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The crown-jewel – The Ceremonial Hall

  "We are getting to a foyer through the main staircase described above. It's white, heavily gilded, and there are candelabra on the walls like [what you could see on both sides of the main stairs]. From here, we are entering the ceremonial hall, which is similarly white, and decorated with different weapons and figures of armed children. On the ceiling, there is a very nicely painted fairy tale. Five large chandeliers hang from the ceiling, which, like the twelve candelabra on the wall, are very nicely shaped. In the four corners, there are life-sized, white and gold statues of the seasons, on red marbled pedestals, with gilded ornaments. Six large mirrors are on the walls, below each of which is a fireplace made of pink marble, with four large and four smaller chalcedony vases and two magnificent clocks with stone inlay, as well as four garland-shaped candleholders next to them. Beneath the additional mirrors are tables made of pink marble, each with a two-foot-high vase and two porcelain urns. Four gorgeous oil-paintings were also placed here, in extremely expensive frames. These depict mythological stories. The chairs and sofas were upholstered with richly gilded red damask. There is a breathtaking view of the garden from the balcony of this room and from the alleys of the forest. ”

The German-language Baedeker ordered by Prince Miklós Esterházy “the Magnificent”, the so-called Beschreibung presents the ceremonial hall and its foyer of the palace of Eszterháza, today’s Fertőd with the lines quoted above. This description of the most magnificent hall of the palace is concise and not accurate. The fresco on the ceiling does not depict a tale, but the Greco-Roman deity of the Sun, Apollo crossing the sky on his chariot. We do not know what may have been the cause of this inaccuracy, but we do know that the prince had this hall worked on with the best Viennese masters.

The ceremonial hall was completed in 1767, and its foyer was finished around 1768. The ceiling was painted by Josef Ignaz Mildorfer, a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, as had been the cupola fresco of the chapel three years earlier. Observing the ceremonial hall, it is clear that its design and furnishings cost a fortune. Some subtotals of the expense remained, so we also know the size of Mildorfer's salary: he received 500 Rhenish forints for his work.

 

 

Truth is that his assistants also had to be paid and the materials had to be bought. Perhaps we can appreciate the amount by recalling what we have already discussed in a previous post: the annual salary of Joseph Haydn, the Kapellmeister of the princely orchestra at that time. Besides benefits in kind, - like daily meals, wine, firewood, etc. - it was 400 Rhenish forints in cash. This is worth comparing to the price of some consumer goods of the day: 1 pound (0.56 kg) of soap cost 39 Kreuzer, 1 pound of sugar was worth 29 Kreuzer, a hen alive set one back 6 Kreuzer, a cattle alive cost 60-80 Rhenish forints, and 1 fathom (6.8 m3) wood was worth 3 Rhenish forints 40 Kreuzer. (1 Rhenish forint was equal to 60 Kreuzer.)

The prince paid not only Mildorfer fairly. The statues depicting the seasons in the four corners of the hall were created by Viennese academic sculptor Josef Ressler for 300 forints. The prince liked these works so much that he gave the master a special bounty of 50 forints. These statues remind visitors of the cycle of time, and can also suggest that Esterházy’s wealth came from the land, as agricultural production follows the rhythm of the seasons.

 

 

 

The stuccoes seen at the junction of the walls and the ceiling allude also to the owner: the weapons evoked the prince’s bright military career. Johann Michael Reiff was responsible for these decorations for 3100 forints, and the gilding was done by Bonaventura Corvetta.

We know about other masters too. The fireplaces were made of Salzburg marble in Langwieder’s workshop. A Viennese carpenter, Georg Stollenberger produced door cases and console tables for 543 forints, and royal mirror maker Leopold Wolff delivered the mirrors for 8952 forints. The door and window frames were probably made by Christoph Schönlaub for 390 forints. Josef Palmer delivered the five chandeliers from the Czech Republic for 2,000 forints.

Oil paintings by Wolfgang Köpp were placed in a total of four picture frames on the east and west walls. The carpenter Stollenberger received 459 Forints and 45 Kreuzers for the frames. The pictures depicted some scenes from Greek mythology: the abduction of Europe, Venus and Adonis, the bathing Venus, and Apollo and Daphne. At the end of World War II, these oil-paintings were destroyed and the ceremonial hall became dilapidated. In the early 1950s, crops were stored in it. Renovation of the historic monument began only in 1957. At that time, however, the hall was not restored accurately. The complete reconstruction took place in 2010-2011. The fresco on the ceiling depicting Apollo was last restored in 2006.

After World War II, furnishings were also carried away. Contemporary descriptions and archival photographs also attest to the fact that the room originally had eight armchairs, four sofas and eight stools. These luxury pieces of furniture formed a set. In 2014, we managed to buy back six armchairs and six stools from this set. The artefacts had appeared abroad. This set was further complemented by copies of two armchairs and two stools, which are privately-owned and can be seen as a trust in the palace.

 

Bibliography:

Beschreibung des Hochfürstlichen Schlosses Esterháß im Königreiche Ungern. Anton Löwe, Pressburg, 1784

Ferenc Dávid: Eszterháza belső terei. Ars Hungarica, XXVIII. évf. (2000) 1. sz. 73–95.

Erzsébet Vadászi: Magyar Versália. Műemlékek Állami Gondnoksága. Budapest, 2007

Photos:

Photo 1: The ceremonial hall of the Esterházy palace in Fertőd. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Non-profit Ltd. Photo Gallery.

Photo 2: The ceremonial hall of the Esterházy palace in Fertőd, fresco of Apollo. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery.

Photo 3: The ceremonial hall of the Esterházy palace in Fertőd, the statue of Winter. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery.

Photo 4: The ceremonial hall of the Esterházy palace in Fertőd, the statue of Summer. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery.

Photo 5: Károly Diebold: The ceremonial hall of the Eszterháza palace, around 1940. Diebold-album. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery, 97-2016.

Photo 6: Károly Diebold: The ceremonial hall of the Eszterháza palace, around 1940. There are panels on the wall that depict the bathing Venus, Apollo ,and Daphne. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery, 97-2016.

Photo 7: Károly Diebold: The ceremonial hall of the Eszterháza palace, around 1940. One of the fireplaces with an original fireguard, an 18th century mantelpiece clock and Japanese porcelain. Diebold-album. Eszterháza Centre for Culture, Research and Festivals, Public Nonprofit Ltd. Photo Gallery, 97-2016.

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