Thursday, February 21, 2013

"The Victory at Kenyérmező Pipe

  by Frank P. Burla

The Pipe Bowl Described

The pipe - more precisely, a pipe bowl without its accompanying stem - is a carved block of meerschaum, and is 6 inches (15.2cm) in height and 5-3⁄4 inches (14.6cm) in length. 

The motif carved on the bowl depicts the commemoration of the victory by the Hungarian army against the Turks in the battle at Transsylvanian Kenyérmezö (Breadfield), Hungary, in 1479.

Front view of the Victory at Kenyérmező Pipe.

In the far-left midsection of the bowl are bas-relief- carved horses in a makeshift fenced-in area. The centre midsection shows in bas-relief three military officers in uniform having a discussion, happily saluting each other with upraised hands. At the top centre of the bowl is a scroll inside of which in bas-relief are written the words Istennek hálá mienk a győzedelem; translated, these words declare “Thanks be to God, the victory is ours”.

Inscription within a banner at the top centre of the pipe: Istennek hálá miénk a Gyözedelem

To the far right, on the midsection of the bowl an armed officer is on guard in front of a tent. 

Mid-section of the bowl of the Victory at Kenyérmező Pipe with inscription: Kenyér/mező/1479 (see insert).

On the top of the tent there is a symbol of the famous Hungarian Black Army, a flag with a shield on which is seen the letter M under a crown. Above the shield a bird is sitting. The bird – a raven - is the heraldic symbol of the great Hungarian king, Matthias. At the heel of the tent is written the attribution of the historical place and date: Kenyér/mező 1479.

The pipe bowl is further inscribed, having in bas-relief on three separate front pedestals the names of the main Hungarian historical personalities in this battle: left pedestal, Kinezi Pál ; middle pedestal, MATIAS Corvinus; right pedestal, Bathori I.

Names on the three front pedestals of the Victory
at Kenyérmező Pipe: (left)Kinezi Pal, (centre) MATIAS
Corvinus, (right) Bathori I

Under the central pedestal a shield is carved under a seven point crown, a crown of baronial rank, with the monogrammed letters /S J or I (?)/.

Below, on the silver base of the wind cap is the engraved name Ujfalvi Sándor. There are marks on the base of the silver lid on the bowl: they are the hallmarks of Old Buda (Óbuda which was merged with Buda and Pest to become Budapest in 1873) with the date, 1825, and the number 13 (representing 13/16 pure silver content) and the stamp of the silversmith, PH Adler (Philip/Fülöp Adler). There is also an unidentified floral silver stamp.

Names on the three front pedestals of the Victory
at Kenyérmező Pipe: (left)Kinezi Pal, (centre) MATIAS
Corvinus, (right) Bathori I

Inspiration for the Carving

The motif on this pipe bowl commemorates the Battle of Breadfield (Kenyérmező). The names of the main Hungarian historical personalities of the battle are carved on the front pedestals of the pipe. 

Matthias Corvinus, or Matthias I Hunyadi (1443-1490) was the king of Hungary and Croatia (1458-90). He also became King of Bohemia, (1469–1490) and Duke of Austria. He received his surname Corvinus after the raven (corvus) on his coat of arms. He was the great Renaissance ruler of the Hungarian Kingdom who organised a powerful centralized country. He raised a strong military force, the first permanent Hungarian mercenary army, the Black Army. At this time Hungary reached its greatest territorial extent (present-day south- eastern Germany to the west, Dalmatia to the south, the Eastern Carpathians to the east, and south-western Poland to the north). Wars against the Ottoman Empire were an important stimulus for the protection of the borders against them. There was a great victory in 1479 when a huge Ottoman army was damaged at Szászváros (now Orăştie, Romania) in the so-called Battle of Breadfield, famous throughout Europe. The Hungarian forces were commanded by Pál Kinizsi and István Báthori. Pál Kinezi, correctly written Pál Kininzsi (1431? - 1494) was a well- known, very strong military leader in the Black Army of King Matthias, Ban of Temes and Captain of all military forces of southern Hungary. István (Stephan) Báthori of Ecsed (1430c-1493) was of high noble birth, Royal Court judge, Voivode, or territorial governor, of the Hungarian Crown for Transylvania (1479-1493) and commander of the Transylvanian army.

