Buddhist Works of Art in the Ferenc Hopp museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts 1987.

Buddhist Works of Art in the Ferenc Hopp museum 

It is not widely known that a museum of Oriental art exists in Budapest. Although some capitals in neighbour­ing countries – such as Vienna, Prague and Belgrade – have some Oriental collections, they have no such specialized museum. The Ferenc Hopp Museum, however, is more than sixty years old, for it was in 1919 that Mr Ferenc Hopp bequeathed his entire collection to the state with the purpose of establishing a new museum of Asian art.

From the age of the Scythians to the settlement of the Hungarians in 896, several Asian nomadic tribes – Huns, Sarmatians, Avars, etc. – had migrated from Inner Asia to settle down in the Carpathian basin, the centre of which constitutes modern­ day Hungary. They brought with them many objects and customs that still testify to connections with Asian art and culture. This, together with the Eastern origins of the Hungarian people, has resulted in a strong national interest in Oriental languages and culture. The activities of the Hopp Museum are closely related to these concerns.

Ferenc Hopp was born in 1833 at Fulnek in Moravia. As a young boy, he was sent to Budapest to become an apprentice at the Calderoni optical firm. In the following years he studied in Vienna, Berlin and New York. After returning to Hungary, he became the co-owner of the Calderoni company, which he later bought. As a well-to-do man, he took much pleasure in travelling and made five long voyages around the world, the first in 1882 to 1883 and the last in 1913 and 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War. He developed interests in geo­ graphy, the natural sciences and Far Eastern art and became a well-known collector of Asian decorative arts. The major part of his collection is from China and Japan; lacquerwares, ivory carvings, bronzes, cloisonne enamels, jade and other semi-precious stone carvings and sword accessories domi­nate the 4,100 pieces. His villa became known as the ‘Oriental Museum’ of Budapest and, at the back of it, he had a small Japanese garden built with a pond and a bridge. A few stone monuments – a Chinese stele set on the back of a tortoise, a statue of a Jaina Tirtthankara, a Hindu tomb monument, a Japanese stone lamp and so on – also grace the gardens.

The new museum was soon enriched by the transfer of Oriental materials from other Hungarian museums. The Museum of Fine Arts gave a significant collection of more than 2,300 Japanese works of art, while many objects were moved from the Museum of Industrial Arts, which had purchased works of Oriental art mostly at the international fairs of Vienna, Paris and London around the turn of the century. It also had acquired the Chinese brocade collection of Olga Wegener and the Japanese lacquered combs collected by the globe-trotting journalist and play­wright Attila Szemere.

At the end of the 1930s, the Caucasian and South Siberian archaeological collection of Count Eugene Zichy was transferred from the National Museum of Hungary. Zichy had organized three expeditions to the Caucasus and Siberia trying to find the traces of ancient Hungarians there. On his last trip, he rode through Mongolia to Bei­jing. His Caucasian collection remains one of the largest outside of the Soviet Union. The National Museum also donated some important Indian sculp­tures, for instance a splendid black head of Vigm from the ninth or tenth century and a large relief of the teaching Buddha Sakyamuni, also from the Pala-Sena period (8th-12th century). These pieces had been sent to Hungary originally by Dr Theodore Duka (1825-1908), the first biographer of Alexander Csoma de Koros.

The Museum of Ethnography gave most of the Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian objects that had been col­lected in Asia in 1869 and 1870 by John Xantus (1825-94), who had given more than 20,000 objects belonging to the realm of natural sciences to the National Museum and who later be­ came the director of the Museum of Ethnography. For technological studies, the ceramic collection of Vince Wartha (1844-1914) is of outstanding importance. Being the first professor of chemical technology at the Poly­technicum of Budapest, he bought thousands of various ceramics for research on glazes and enamels. Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943), who led three important expeditions to Central Asia in the early part of this century, con­tributed, between the two world wars, two fine Seljuq bronzes from Iran.

(Fig. 1) Fragment of a low relief carving of Buddha and worshippers
Indian, Gandhara, 2nd-3rd century AD Schist
Height 41 cm, width 21.5 cm

(Fig. 2) Standing Guanyin
Chinese, dated 583
Height 56.5 cm

Private donors enriched the Hopp Museum from the beginning of its incorporation. Most of the Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese works of art were donated by Imre Schwaiger, a Hungarian-born art dealer based in New Delhi and London. To Dr Dezső Bozóky, a ship’s surgeon serving in the Far East, the Museum owes, among other things, fine bird-and-flower paintings by Ren Bonian (Ren Yi, 1840-96). An excellent veterinary surgeon, Dr Otto Fettick donated nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japanese and Chinese ceramics, lac­quers and other decorative arts, and Mr Edmund de Unger and Geza Fehér­vári of London contributed several pieces of Islamic pottery and other objects in the last decades. Also from Great Britain, Mrs E. Bendel donated Japanese musical instruments and her collection of Japanese and Chinese dolls and other objects.

