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Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Archives, Washington, D.C.

 

Repository: Dumbarton Oaks Archives, Washington, D.C.

Call Number: Byzantine Studies/Der Nersessian, Sirarpie

Location: Archives 058, Byzantine Studies VF

Name(s) of Creator(s): Jelisaveta (“Seka”) Stanojevich Allen; Anastasius C. Bandy; Robert Woods Bliss; Richard LeBaron Bowen, Jr.; Rita W. Buckler; Jefferson Caffery; Jane Chance; Levon B. Chookaszian; Sirarpie Der Nersessian; Richard Ettinghausen; George H. Forsyth, Jr.; Nina G. Garsonian; André Grabar; Richard Hovannisian; Ernst Kitzinger; Dickran Kouymjian; Angeliki E. Laiou; George Ostrogorsky; W. Sas-Zaloziecky; Ihor Ševčenko; Konstantin F. Shteppa; Isaac Stone; Alice-Mary Talbot; Robert Thomson; and the Washington Star.

Title: Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs

Inclusive Date: 1929–2002

Language(s): English and French

Quantity: 4 series in 2 folders

  

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Acquisition Information: These papers came to the Dumbarton Oaks Archives at an unknown date.

Processing Information: These papers were inventoried by James N. Carder in 1999 and processed by James W. Curtin and James N. Carder in 2013.

Terms of Use and Access: These papers can be used for research and publication purposes.

Physical Access: An appointment is required for access to these papers. For appointment and queries contact James N. Carder, Archivist, carderj@doaks.org.

Preferred Citation: Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs, Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Courtesy of Dumbarton oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.

 

HISTORICAL NOTE

Sirarpie Der Nersessian was an Armenian scholar of Armenian and Byzantine art history, especially Armenian illuminated manuscripts. She is credited with incorporating Armenian art into the scope of Byzantine art history. She was born in Istanbul (Constantinople) on September 5, 1896. With her older sister, Araxie, she fled persecutions against Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, going first to Bulgaria and then to Switzerland, where Sirarpie completed her secondary and university (1917) educations. In 1919, the sisters moved to Paris, where Sirarpie pursued graduate degrees at the Sorbonne, studying with the historian Charles Diehl and art historians Gabriel Millet and Henri Foçillon. Her lifelong friendship with Byzantine historian Father Francis Dvornik and art historian André Grabar also started during her student years in Paris.

In 1939, Sirarpie Der Nersessian delivered a lecture, “Some Aspects of Byzantine Sculpture,” at Dumbarton Oaks. In 1944–1945, she was a Senior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, and the following year she became a full faculty member and a member of the Board of Scholars. While at Dumbarton Oaks, she resided on the grounds at S and 32nd Streets N.W. and was joined there by her sister in 1947. In 1953, she was appointed Henri Foçillon Professor of Art and Archaeology at Dumbarton Oaks and Harvard University, after which she served as Deputy Director of Byzantine Studies (1953–1954). At Dumbarton Oaks, she also twice served as Acting Director of Byzantine Studies in 1954–1955 and 1961–1962. Sirarpie Der Nersessian also directed two Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine symposia in 1948 and 1958 and participated in a total of seven. During the nearly twenty years that Der Nersessian was at Dumbarton Oaks, her scholarly research focused on manuscript illuminations as well as on Byzantine and Armenian art generally.

Upon her retirement in 1963, Sirarpie Der Nersessian returned to Paris and continued to lecture in European universities, including the Collège de France. She returned in October 1965 to deliver her final lecture at Dumbarton Oaks, “Scholarship in Byzantine Art and Archaeology, 1940-1965” for the institution’s twenty-fifth anniversary. She was awarded the status of Emerita and made an honorary associate of the Board of Scholars. Sirarpie Der Nersessian was also the only woman at Dumbarton Oaks to gain full professorship at Harvard, the first woman to receive the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Medal of Honor from the Armenian Apostolic Church (1960), and the second woman to receive a gold medal from the Society of Antiquaries of London (1970).

 

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The Sirarpie Der Nersessian Papers and Photographs contain her correspondence, correspondence regarding her obituary, miscellaneous papers, photographs, a copy of her Dumbarton Oaks 1939 talk, “Some Aspects of Byzantine Sculpture,” and an offprint copy of Jelisaveta Stanojevich Allen’s “Sirarpie Der Nersessian (b. 1896): Educator and Scholar in Byzantine and Armenian Art,” from Women as Interpreters of the Visual Arts, 1820–1979, edited by Claire Richter Sherman with Adele M. Holcomb. Contributions in Women’s Studies, Number 18 (Greenwood Press: Westport, Connecticut – London, England, 1981), chapter 12, 329–56.

