Sneak a Peek at the New Museum of Fine Arts, Free for the Next 11 Days

As the three-year remodelling project at Museum of Fine Arts draws to its close and the November grand opening approaches, visitors to the institution are invited to take advantage of a very special opportunity:  from 15 March through Easter, the museum will be reopening its Romanesque Hall, a sight that has been off limits to the public since it was closed during the time of our grandparents and great-grandparents in 1945.  It is a destination well worth including in your spring plans, perhaps in combination with a sight-seeing tour of the capital over the long weekend or Easter holidays.

The Museum of Fine Arts’ Romanesque Hall is a room of unparalleled beauty, the most richly decorated in the museum.  Designed in imitation of a Romanesque church interior, the hall boasts a total floor space of 900 square metres and the atmosphere of a medieval basilica.

According to the museum press release, the project included the restoration of 2500 square metres of wall surface, a monumental task that provided work to 70 restoration experts and required 5 ½ kg of gold, 100 kg of variously coloured pigments, and 1500 litres of preserving agents and fixatives.

Prior to restoration, the Romanesque Hall was used as a store room, holding a portion of the paintings belonging to the Old Masters’ Gallery, along with the collection’s numerous plaster casts. Indeed, up to the time renovations began, great stacks of works crowded the once magnificent room. The plaster casts in particular speak of an age past: during the early 20th century, life-sized replicas of the world’s great art treasures were produced in copious numbers, so that people could view them without the need of travelling. As a result, the hall came to house such curiosities as an enormous Paduan equestrian statue, a replica of the main portal of the cathedral of Freiburg, and various other curiosities.

A Few Highlights from the Museum’s History:

The Museum of Fine Arts is a national collection, its history is closely linked to that of art collecting in Hungary in general. Unlike the large public collections of more fortunate nations, which derived their core material from the works amassed by monarchs over the course of centuries, the Budapest museum owes its existence to the activity of the Hungarian nobility. The 1896 decree on which the museum was founded brought the collections of a number of Hungarian nobles and clerics together within the walls of a new neo-Renaissance and neo-Classical building designed by Albert Schickedanz and Fülöp Herzog and constructed between 1900 and 1906.  Of the collections in question, the most significant was that of the Esterházy family, which the Hungarian state purchased in 1870 and 1871, and which formed the core material for the so-called Országos Képtár, the Museum of Fine Arts’ immediate predecessor. Drawings and paintings from the Esterházy collection include works by DaVinci, Raffaello, Correggio, Rembrandt, and Tiepolo, several hundred Dutch and Flemish paintings, and an appreciable body of paintings by major Spanish painters, such as Ribera, Murillo, and Goya.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest first opened its doors on 1 December 1906 in the presence of Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Interest in collecting the art of classical antiquity commenced in 1908 with the purchase of a body of statues from the collection of Paul Arndt in Munich.

After more than three years of reconstruction work, the Museum of Fine Arts will reopen in November of this year.

Beyond the renovation of the museum building itself, the institution will also – thanks to its reunification with the Hungarian National Gallery – introduce an entirely new exhibition concept, complete with freshly developed permanent exhibitions. The public will gain access both to the made-over institution, and its new public displays in two stages: the ground-floor areas and the renovated Romanesque wing will open in October of this year, and the new permanent exhibitions in mid-2019.

Important information on the free viewing of the Romanesque Hall

Admission to the Museum of Fine Arts’ renovated Romanesque Hall will be free daily from 10:00 a.m. until 18:00 p.m. (with final entry at 5:00 p.m.) from 15 March until 2 April.  Visitors will be admitted in order of arrival, with no appointments or advance booking available (even for groups).

Tips for making your visit to the Romanesque Hall even more enjoyable:

  • Visit the legendary Gundel Restaurant and sample some of their specialities!
  • Book accommodations in Budapest city centre and discover the beautiful sights of the Hungarian capital!