Since 1955, the Museum has received significant exchange gifts from Asian countries, including more than a thou­sand works of modem Chinese decora­tive art and woodblock prints, as well as examples of Korean art and a few old miniature paintings and modem oil paintings from India. The Museum itself has an active purchasing pro­gramme. Most of the Chinese and Japanese works acquired since the founding of the Museum have been purchased by the Museum’s first two directors, who helped enlarge the col­lections not only with objects bought at auctions abroad, but also with works collected personally in Asia. Professor Zoltan Takacs Felvinczi (1880-1964) bought, during a study trip in 1936, about three hundred small bronzes in China. Notable among them are bronze plaques decorated in ‘animal style’ from the Ordos region. His successor, Tibor Horvath (1910- 72) acquired some outstanding Chinese, Japanese and Korean paintings and ceramics in Japan in the meagre years during and after the Second World War. While on a study trip to Vietnam in 1961, he selected about forty archae­ological finds and old ceramics for exchange.

The Museum’s holdings now number over 20,000 works, comprising three main collections – Chinese, Japanese and Indian – and several smaller col­lections from other Asian countries. Both the Chinese and Japanese collec­tions contain more than six thousand pieces; nevertheless, the difference between the two collections is rather great. While the Chinese collection spans the entire historical period begin­ning with the Shang dynasty (16th­ – 11th Chinese BC), the Japanese collec­tion contains largely nineteenth- and twentieth-century works, with only a limited number of objects that date before the Edo period (1615-1867).

The Museum organizes permanent and special exhibitions in the former villa of Ferenc Hopp, which serves as the centre of the museum, and the China Museum, a separate exhibition building. Because of limited space, the exhibitions are changed periodically. The library has over 15,000 volumes mostly on Oriental art, an assemblage unique in Hungary. Jointly with the Museum of Industrial Arts, the Hopp Museum publishes the yearbook Ars Decorativa, as well as exhibition catalogues. A regular exchange of publications is maintained with more than three hundred museums and institutions in the East and West.

(Fig. 3) Mourning disciple
Chinese, 10th-11th century
Height 43.5 cm

(Fig. 4) Two heads of devata
Chinese, from Maya cave, 3rd site, Kyzyl, Xinjiang, 6th-7th century
Fragments of a wall painting
Heights 13 cm, 16 cm

A glance at the Museum’s Buddhist works of art should provide an idea of the scope of the collection. One, of course, must first turn to India, and the Gandharan and Mathuran col­lections are the strongest in this respect, numbering about eighty pieces, second only in Central Europe to the collection of the Museum of Indian Art at Berlin-Dahlem. The Gandharan stone statues and reliefs constitute the largest single Buddhist collection in the Museum and of the works carved in Himalayan schist, heads of the Buddha and of bodhisattvas, reliefs from stupas with scenes from the life of Sakyamuni (Fig. 1) and from the Jataka stories (about the earlier incarnations of Sakyamuni Buddha) dominate. Some heads modelled in stucco display a softer and more individual style. With a few exceptions, the Museum owes all these sculptures to Imre Schwaiger, the chief donor to the Hopp between the two World Wars. Unfortunately, the later phase of Buddhist art in India is not broadly represented.

(Fig. 5) Arapacana Manjusri
Chinese, 17th century
Gilt bronze
Height 43 cm

(Fig. 6) Dhyani-buddha Amitayus
Chinese, dated 1770
Gilt copper
Height 20.5 cm

(Fig. 7) Dizang (Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha)
Chinese, Song dynasty (960-1279)
Ink on silk
Height 76 cm, width 37 cm

(Fig. 8) Sitatara
Tibetan, late 18th century
Colour on linen
Height 87 cm, width 54 cm



(Fig. 9) Avalokitesvara Padmapani
Nepalese, 14th-15th century
Gilt copper
Height 22.4 cm

(Fig. 10) Mahasahasrapramardani
Nepalese, 13th-14th century
Gilt copper
Height 14 cm

(Fig. 11) Manjunatha with sakti, dated 1768
Nepalese, 18th century
Gilt copper
Height 19.8 cm

(Fig. 12) Avalokitesvara
Nepalese, late 18th century
Gilt copper and semi-precious stones
Height 40 cm

(Fig. 13) Mahakala
Mongolian, 19th century
Gilt bronze
Height 15.6 cm

(Fig. 14) Udayana-buddha
Mongolian, 19th century
Gilt bronze
Height 17 cm

The Chinese works of Buddhist art cover a wider chronological range. The monuments of the early cave temples are represented by a small stone bodhisattva head from Yungang. An early stone sculpture of Guanyin (Fig. 2), one of the most popular figures in early Buddhist art in China, is inscribed with the date 583 and the name of the artist is given as Yang Jing. Later sculpture, both in stone and wood, is well represented. Of interest is an expressive tenth- to eleventh-century figure of a mourning disciple (Fig. 3) that originally belonged to a set of similar statues repre­senting a complete Parinirvana scene. The group was from a private collection and, with the exception of this piece which was on loan to the Museum, was destroyed during the last world war.