 

COLLECTION INVENTORY AND DESCRIPTION

Series 1: Correspondence and Miscellaneous (1946–2002)

Correspondents:

Jelisaveta (“Seka”) Stanojevich Allen (1981–1996)

Anastasius C. Bandy (1961)

Robert Woods Bliss (1946)

Richard LeBaron Bowen, Jr. (1954)

Rita W. Buckler (1954)

Jefferson Caffery (1946)

Jane Chance (2002)

Levon B. Chookaszian (1996)

Sirarpie Der Nersessian (1946–1961)

Richard Ettinghausen (1954)

George H. Forsyth, Jr. (1955)

Nina G. Garsonian (1989)

André Grabar (1981)

Richard Hovannisian (1981)

Ernst Kitzinger (1960)

Dickran Kouymjian (2002)

Angeliki E. Laiou (1989)

George Ostrogorsky (1960)

W. Sas-Zaloziecky (1954)

Ihor Ševčenko (1989)

Konstantin F. Shteppa (1954)

Isaac Stone (1960)

Alice-Mary Talbot (2002)

Robert Thomson (1989)

Miscellaneous:

Item 1: “Dr. Der Nersessian To Receive $2,500 AAUW Award,” Washington Star (April 9, 1948) (also photocopy).

Item 2: Konstantin F. Shteppa, “Autobiography,” 1954.

Item 3: Konstantin F. Shteppa, “List of the Most Important Treatises,” 1954.

Item 4: Photocopy of Bradford Bachrach’s photograph portrait of Sirarpie Der Nersessian, undated. 

Series 2: Typescript (1939)

Item 1: Sirarpie Der Nersessian, “Some Aspects of Byzantine Sculpture,” copy of 1939 talk delivered at Dumbarton Oaks.

Series 3: Offprint (1981)

Item 1: Jelisaveta Stanojevich Allen, “Sirarpie Der Nersessian (b. 1896): Educator and Scholar in Byzantine and Armenian Art,” Women as Interpreters of the Visual Arts, 1820–1979, edited by Claire Richter Sherman with Adele M. Holcomb. Contributions in Women’s Studies 18 (Greenwood Press: Westport, Connecticut – London, England, 1981), chapter 12, 329–56.

Series 4: Photographs

Item 1: Image of people seated and standing; 5” x 6¾”, b/w, identification on post-in on back: “This photo is the group of students at the École des Hautes Études in Paris, with Professor Gabriel Millet. Miss Der Nersessian was Millet’s assistant. Picture was taken in 1929 – The list of names enclosed was written by Miss Serarpie Der Nersessian when I visited her in Paris;” enclosed list of names: 1929 / I / 1. Ivan Radekovic / 2. Mme Celina Osieczkowska / 3. I. D. Stefanescu / 4. I. Zdrakovic / 5/ Mme. V. Coltas / Mlle Rose Valland / 7. André Xyngofoulos - / II / 1. Mme S. Tomiline (Larionoff) / 2. Mlle Juliette Renaud / 3. M. Millet / 4. S. d. N / 5. ?” (3 copies)

Professor Gabriel Millet with his students at the École des Hautes Études
Professor Gabriel Millet (seated at center) with his students at the École des Hautes Études in Paris, 1929. Standing, left to right, are Ivan Radenkovic, Celina Osieczkowska, I.D Stefanescu, Ivan Zdravkovic, Vénétia Cottas, Rose Valland, and André Xyngopoulos. Seated, left to right, are Alexandra Tomiline-Larionov, Juliette Renaud, Gabriel Millet, Sirarpie Der Nersessian, and an unidentified woman.

Item 2: Image of Sirarpie Der Nersessian (seated) with Milton Anastos, Glanville Downey, Albert Friend, Francis Dvornik, and Paul Underwood (standing); 5” x 7 1/8”, b/w, identifications on post-it on back: “Miss S. Der Nersissian at Dumbarton Oaks after a symposium with: Prof. Milton Anastos, Prof. Glanville Downey, Prof. A. Friend, Prof. Francis Dvornik, Prof. Paul Underwood; 1948 Symposium” and graphite inscription: “49.60.1” (2 copies);

Speakers at the 1948 Byzantine Studies Symposium
Speakers at the 1948 Byzantine Studies Symposium

Item 3: Image of Sirarpie Der Nersessian and her sister Araxie Der Nersessian (seated); 5” x 7 1/8”, b/w, identifications on post-it on back: “Miss Sirarpi Der Nersessian and her sister Mrs. Arax Der Nersessian in their living-room, in the house where they lived on the grounds of Dumbarton Oaks. Picture taken probably in 1962 or 63.” (3 copies);

Sirarpie Der Nersessian and her Sister, Arax Der Nersessian
Sirarpie Der Nersessian and her Sister, Araxie Der Nersessian

Item 4: Image of Sirarpie Der Nersessian, André Grabar, Paul Alexander, and Francis Dvornik (bust length), 5” x 7 1/8”, b/w, identifications on post-it on back: “Miss S. Der Nersessian at Dumbarton Oaks with her good friends: Prof. André Grabar, Prof. Francis Dvornik, and Prof. Paul Alexander. about 1958” and a graphite inscription: “51.25.1.6.” (3 copies).

Der Nersessian and friends
Sirarpie Der Nersessian and, left to right, André Grabar, Paul Alexander, and Father Francis Dvornik

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