The more than one hundred exhibited works of the world renowned Italian collection of the Christian Museum present an almost unbroken overview of Italian painting between the late 13th and 18th centuries. It was between the 13th and 15th centuries that Italian painting acquired a leading role in European art. In this period, a profound change in artistic expression and ways of representation began in the countless city states of Italy, as the painters’ attention turned to spatiality, imitation of nature, anatomical precision, natural light effects and a psychological description of their figures. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the main centres of painting were the two rival Tuscan towns, Florence and Siena. From the second half of the 15th century also Rome, Milan, Venice and several smaller northern Italian centers, then – in the Baroque period – Naples and Bologna became leading artistic centres. In painting technique, the Apennine-peninsula was more or less homogeneous: until the end of the 15th century, paintings were executed in egg tempera on wood; afterwards, oil on canvas was used.
The collection of the Christian Museum is richest in 14th- and 15th-century Florentine and Sienese paintings, and in 15th- and 16th-century works of the schools of Lombardy, Umbria, and the Marches. The collection is primarily based on two private picture galleries. One is Canon Raffaele Bertinelli’s collection purchased by János Simor
in 1878, which comprised sixty, mainly Italian works. The majority of the Museum’s outstanding 15th- and 16th-century pieces were acquired on this occasion. The other collection was bequeathed to the Museum by Arnold Ipolyi
; nearly all of the works dating from before the mid-15th century originate from this collection, a large part of which had been purchased from the collection of the painter-restorer J. A. Ramboux. Ipolyi’s collection complements Bertinelli’s in a favourable way. Besides these acquisitions, several important pictures were bought by Simor on other occasions, and some were left to the Museum by Count San Marco. The collection continues to grow through individual donations and purchases.