The Turkish army entered Transylvania on October 9, 1479, near Câlnic and was led by Ali Kodsha and Skender, or Ali Michaloglu and Skander, according to other sources. The probable strength of the Ottoman forces was about 20,000 soldiers, accompanied by some 1,000-2,000 Wallachian infantryman led by Basarab cel Tânăr-Ţepeluş. On October the 13th, Kodsha bey pitched his camp at Breadfield, located between Alkenyér (now Şibot, Romania) and Szászváros (now Orăştie, Romania). The Hungarian army of somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 men was led by Pál Kinizsi, István Báthori, Vuk Branković, and Basarab Laiotă cel Bătrân. The Battle of Breadfield took place at a location between Szászváros and Alkenyér. The casualties were high, with several thousand Turks and approximately 1,000 of their Wallachian allies killed. The Hungarians lost approximately 3,000 men in this battle. The few Turks who survived the massacre fled into the mountains where most were killed by the local population. In memory of the victory against the Turks, István Báthori raised a chapel near the village of Becenc (now Aurel Vlaicu earlier Bintini, German Benzendorf, Romania).

There are numerous references to the battles in the Transylvanian region. One of these is a short history of the land and its control entitled Transylvania, A Short History (Lasar 1997). Reading Lasar’s book and portions of The Ottomans in Europe (Woodward 2001), The Nation’s History (Yolland 1917) and The Poetry of the Magyars, (Bowring 1830) provided the knowledge to realize how historically significant this pipe bowl was.

The Owner(s) of the Pipe

Under the central pedestal is carved in the meerschaum a shield under a seven point crown, a crown of baronial rank, with the monogrammed letters /S Z(?)/. It could be the monogram of the person who commissioned the pipe or for whom it was commissioned. Later it could have been presented for a subsequent owner, whose name is engraved in the silver mount. Ujfalvi Sándor (1792–1866) was a reform politician, writer, legendary great hunter, and a well-known and passionate individual from this region who stood for the rights of freedom and open land. He was involved in the movement for a new form of animal husbandry.

The Master of the Pipe?

Based on this circumstantial evidence and my research, although limited because of my lack of command of the Hungarian language, I was able to find a few sources of information. These sources indicate that the Philip (Fülöp) Adler workshop in Óbuda probably executed this bowl. This conclusion is based on the following:

· The silver hallmark is Adler PH, 1825, Óbuda;

· The researchers think that Philip Adler’s workshop made not only silverwork but was one of the few master pipe-carving entities operating in the area at the time;

· Philip (Fülöp) Adler was also attached to Hungarian traditions, such as battle scenes for freedom, one in particular that the company portrayed on an earlier pipe carved in 1823 known as the Bercsényi Pipe (Levárdy 1994, 128-130).

The pipe bowl was sold by an Eastern European family to a dealer, and the dealer was told that this meerschaum pipe bowl, along with other items the family was selling, were historic family heirlooms from the 1800s. 

The first American appearance of this rare meerschaum pipe bowl in recent years was at a public exhibition, Meerschaum Masterpieces, sponsored by the then Museum of Tobacco Art and History, Nashville, Tennessee in 1994 (Museum of Tobacco Art and History, 1990, 12-13, Fig 75). This bowl is in my personal collection.


I wish to thank Anna Ridovics of the Hungarian National Museum, Budapest, for her assistance in this research endeavour. Without her contribution, especially for translation and for her intimate knowledge of Hungarian history, my undertaking would have been a much more daunting and intellectually challenging effort.

References such as encyclopedias, partially translated articles, and a wide variety of information on the Internet, e.g., Wikipedia, were used in the preparation of this essay.

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