Zsolnay int the Buda Castle

Zsolnay fireplace in the Buda Castle.

Saint Stephen’s Hall, now authentically renovated, is open to the public. Like it did in the past, the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory has now recreated the portraits of the kings of the Árpád dynasty in the hall and the exact replica of the fireplace that was destroyed during World War 2. Bachar Najari, the owner of the Zsolnay factory, talks about the preparations and production, offering a peek behind the scenes.

It is an honour that with its expertise the Pécs-based Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory could contribute to this significant, historic project, the reconstruction of Saint Stephen’s Hall.

4.5 metres tall and 2.5 metres wide, the fireplace is the most distinct item in Saint Stephen’s Hall of the Buda Castle.

Specialists at the Zsolnay manufactory worked on this exact replica of the original piece for five years. With 120 types of elements and 611 pieces altogether, this is the largest fireplace in Hungary.

Our colleagues have great expertise and were well-prepared for the thorough research and the preparatory phase of the project. In the first year, they experimented with the colours, materials and design drawings, and the professional team was put together at the company to develop proper quality and consistency. This included the right temperature for firing and paint thickness.

We had black and white photos of the original fireplace and of the inlays on the walls and the ceiling.

Our expert studied these old photos to establish what colours were probably used. We needed to recreate the original colours with the same surface quality.

Our colleagues at the factory worked together with the lead expert of the museum. Naturally, we had regular discussions with the leaders of the castle headquarters project and the lead specialists working on the various items in the hall. Working together was a pleasant experience and it was very useful.

Creating the backgrounds, developing the painting technique, and recreating them on a computer – it was the past coming back to life with the help of the technology of the future. We needed to develop the proper materials and organise the technological processes. At the same time, we needed to develop an actionable daily work process.

In the reconstruction of the fireplace in Saint Stephen’s Hall, we relied on the traditional technology used in the past and worked in the same way our predecessors worked over a hundred years ago. We created a plaster mould, then a gypsum core, cast the material, used glazes and gilt like people did in the olden days.

We worked with the colours we currently use to develop the perfect hues for this project. We created over 7-8 colours and a golden tint to recreate the original colours. This, like other work phases, required great precision.

We faced many great challenges, and our top priority was to really be able to build the 4.7 m tall fireplace in the construction phase. Every centimetre and millimetre were important.

Several specialists worked simultaneously and closely together to create the new fireplace. Everything had to fit perfectly, according to the plans. Several specialities needed to collaborate during the construction work.

Over the course of its history, the Zsolnay factory has designed and manufactured lasting and valuable pieces for several buildings and interiors.

It was uplifting to see all the elements of the fireplace completed and to see a piece of the past come back to life.

Bachar Najari said:

‘I’m very proud of the artists at the factory and all the colleagues who worked on the reconstruction of the fireplace in Saint Stephen’s Hall. I truly believe that we have been able to provide Hungary and Hungarian culture with a new and special experience.’