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Marcell Jánoshalmi Nemes (1866-1930) was one of the most significant art collectors in early twentieth-century Hungary, as well as one of its most contradictory figures, whose extensive activities as both an art patron and collector became legendary during his own lifetime. In the course of his career he donated numerous valuable works to the Museum of Fine Arts, including El Greco’s The Penitent Mary Magdalene and Ádám Mányoki’s Portrait of Ferenc Rákóczi, the latter being regarded as a national relic in Hungary. He also made donations to several other domestic as well as foreign institutions, such as the Museum of Applied Arts, the Berlin and Munich picture galleries and indeed even to the Prado in Madrid and the Louvre in Paris.
With the donation of his collection of eighty works consisting exclusively of Hungarian paintings he contributed to the foundation of the Kecskemét Picture Gallery in 1911. At the same time, he did not limit his patronage to merely donating various kinds of art. He purchased large numbers of works from young Hungarian and foreign talents and a great many Hungarian artists were able to pursue their studies abroad over the course of several decades thanks to the scholarships and foundations he set up.
Although in the upcoming exhibition the Museum of Fine Arts primarily wishes to pay tribute to the extensive patronage of Marcell Nemes, the material selected from Hungarian and foreign museums as well as from private collections also nicely illustrates the diversity and wealth of the former art collection of the famous “marchand amateur”. The 120 exhibits, including antique vases, medieval sculptures, the finest works of old Italian and Netherlandish masters, as well as valuable applied arts objects dating from various periods, conjure up the atmosphere of the collector’s homes thanks to the enterieur-like arrangement.
Alongside the treasured pieces of Nemes’s former El Greco collection, the exhibition will present works by the emblematic figures of Hungarian fine arts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as Mihály Munkácsy, Károly Ferenczy, József Rippl-Rónai, Pál Szinyei Merse, Béla Uitz, Károly Kernstok and János Vaszary, among others. After Nemes’s death this once vast collection was broken up and its world famous pictures now enrich the materials of various museums, including the Orangerie in Paris, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin and the Tate in London.