistic, such as the child’s face to body proportions and the position in his mother’s arms. It is still appealing, however.

References: (Vienna Sights: A Travel Guide to the Top 25 Attractions in Vienna, Austria By MobileReference)

Art past, art present. David G.Wilkins – Bernard Schultz – Katheryn M.Linduff – Prentice-Hall – 2001


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