Monday, December 21, 2015

Was Miklos Ligeti Jewish?

Last spring, I wrote a post on Miklos Ligeti's sculpture.  I first became acquainted with Ligeti's sculpture in the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest.  The Kerepesi Cemetery was the main Christian cemetery in Budapest at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.  Behind the Kerepesi Cemetery is the Jewish Salgotarjani Cemetery, much less kept up, much more difficult to enter and view,  The tombs by Ligeti in the Kerepesi Cemetery feature the nude human body and physical manifestations of angels--both quite distinct from the Jewish tradition of funeral art:

Ligeti also sculpted important politicians, artists, and even the royal Austro-Hungarian family.  But his most famous statue is Anonymous, which for many captures the essential Hungarian identity.

It was thus a complete surprise for me to read in Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (by Kinga Frojimovics, Geza Komoroczy, Victoria Pustai and Andrea Strbik) the following passage:

"The Regent [Miklos Horty] issued privileges at special requests for some people who now fell under the (Anti-) Jewish Laws but who had outsanding scholarly, artistic, economic achievements to their credit or who filled prominent public roles.  . . .  Among them were several prominent. . . writers and artists, [including] . . Miklos LIgeti, the sculptor of the statue (1903) of the first Hungarian chronicler, Anonymous, located in Varosligeti (City Park)" (p. 402).

That Ligeti could be Jewish seemed almost impossible.

So I did some research.  Miklos Ligeti, sculptor is listed in the Maygar Zsido Lexicon (Hungarian Jewish Encylopedia), published in 1929 in Hungarian.  Ligeti is also listed on ArtCult: Around Jewish Art,

The answer to how Ligeti could be Jewish but seem (in his art) so un-Jewish is of course the widespread cultural assimilation of Hungarian Jews in the last part of the 19C and first part of the 20C.  The historian and political writer Ferenc Festo, who includes Ligeti in his discussion, explains this more thoroughly.

Ligeti died in 1944 (the death year for so many Budapest Jews). As Jewish Budapest goes on to explain, the special "accommodation" for outstanding Jewish citizens declined after the Arrow Sword terrors. ArtCult says that Ligeti "disappeared" in Budapest in 1944.  His wikipedia page and other websites place his death on December 10, 1944, the day the Budapest Ghetto was sealed.  Interestingly, in a book published by the museum his family runs, Ligeti Miklos by Prohaszka Laszlo, Ligeti's death is also placed on December 10, 1944--though there is no mention (as far as I can tell using Google translate) of his residing in the Ghetto or dying because of the Holocaust.

Ligeti's own funeral monument is located in Kerepesi Cemetery, though his body (which was lost) is not.  The monument sculpted by his friend Jeno Bory poignantly depicts the missing presence.

In the abstract to her doctoral thesis, Treat ment of Miklós Ligeti ,sculptor’s ouvre, Judit Mazányi writes that "Surveying his oeuvre, it became indisputable that we were not kept waiting for the rediscovery of the life-work of a forgotten genius sunken into oblivion":

"Sadly, no drawn sketches have survived from the artist, nor sculpture studies of a notable number, through which the evolution of his ideas could have been traced. Many hundreds of his drawings fell victim to the mistaken judgment of his family members, who, in the cultural-political situation following the war might have thought that there would not be any chance to present his oeuvre as integrated into Hungarian art. I do not know which of his works were placed in a private safe during World War II as planned by the artist, but it is common knowledge that the valuables preserved in these were hardly spared in the course of wartime plunder, and these works have most probably been destroyed."

The hooded face, the body-less monument, the Jewish identification, the non-Jewish artist: it is tempting to draw these together.  But the truth of Ligeti's life is surely more complex than these teasing traces suggest.  It is also as incompletely known as those of so many Hungarian artists who are no longer familiar to us or to their fellow citizens--either because of history, neglect, or accident.

 Whomever Ligeti was is now gone.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Walking Across the Ohio River Bridge from Kentucky to Indiana

Last week, Susan and I walked across the old George Rogers Clark Bridge, that has been re-opened for pedestrians.  Louisville still has 3 other bridges for traffic, but this one has been refurbished for walkers.


And in another unexpected view of Louisville, I saw the most beautiful sunset of the season from my house.  No lake to reflect it in, but patterns of trees against the colors.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

We are Home!

We got home on Thursday about 3:30 and the first thing we did was go to the movies!  At 4:15 we were sitting in the Baxter getting ready to watch Trumbo. Besides our friends, can you guess what we missed most about Louisville?

Basically, we were too tired to do anything else, I guess, because the next day and today we pretty much slept and slowly unpacked.

But on Monday life begins: dentist and doctors appointments,  lunches with friends, hair-cut [!], dinners, parties, clearing out the house in the hopes that soon we will buy a condo and it will be on the market.  

It is nice to be home.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving aka Chaos aka Family aka Togetherness

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We met my brother Ben and his wife and three children, my sister Sandy, her husband and her four children and two grandchildren and the partner of one of my nelphews just outside of Madison Wisconsin.  Since none of us have a big enough home for all of us to fit in, my brother and sister usually "meet in the middle," between St. Paul MN and Terre Haute IN.  Tony and I haven't been for a while because it was too long a drive for us from Louisville.  But this year we stayed at the Lake til Thanksgiving and then drove to Deerfield WI to join in.

If you are counting, we had TG for 15 people plus two babies.  That is a LOT of people and a LOT of cooking and a LOT of noise and a LOT of fun.  Here are some of the highlights.

Ben and Annie stuffing the turkey.  Ben always makes the turkey because he's the only one of us who knows how to do it right.

The turkey:

Nina making the pies.

One of Nina's pies.  (I hate pecan pie, but this was so beautiful I had to take a picture.)

The after dinner mess.

After dinner we cleaned up to the Big Chill soundtrack.  Ben and Nina dancing and making out! Can't stop singing those songs!


Too many kids to picture, so I will just end with a few pictures of the third generation: my great-nieces Miriam and Rebecca.

Miriam and Rebecca making a mess.

Rebecca retreating

Rebecca and her mommy Kasandra

Rebecca eating dinner.

I would have included more pictures of Rebecca's big sister Miriam, but every time I came near her she either told me to "stop talking" or burst into tears.