The Collection of Matuschka Family in Bechau

Published on: 13 / 12 / 2009

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

The creation of the collection in Bechau was the initiative of count Eloi Matuschka von Toppolczan, who in 1856 inherited an estate near Neisse from his aunt Antoinette von Montbach. Because of the fire which had consumed the palace together with its outbuildings and the church two years earlier, the count decided to erect a new residence.

At his request the palace was rebuilt between 1863 and 1865 according to the design by an excellent architect, Carl Lüdecke. Probably at the same time the art collection was amassed the purpose of which was to decorate the new interiors since it was traditionally considered one of the essential elements of the decoration of a nobleman’s residence. Apart from the paintings, the collection contained also porcelain from Sevres and Meissen. In the magnificent library of over 20000 volumes there were many works on military history as well as history of art. After WW2 a part of the collection from the palace in Bechau (34 paintings and 8 porcelain vessels) became a property of the Museum in Nysa.

The preserved part of the Matuschka collection consists mainly of Italian and Flemish paintings but works by German, French, English and even Persian artists are also present. The biggest group within these works are Old Masters’ paintings as well as their copies made mainly in the 19th century. Among the most interesting items are Madonna with Child and St. John the Baptist from the workshop of Francesco Francia. Made between 1505 and 1515, the painting is a typical work of Francia’s workshop which produced numerous small devotional paintings. Another small Marian painting intended for private piety in the collection in Bechau was created under the influence of Emilian artist Innocenzo Francucci da Imola.

The painting of Florentine Cinquecento is represented by an excellent Holy Family by Carlo Portelli – a still little-known pupil of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. In this painting, with sophisticated Mannerist coloring and chiaroscuro distinctively shaping its forms, one can recognize inspirations drawn from paintings by Rosso Fiorentino, Jacopo Carucci called Pontormo and Francesco Salviati. Another painting, Madonna with Child Surrounded by Angels, was created by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta, a representative of Roman Mannerism. Works of baroque artists were also present in the Matuschka collection. One of them is a small sketch on canvas by Gaspare Diziani, repeating the project of Sebastiano Ricci’s composition Assumption of Mary from the church of St. Charles Borromeo in Vienna [thanks to the latest research led by Ewelina Kwiatkowska we know that it is a 19th century copy of a painting by Diziani]. Worth mentioning is also the painting Madonna with Child in Carlo Marratta’s style. The group of Italian paintings contained also 19th century copies of well-known works by famous artists, including two paintings by Raphael: Holy Family with St. John the Baptist and Madonna di Loreto as well as Pieta by Andrea del Sarto. Another interesting example of repeating an older composition is Madonna with Child in a neo-Renaissance gilded frame. The painting depicts central figures from the polyptych Madonna with Saints by Sano di Pietro from Pinacoteca in Siena.

Among the north European works from Matuschkas’ collection one needs to mention Adoration of the Shepherds by a follower of Hugo van der Goes, based on the central part of a larger composition from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. Other notable works from the collection, today exhibited in the Museum in Nysa, are Landscape with a Tower attributed to Jan Baptist Weenix and Flowers in a Vase associated with Cornelis Kick. Aside of landscapes and still lifes also numerous portraits from the collection have survived, mainly by French and German masters. Attempts to establish whether they present members of Matuschka family have not been successful.

Archival research on the founder of the collection of Bechau has not been particularly fruitful. It is not known what motives he was driven by, besides an obvious wish to decorate a new residence, and what influenced the contents of the collection. One source of information on Eloi von Matuschka's tastes is the palace in Bechau (today's Biechów) itself, refering formally to the architecture of Renaissance castles of Germany and France. A collection of Old Masters’ paintings and their copies was a logical complement to the neo-Renaissance woodcarving and furniture decorating the interiors. It seems to be of importance that all copies exhibited in the Museum in Nysa today are Marian paintings. Could decorating the interiors of the family residence with numerous religious paintings be considered a kind of religious declaration (as it was the case with the figure of Madonna on the façade of the Ingenheim palace in Reisewitz or the statue of St. Hedwig on the Ballerstrems' palace in Breslau)? The layout of the buildings in Bechau seems to confirm that. A neo-gothic chapel was erected on the small hill in front of the palace's façade. Built on high ground, it dominated over the palace, and was the first building seen by the guests visiting the Matuschkas’ estate, distinctly signifying the importance of religion in the family's life. Could the numerous religious (especially Marian) paintings carry a similar message? A comparative analysis of Matuschkas’ collection with other Silesian collections of 19th century could help to answer this question, although such analysis is not possible at the current stage of research.

The text contains fragments of the article: Magdalena Palica, Kilka słów o kolekcji hrabiów Matuschków z Biechowa koło Nysy, czyli przyczynek do badań nad śląskim kolekcjonerstwem [in:] Nysa. Sztuka w dawnej stolicy księstwa biskupiego Materiały sesji naukowej 3-5 X 2005 Nysa, R. Hołownia, M. Kapustka (ed.), Wrocław 2008, p. 289-297

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