Architecture and Industrial Arts

When, in 1668, Miklós Bethlen made plans for a new castle at Betlenszentmiklós, he grafted the Italian Renaissance style to local traditions. The arcades on its southern exposure evoked Venice; such porched facades became popular in Transylvania, and thus a distinctive feature of Hungarian architecture. Stucco designs ornamented the castle's rooms. In the hall bearing the Bethlen coat-of-arms, 'the vaulted ceiling was decorated in a floral design of carved stone, and also with sundry frescoes depicting flowers, human shapes, exotic animals and birds'.[168]168. M. B. Nagy, 'Adatok a bethlenszentmiklósi kastély építéstörté-netéhez', KL Ekv, p. 493. In 1683, when Vienna came under threat from the Tartars, work on decorations was suspended; over the next fifteen years, Bethlen constructed walls and bastions to protect this castle, the finest example of the Renaissance in Transylvania, and one which had been designed for a happier and more relaxed lifestyle.

No palatial edifice of baroque style was constructed in Transylvania during this period. The design features that distinguish Transylvania's architecture from that of Hungary are attributable not to the coincidence of war, but to rich local traditions and European styles adapted to the principality's social and economic circumstances.

In the second half of the 17th century, Székely master-craftsmen in the Székelyföld (notably at Zabola, Vargyas, and Kézdiszentlélek ca. 1686) developed a Transylvanian Renaissance style that differed from the Saxon variant found at Kolozsvár, Brassó, and Szeben. The tendril and floral designs decorating portals and window-frames testify to the work of Transylvanian stonemasons, {2-478.} one of the best being Dávid Sípos, of Kide. The taste and skill of local carpenters and turners is revealed in the staircases with banisters, verandas, roofed gates, ornate bosses, decorated crossbeams, and lintels that adorned castles, mansions, and manor-houses. In Zsigmond Kornis's castle at Szentbenedek, the staircase with turned balusters, supported by columns decorated in Renaissance patterns and topped with baroque capitals, was crafted by Albert Molnár from oak.

A distinctive form of wooden church architecture, in which the steeple has four turrets and a peripheral verandah, is preserved in several churches (notably at Micske, Magyargyerőmonostor, and Körösfő) and campaniles. The monumental bell-tower at Magyar-sáros was constructed in 1699 by György Domokos and Mihály Szabó. The new Greek Orthodox churches in the Fogarasföld were marked by a neo-Byzantine style; similar churches were commissioned by Romanian nobles in Hunyad County, and by Brîncoveanu at Felsőszombatfalva.

In the last decades of the century, renovation efforts were focused on the churches' interiors, notably on the pulpit and on accommodating a choir as well as a singing congregation. The Unitarian church at Kolozsvár acquired a particularly beautiful pulpit; the painting on its ceiling depicts a pelican feeding her offspring with her own blood.

The industrial arts showed promising development in Transylvania during the second half of the 17th century, and they encompassed a wide range of creative activity. Most of the practitioners — carvers, painters, potters, locksmiths, blacksmiths, tanners — remain unidentified. One exception is Ábrahám Szenczi Kertész, who studied in Holland, and who produced a superb Renaissance-style book cover, decorated with a fan-shaped design, in the 1650s at Várad.

Locally-made furniture acquired a lighter, more playful shape. A decorative style that originated in the Low Countries, and was {2-479.} known as 'conchoidal' after its asymmetrical, soft curves, became widespread at the turn of the century; it was generally accompanied by painted, pictorial decoration. The finest surviving example of this style, in a distinctively Hungarianized version, is the bridal chest of Kata Bethlen, the wife of Prince Mihály Apafi II. Other examples are Mihály Teleki's beechwood armchair, richly carved in Hungarian style, and Imre Thököly's conchoidal backed chair. The camber-legged chairs fashioned from Transylvanian beechwood evoke the Queen Anne style fashionable in England at the turn of the 18th century. Painted desks, secretaires with hidden drawers, and letter-chests were also common. The design of jewelry boxes and medicine chests reflected their function as well as the style of larger pieces of furniture; they were variously covered with leather or velvet, and decorated with inlays of mother-of-pearl or precious metal, or with copper studs.

The finer textile products of the period — document carriers, rugs, religious vestments, altar cloths, embroideries — display a mixture of Renaissance and Oriental motifs.

The Habán craftsmen flourished during Apafi's reign. Their glazed earthenware, which took many shapes, was decorated with floral designs of white, blue, yellow, and green, and it had an impact on the design of folk pottery as well.