Among the later Lamaistic Chinese bronzes is a figure of the bodhisattva Arapacana Manjusri (Fig. 5). Although the sword (khadga) is missing from his raised right hand, the expression and fine casting make up for this loss. The image was probably cast in the im­perial workshops during the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when Tibetan­ inspired Buddhist art forms that had penetrated China in the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) had found a wider acceptance. A small image of Amitayus (Fig. 6) illustrates how the new style later turned into a popular, stereotyped mass production. The date inscribed on this piece is equivalent to I770. As Walter Fuchs had demonstrated by publishing documents with long lists of donors, thousands of similar Amitayus images were cast in the imperial workshop for the monasteries to com­ memorate the sixtieth birthday of Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-95).

Early Buddhist painting is seen in two small fragments of wall paintings (Fig. 4), each showing the head of a devata, originating from cave temples at Kyzyl in Chinese Turkestan (present­ day Xinjiang province). The leader of the German expedition, Albert von Le Coq presented them to Hungarian friends in 1918. Both fragments repre­sent the ripe period of the second Indo­ Iranian style in Turkestan and can be dated between 600 and 650. A painting of the bodhisattva Dizang (Ksitigarbha; Fig. 7), traditionally attributed to the Song dynasty (960-1279), shows the master teacher and reformer of hell, the saviour of culpable souls, on the back of a dragon among clouds. As the bodhisattva looks upward, it is possi­ble that the painting originally be­ longed to a larger composition. In China, it was usual to depict Dizang surrounded by the Ten Kings of Hell, but he was also shown as a priest.

The majority of the Tibetan and Nepalese objects in the Museum were also gifts of Imre Schwaiger. Although these collections are smaller, they contain several outstanding and interesting paintings and images. From Tibet is a thangka of Sitatara (White Tara, Fig. 8), probably from the second half of the eighteenth century. The colour scheme and certain elements, such as the clouds, display Chinese influence. Other thangkas, several images of Amitayus, a figurine of Milaraspa (1040-1123) and ritual objects like the kapala, vajra and stupa models complete the Tibetan collections. Recent acquisitions include gifts sent to the Museum in 1956 by the current Dalai Lama. These comprise silver tea cup stands with a kettle, several saddle covers, carpets and other textiles.

Nepalese art had caught the attention of Imre Schwaiger early in his col­lecting years. His excellent Nepalese collection was displayed at the Calcutta Gallery in 1908 and he later donated many of these pieces to the Museum. The gilded copper images include a fourteenth- or fifteenth-century Avalokitesvara Padmapani (Fig. 9) whose style and composition can be traced back to the Pala-Sena period in Indian art. Another old image, that of the goddess Mahasahasrapramardani (Fig. 10) had previously been dated to the fourteenth or fifteenth century; recent research in Nepal has now suggested an earlier date of around the thirteenth to fourteenth century.

A fine image of Manjunatha with sakti (Fig. 11) is inscribed and dated 1768, demonstrating the rich variety and long history of these bronze and copper images in Nepal (see Ian Alsop’s article in Orientations, July 1986, pp. 14-27). A further image of Avalokitesvara (Fig. 12) is richly decorated with semi-precious stones and represents a later phase in the tradition of polychrome metalwork. The same types of decoration were also used for Hindu images.

Mongolian art displays a strange mixture of Indo-Tibetan and Chinese ideas, styles and techniques with local Mongolian elements. The Museum originally had possessed only a handful of late prints and Buddhist paintings, donated by Professor Louis Ligeti, which had largely been from Inner Mongolia, presently part of China. In 1962, the present author took part in a joint Mongolian­ Hungarian expedition in former Outer Mongolia. Since that time, the Museum has succeeded in acquiring a fair number of Buddhist works af art from the Mongolian People’s Republic.

A Tantric image of Mahakala shows the protector god with six hands stand­ing on the elephant-headed Vinayaka demon (Fig. 13). This gilt bronze image, like one of an Udayana-buddha (Fig. 14) and the majority of such late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lamaistic images from Mongolia, dis­plays strong Chinese influence and could have been from the hand of a resident Chinese craftsman.

