Dressing Up at Dumbarton Oaks – Happy Halloween!
The “Ravenna Group:” Ernst Kitzinger as Justinian, Arthur H.S. “Peter” Megaw (Byzantine Visiting Scholar) wearing Justinian’s crown, his wife Electra Megaw as Theodora, and Susan Kitzinger & Jelisaveta "Seka" Allen as attendants in Theodora’s retinue.
James N. Carder (October 2013)
Recently the Dumbarton Oaks Archives received a gift of five slides (AR.PH.Misc.224-228) from Alice-Mary Talbot, former Director of Byzantine Studies. These slides, which probably date to 1962, capture former Dumbarton Oaks fellows, staff, and their spouses impersonating famous Byzantine historical figures. The “Ravenna Group,” for example, (seen at the right) depicts Ernst Kitzinger (Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology) as Justinian, Arthur H. S. “Peter” Megaw (Byzantine Visiting Scholar) wearing Justinian’s crown, his wife Electra Megaw as Theodora, and Susan Kitzinger, wife of Ernst Kitzinger, and Jelisaveta “Seka” Allen (Byzantine library cataloguer) as attendants in Theodora’s retinue. Their costumes and poses are, of course, a mash-up of the famous mosaic depictions in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna. Other slides depict John Zizoulas (Byzantine Junior Fellow) as the emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos and Paul Underwood (Professor of Byzantine Architecture and Archaeology) as Theodore Metochites, Andronikos’s personal advisor; Jacqueline Lafontaine (Byzantine Visiting Fellow) as Anicia Juliana; and Gordana Babić (Byzantine Junior Fellow) as a Serbian princess.
Several interviews from the Archives Oral History Project amplify this “dressing up” at Dumbarton Oaks, especially at Halloween. Therese O’Malley (Garden and Landscape Junior and Senior Fellow) remembered former Director Giles Constable’s annual Halloween appearance as the Grim Reaper:
There was a great Halloween party every year. Giles scared the living daylights out of us, because he would come totally in costume, and he was a rather imposing person, about six feet ten inches or something…looming. And he would come completely shrouded in black and move through the crowd, and you had no idea who he was. Ugh!
Similarly, Betsy Rosasco (Garden and Landscape Junior Fellow) reminisced:
And then Halloween came. Everyone got dressed up, and I remember Dick Townsend [Pre-Columbian Bliss Fellow and Senior Fellow] had gone up to the five-and-dime store and bought fabric and little mirrors, and he also had a devil mask. He put the devil mask on his back and he cut out red fabric for the back of his suit and attached all the little mirrors, and he was this devil! You looked in the mirror and saw yourself. From the front he looked normal, and then in the back you saw this devil! And I thought – there are some really brilliant people here.
In her remembrance of Judy Ullmann Siggins (Dumbarton Oaks Assistant Director), Natalia Teteriatnikov (Byzantine Junior Fellow and former Curator of the Byzantine Photograph and Fieldwork Archives) recalled:
She entertained fellows and staff. She organized wonderful Halloween parties, which we enjoyed, and people used to come in great costumes, like, for example, Elizabeth Boone [former Director of Pre-Columbian Studies] was dressed up as the Statue of Liberty. It was spectacular!