The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest

©Jennifer Walker/Lonely Planet

Museum of Fine Arts

Top choice in Budapest

Housed in a grand Renaissance-style building and once again opened after three years' renovations in late 2018, the Museum of Fine Arts is home to the city’s most outstanding collection of foreign works of art, ranging from articles from ancient Egypt to stellar collections of Spanish, Flemish, Italian and German art. It also now includes Hungarian art for the first time in four decades. The private collection of Count Miklós Esterházy, purchased by the state in 1870, forms the nucleus of the collection.

The Old Masters collection on the 1st floor is the most complete, with 3000 works from the Dutch and Flemish, Spanish, Italian, German, French and British schools dating from between the 13th and 17th centuries, including seven paintings by El Greco. Among the most famous of all the works on display is the Esterházy Madonna, painted by Raphael, the supreme High Renaissance painter, around 1508. It's unfinished but still manages to achieve the beauty and harmony for which the paragon of classicism is acclaimed. It was among the 700-odd works that formed the original Esterházy collection.

On the 2nd floor the European sculpture collection holds some wonderful pieces, including the fascinating work of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. On the floor above Hungarian art makes an appearance, with a rich collection of baroque paintings dating from 1600 to 1800 that was recently moved from the Hungarian National Gallery to a new purpose-built exhibition area.

Especially fine – and a real hit with children because of a programme that allows them to handle original pieces and works of art from the period – is the collection of Egyptian artefacts, including decorated sarcophagi and mummy portraits in the basement. Also here is the classical section containing Greek, Etruscan and Roman works. The collection of Greek vases and urns ranks among the finest and most complete in Europe.

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