Two figurines, however, deserve special attention as they were cast in the workshop of a local school at Urga. The image of Manjusri (Fig.15) was made in the workshop of Öndrügegen Zanabazar, the first Jeb­tsundamba Khutuktu, the incarnate religious leader of the Mongols, who died in 1724. Written sources mention him as an outstanding sculptor and there are many legendary tales about his life. Another exquisite image cast by members of the same school is of the Adi-Buddha Vajradhara with sakti and will be discussed separately in an article in a forthcoming issue of Orientations. Facial types and pedes­tals similar to these two pieces can be seen on some magnificent, large Buddhist images made by Öndrügegen Zanabazar and members of his school in the National Museum of Ulan Bator.

An example (Fig. 16) of Mon­golian painting is a thangka represent­ing Lha-mo (Sridevi), the ferocious goddess sitting on her mule, holding in her left hand a kapala and in her right hand a mace. Sarasvati appears above her.

The Museum has two Koryo dynasty (918-1392) Buddhist gilt bronze sculptures, a large standing image of the Buddha and a smaller sitting Buddha (Fig. 17). Only two Korean Buddhist paintings are in the collec­tion. One shows a Buddhist trinity with Confucianist deities and offi­cials behind them, while the other, painted in folk style, shows the goddess Mahamayuri sitting on a peacock. Both works can be dated to the second half of the Yi dynasty (1392-1910).

Most of the older Japanese Buddhist works originate from the Vay collec­tion. Count Peter Vay, a titular bishop (1864 1948) working in the service of the Vatican, travelled much all over the world. The Ministry of Culture provided a fund at his disposal to pur­chase works of art in Japan. Although the largest portion of the 2,300 pieces collected by him in Japan at the beginning of this century are wood­ block prints, he also purchased several early Buddhist sculptures and paint­ings. The collection was put on perma­nent show in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest; after the founding of the Hopp Museum, all the works were transferred to the new museum. Since then, the Japanese Buddhist collection has been completed by a few, but rather fortunate, acquisitions. The Museum is thus able to illustrate all periods in the development of Buddhist art in Japan.

Among the sculpture, a hollow dry lacquer image of Shaka Nyorai (Fig.18) is a rare example outside Japan of the art of the Nara period (645-794).

From examples in the Nara and Kyoto National Museums, the Hopp work can be dated to the middle of the eighth century. A wooden statue of Shaka Nyorai from the succeeding Heian period (794-1185) already dis­ plays more rounded Japanese fea­tures. A little carved image of Kobo Daishi and one of Fudo represent the Kamakura and Ashikaga periods (1192-1392).

(Fig. 15) Manjusri
Mongolian, Urga, School of Ondürgegen Zanabazar, 18th century
Gilt bronze
Height 19.8 cm

 (Fig. 16) Lha-mo (Sridevi)
Mongolian, 19th century
Colour on linen
Height 58 cm, width 40 cm


(Fig. 17) Buddha
Korean, 12th-13th century
Gilt bronze
Height 11 cm

(Fig. 18) Shaka Nyorai
Japanese, mid 8th century
Dry lacquer (kanshitsu)
Height 45 cm

Two hanging scrolls of Amida Raigo (Amida Buddha descending from Heaven) and a painting of the seven patriarchs of the Shingon sect are among the Kamakura period works. The painting of Aizen Myo-o (Fig. 19), god of love among others, represents a later phase of esoteric Buddhist art in Japan and can be dated to the four­teenth or fifteenth century. The two main hands of the deity hold an arrow and a vajra-topped bell as attributes.
An interesting Japanese painting in the Museum is an illustrated ‘magic prayer’, or dharani, (Fig. 21). The Sanskrit text is written in the Lanca script but there are several lines in Japanese as well. This painting also belonged to the Shingon sect and the centre is dominated by a figure of Vajra pai:iT, the text framed by Buddhist symbols. The prayer was written for the welfare of a young lady of theAshikaga family.
Buddhist ink painting of the Muromachi period (1392-1573) is well represented by a painting of the White robed Kannon (Fig. 20). This excellent work was donated to the Museum by art historian Tibor Horvath, who bought it in Japan just after World War II. In his last published study, he compared it to Chinese and Korean prototypes and to a series of paintings originating from the Kancho-ji temple in Kamakura.

(Fig. 19) Aizen Myo-o
Japanese, 14th-15th century
Ink and colour on silk
Height 180 cm, width 76.5 cm

(Fig. 20) White-robed Kannon sitting on a rock
Japanese, early 16th century
Ink on paper
Height 84.7 cm, width 35.5 cm

(Fig. 21) Dharani
Japanese, 1t1h-l6th century
Ink and colour on paper
Height 42.5 cm, width 40.5 cm