Glassware was influenced by Italian, Czech, Silesian, and Habán models as well by the prevailing styles in folk pottery. It is likely that Habán craftsmen were responsible for the painted designs on some of the glass objects acquired by nobles as well as peasants in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

The multiform products of the glassworks at Porumbák also reflect the influence of the 'neo-Christian' craftsmen. The most common types of blown glass container in the 17th century were the 'cellar-vessel' (pincetok), a leather-covered wine bottle that would fit into wood crates, and the so-called 'clucking bottle' (kotyogós üveg), which had a distinctively baroque shape. The glass industry {2-480.} produced a great variety of objects destined for everyday use, such as lidded mugs and jugs, stemmed glasses, 'apple- and pear-shaped bottles', octagonal lidded cups, and small carafes. Two notable products of Transylvanian glassworks are an early 18th-century, rose-, carnation- and tulip-decorated bottle with a tin screw-cap, and a late 17th-century ginger pot, glazed in black and white, that bore flowery decoration as well as the two-headed eagle of the Habsburg coat of arms.

The appearance of polished, gilded, and cut glass marked a new stage in the development of Europe's glass-making industry. A noteworthy example is the screw-capped, square-shaped bottle made of 'ice-glass', with a distinctive hairline-crack pattern, and bearing the Bethlen coat-of-arms along with the date 1695. Mihály Mikes's bottle of gilded, cut crystal, which dates from 1693, is a transitional piece that displays both the influence of the crystal style and the high standards reached by Transylvanian glassmakers.

The models reproduced in one of Mihály Kissolymosi Gyergyai's books on the goldsmith's craft indicate close links be-tween the goldsmiths of Kolozsvár, Debrecen, and Kassa. The creations of the period's finest goldsmith, Szeben's Sebestyén Hann, show that Transylvanian baroque jewelry could be of the highest European standard.

The typically fashionable product around 1700 was the baroque, women's headdress decorated with gold and silver stones that formed the outline of tulips. Crane feathers, held by clasps on hats and fur caps, denoted rank; one such Transylvanian clasp was decorated with a crescent hanging on a chain.

Among the products of the Fogaras mint, the finest coins were the 50-ducat pieces bearing the combined coats of arms of Transylvania and the Apafi family. These coins were reserved for the prince's use as gifts.

The tinsmith's craft was associated with the urban, middle-class milieu. Rooted in the Renaissance, its basic shapes evolved in {2-481.} the direction of the baroque. Most of the Transylvanian craftsmen in this period had learned their trade in German towns. Their output included a vast number and variety of bowls, plates, spice-pots, jugs, lighting fixtures, washbasins, and tubs. One particular tin jug, from Sajóbábony, is stamped with the date 1695 and the mark of the bakers' guild; a water jug dating from century's end bears an elegantly worked engraving of the tools identifying the blacksmiths' guild. The image of Lucifer offering an apple to Eve is displayed on a tin jug from Kállósemjén (1696).

The blacksmith's craft already had a long history. Surviving examples from this period include the flat metal grilles of tabernacles in the churches at Csíkszentlélek, Csíkmindszent, and Alsó-bajom, and a tabernacle grill decorated with rosettes at the church in Felsőbajom. The evolution of iron grates, door and window bars, keys, keyhole plates, and candlesticks indicates that wrought iron acquired baroque decorative features at the beginning of the 18th century. The blacksmiths also produced a profusion of decorative ceremonial stirrups, fancy harnesses, and diverse trade signs. Blacksmiths at Torockó produced some masterful locks, door handles, and baroque, basket-shaped window grates.

János Haller was perhaps the best of Transylvania's locksmiths and gunsmiths; the cover of the wheel lock on his rifles was engraved with the figure of Saint George. By the turn of the century, the swords and daggers destined for common use were crafted in a simpler style. Ceremonial sabres, on the other hand, became more richly ornamented in precious metals, as shown by the weapons produced by an outstanding craftsman from Kolozsvár, Tamás Kapustrán. There is no surviving evidence of Turkish stylistic influences. The proximity and political weight of the Ottoman world apparently did not disrupt the European orientation of these crafts.

The production of typeface, a more modern branch of metalcraft, reached a level of artistic excellence in the work of Miklós {2-482.} Misztótfalusi Kis. His technical expertise and highly developed sense of form found no rival even in the home of typeface crafting, Amsterdam. Misztótfalusi's creations in print rank with the best in Europe.