Legacy of the Varadi family in the National Museum of Zrenjanin

The permanent exhibition of the National Museum of Zrenjanin was greatly enriched on April 8, 2016 thanks to the dedication of another legacy – the Varadi family. The legacy of the Varadi family was created at the initiative of Prof. Dr. Tibor Varadi and funded by the local government.

The Varadi Family

The Varadi family has been among the most renown and respected families in Veliki Bečkerek (Petrovgrad, Zrenjanin) for more than a century. The family has been continuously present in the public and social life of this city since the end of the 19th century. It has throughout respected and upheld the law and the legal profession without any ideological, political, or national prejudices. The family law office was founded by Dr. Imre Varadi after returning from his studies in Pest in 1893, and remained in function until 2014. Three generations of lawyers of this family marked this institution: Imre, his son Jožef, and his grandchildren Tibor and Imre.

After the latter Imre’s death, the office was run by his wife, Judita, until its closure.

The History Department

Prof. Dr. Tibor Varadi and members of his family donated to the National Museum of Zrenjanin a rich fund of historical material, primarily reflected in diplomas, photographs, notes, invitations, IDs, business cards, newspaper articles, and more. The donated material gives us insights not only into the continuous presence of this historically significant family, but even more importantly into the public and social life of the city. With this endowment, the historical department was enriched by approximately a hundred new inventory items. In the exhibited portion of the Legacy, due to spatial restrictions, is presented only a fragment of the material that makes up the full donated legacy of this family. The exhibited documentation is arranged in both wall niches, as well as on chosen surfaces alongside and on selected period pieces of furniture.

Of particular interest among the bequeathed photographs of the Varadi family on display, in one of the niches of the legacy room, are the following: one of the oldest photographs depicting Imre Varadi – from 1879, during his high school days; a photograph taken during Imre and Meta Varadi’s (maiden name Puc) visit to Mont Blanc in 1913; and several photographs taken on the occasion of the silver wedding of Imre and Meta Varadi, in 1921. These photographs are revealing glimpses not only into the Varadi family, but also into the culture, life, and clothing of civil society in the period from the end of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century in then Veliki Bečkerek and Petrovgrad (today’s Zrenjanin).

The richly decorated memorial book from 1905 of the Crafts Association of Veliki Bečkerek testifies to the importance of Dr. Imre Varadi in the social life in the city. With this dedicatory gift, the Association paid tribute to his astute, model, and prominent representation of this association. A photo of him is featured on the cover, while inside the book are the signatures of the members of the Association.

Of special importance among the donated documentation is a document which indirectly speaks about the role of Dr. Imre Varadi in the First World War. Imre defended in court a large number of prominent Serbian champions and intellectuals arrested after the Sarajevo assassination (1914) who had been accused of conspiracy against the Austro-Hungarian government. The particular document in focus is a statement from May 30, 1951, which shows the essence of the related internment. It was declared with the aim of confirming Dr. Marko Nedeljković’s right to the status of a disabled person due to his loss of “eye sight” during the First World War. On the back of this document is Nedeljković’s written statement of gratitude from August 1952.

In addition to pieces of historical nature and merit, the Historical Department plans in the future to also display certain personal belongings of members of the Varadi family in the legacy room, including: the badge of the Guild Association (of Imre Varadi); an Erika model typewriter made by the Dresden company Nauman from 1937/1938, which was used by Jožef Varadi, which Tibor Varadi had received from Emory University in America and which was used before the International Court of Justice in The Hague; and several seals, medals, and other items of note. The collection of personal and private material also includes a love letter of Imre and Meta Varadi, as well as Todor Manojlović’s book Centrifugal Player, from 1931 in Hungarian. This book is a bibliophilic edition which was printed in only 50 copies; the twenty-first issue was given to Imre by Todor as a sign of their long-term friendship. Precisely on account of this friendship shared between Dr. Imre Varadi and Todor Manojlović, it is fitting that the Legacy of the Varadi family is located next to the memorial room of Todor Manojlović in the permanent exhibitions of the National Museum of Zrenjanin.

The Arts Department

With the legacy of the Varadi family, the Art Department of the National Museum in Zrenjanin was enriched across several periods. The collection of fine arts received three paintings by painters from Bečkerek-Petrovgrad. Among them, the plein-air winter landscape “Windmills in Kuman” from 1891 stands out, which is the work of the multi-talented, award-winning Hungarian painter Laszlo Kezdi Kovač (1864–1942). Before leaving for Budapest, this painter worked in Veliki Bečkerek as the archivist of the Torontal District of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the period from 1885 to 1892. The painting had been exhibited twice in the National Museum of Zrenjanin as part of temporary exhibitions in 1969 and 1979. The other two paintings are the work of Janos Ajha-Berec (1900–1943) from 1941 and feature portraits of Imre and Meta Varadi, respectively. These portraits stylistically belong to the civic realism movement of the interwar period and are fitting examples of the artist’s painting opus.

Fifteen objects were bequeathed to the Collection of Applied Arts, again representative of the significance of the contribution made to the Museum’s collections by the Legacy of the Varadi family. Among the pieces are items of period office furniture, made under the influence of the historicist styles of the 19th century, such as a desk and a writing desk, a wall clock from the former law office of the Varadi family, the work of a prominent local watchmaker Grinzweig, and an old metal street sign hailing from the time when the family law office was run by Imre Varadi.

The central place in the private-representative unit of the Varadi Legacy display includes a late baroque salon set consisting of a table, two chairs, and two armchairs. One of the armchairs belongs to the type of extended armchair with a handle. Each individual piece of this set was processed and carved in a unique way, with specific decorative elements, while at the same time the stylistic presentation of the set fits seamlessly with the concept of the entire salon. Baroque influences from Hungary and Western Europe overlap in this precious furniture, while Rococo also appears in the accents. The furniture, which was clearly specially commissioned, had once been in the possession of the nobleman and military leader Erne Kiš (1799–1849). It came into the ownership of Varadi’s sets through Jakov Puc (1848–1939), Meta’s father, who, as a deserving doctor and friend of the Kiš family, received the salon set as a gift. In addition to the already mentioned examples of furniture, the Legacy of the Varadi family is significantly represented by other valuable items belonging to the Art Nouveau style, such as the sumptuous jardiniere on the pedestal, from the Bohemian company Rudolf Ditmar from Znojmo (Czechia), the chandelier, table frames, and other related items. Two shelves with encyclopedic editions and books also donated as a part of the legacy contribute a sense of warmth to the exhibited display, among which the Corpus of Hungarian Law (lat. Corpus Juris Hungarici) from 1822 stands out.

Final remarks

With the realized Legacy, the permanent exhibitions of the National Museum of Zrenjanin received an annex that in the truest sense conveys the atmosphere and ambience in which the Varadi family lived and provided legal services to the citizens of today’s Zrenjanin for more than 120 years. By the will of Mr. Tibor Varadi, a part of the material family property was bequeathed to the Museum for preservation and exhibition, direct proof the Varadi family’s sizable contribution to the progress of the city through its continuous activities and engagements.