In the late 19th century a self-confident and rapidly developing Hungarian nation prepared to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of their arrival in Carpathian Basin.
What became known as the Millennium Celebration set off a wave of nationalistic expression that has been unrivalled in the nation before or since this historic moment. One of the most stunning pieces of artwork created during this time is still with us today, the Arrival of the Hungarians, a gigantic cyclorama – a circular panoramic painting – conceived and largely painted under the direction of Árpád Feszty.
First displayed in the Budapest City Park, today it is the centerpiece of a National Historical Memorial Park in the town of Ópusztaszer. This is really a must see piece of artwork as much for its almost unfathomable detail as for its expression of national sentiment.
To lend a bit of perspective consider that the cyclorama is longer than an average football pitch and four and half stories tall. Over 2,000 people spread across its vast canvas. Its natural setting is the Verecke Pass (now in the sub-Carpathian region of the Ukraine) where the Magyars first entered the Carpathian Basin around the year 895.
Out of the 2,000 odd persons depicted those displayed most prominently are the seven tribal chieftains of the Magyars who are portrayed atop a hill, mounted on horseback, overlooking thousands of their kinsmen.
The size, scale, scope and detail of the painting evoke a sense of greatness that is a direct reflection of the spirit of that time. The millennial celebrations were the pinnacle of the Hungarian Belle Epoque when the country had achieved both a great deal of freedom and a heightened self-confidence as an equal partner in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
The painting really is the artistic representation of a nation looking back at itself and seeing greatness in its very beginnings. It is a fantastic interweaving of history and myth, both inseparable and indistinguishable from one another. It all sounds a bit unreal until the moment arrives when you make your way to Ópusztaszer and see how the Hungarians saw themselves.
The Arrival of the Hungarians is more than art it is where imagination meets reality.
written by CHRIS WILKINSON
edited by CHRIS KOVACS
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