GB: Okay, so today is May 8, 2008, and we are Gudrun Bühl, museum director and curator of Dumbarton Oaks, and this is Alice-Mary Talbot, and we are here to interview Professor Hans Belting today. And we would like to ask you a variety of questions. And we would like, of course, to hear what you recollect of the time you spent here at Dumbarton Oaks. And you have had the chance to walk through the gardens, and I guess that you have already had some recollections. I’d like to start with a first question, and that is, you remember certainly how you got in contact with Dumbarton Oaks or what it was that triggered your interest, and what made you contact Dumbarton Oaks. And I could help you with something which I found in our archives....
HB: Well, you will be very surprised how this came about, because there were two Jesuit persons who negotiated this for me. One was in Rome and the other was living nearby in the West Cottage, Father Dvornik. And they talked to each other, and the Roman one said, “This young boy should develop.” And then Father Dvornik talked to Kitzinger. And eventually, I could apply. I had no idea, I had never been here, and I was just a plain art historian. So, I mean, as things go, you know, there was no big plan. So, one day, I just arrived, initially by boat, then by train – no, by bus, Greyhound bus – from New York. And I found myself at Dumbarton Oaks, to my great surprise and to every other’s surprise.
GB: And if I can, in a way, fill in – it’s not necessary – but I was so happy to find in our dossiers your letter which you have written –
HB: Oh, really?
GB: – in 1959. You were twenty-three years old.
HB: That’s right.
GB: You were about – not only to – whatever – but nowadays a graduate student would do to think up a topic of a Ph.D. – No, you were about to receive your diploma, your Ph.D. in Germany. So, you were 23 years old and you wrote a letter to Professor Kitzinger –
GB: – not having met him, but as we start here, “In einem Gespräch mit Herrn Professor Dvornik auf dem Byzantinischenkongress in München” –
GB: – “hatte ich mich nach den Möglichkeiten eines Stipendiums für Dumbarton Oaks erkundigt.” This is amazing, because – not amazing that you were twenty-three years old and you were about to think of, well, going abroad – where the best institute at the time was to study. You mention your Ph.D. and you mention, beyond that, that you would like to introduce a specific – well, a specific group of the so-called beneventanische Schule that was your Ph.D. topic. But you brought other things with you. And as I see here, three more research topics.
GB: That’s amazing. I mean, I thought that this was just – I’d like to hear more about the situation for you when you finished your studies and you were thinking of Dumbarton Oaks – the situation in Germany and the possibilities obviously which you thought you will find here.
HB: Well, I was advised to write this letter and I think I met, indeed, Ernst Kitzinger, at the Congress in Munich. It was a memorable occasion, because it had been the first time he returned to Germany after the war. And he was very nervous. Everyone could see that. He felt uncomfortable, especially so, since he had studied in Munich and received his Ph.D. in Munich. And much later, in ’85, I was able to – when holding the chair of his former teacher – to give him his doctoral diploma. But, much happened in between. So indeed, I had written this Ph.D. thesis in Mainz, and its subject was a new discovery of mine: namely, one of the very few cycles of the tenth-century, in South Italy – but all in Europe, there are not so many examples. So Kitzinger, who was then Director of Studies – he was very interested in the subject of this Ph.D. thesis; but when I showed him my thesis, he thought very low of it. So, I asked him what to do. And he said, “Well, I would be able to supervise you.” And actually, this was my great luck. I wrote this, eventually; you know, whatever the projects were, I spent this year in writing the same Ph.D. thesis once again under his supervision. And so he received me once a week with reports on what I did and how I got along. So, this was the first real education – academic situation – because I was a wild child. You know, I had done all these things, but you know the real education – introduction – into how scholarship is done, actually, if I may say so, happened in this special relation during the first year. The second year was very different. But that was the first year.
GB: So, the relationship you just described – is that a relationship I would identify as a – it seems to me that when you arrived, you were a scholar, you were not a person who had to be educated. You arrived –
HB: It depends.
GB: – and you met Ernst Kitzinger and you said that you had weekly meetings then.
GB: What was that? Can you describe? Do you remember some of those conversations? What kind of exchange on a – what kind of level between the two of you?
HB: Well, I mean, generally speaking, I was something like the returning past for a lot of the émigrés, because suddenly they saw a young academician from Germany whom they had not seen for years and ages. So, I was, in a way, representing the type of student they lost when leaving Germany. There was an emotional situation. The second relation we had was, of course – art history was prominent here, because there was all the faculty. And there were all these relations among the persons, and so I think Ernst Kitzinger – we could talk a little bit – he had a double role. He was, on the one hand, something like a dean of the faculty as Director of Studies. On the other hand, he had a very different relation to the Blisses. But maybe this is already too far to go.
GB: No, no, not at all.
HB: Because he often complained that they took advice from him about objects of whatever time, you know, because like an employee, he was, you know, asked. So, he had a very different – and I think he must have enjoyed, first of all, to teach again a German young person. And second, also to speak German to me, because my English was so horrible that he said, “It’s hopeless. Let’s speak German.”
GB: But you wrote beautiful letters.
HB: I’m surprised.
GB: Well, that’s a wonderful topic, and I would certainly like to come back to it, and that’s what I think we should do. Because I would like first that maybe you take over to go further on – because the relationship between Ernst Kitzinger and the Blisses and the collection and of course, yeah, your interest that is maybe for a little bit later, before we go on.
HB: Yes, because the second year, which we will talk later about, was entirely different. And is also very interesting, how I got a second year.
AMT: Okay, well, why don’t we talk first, then – ’59–’60, I know, was the year that Ihor was there in the spring, in preparation, I gather, for the famous Metochites/Kariye Djami Symposium. So, that must have been a particularly wonderful year to be at Dumbarton Oaks.
HB: Oh, yes.
AMT: And I was wondering – I mean, you had been working in this much earlier material – was the fact that this symposium was on Kariye Djami – did that lead you, for the first time, to your interest in the Paleologan Period?
HB: I think so, yes. And indeed, Florentine Muetherich in Munich – she asked me to write about this conference – the symposium. This was my first article I ever published – in Munich in the Kunstchronik. You have a report on the Metochites conference and Ihor, of course, was a great figure because he taught in Columbia. And he was a little bit envied also by those who normally did not teach here. So, this was a constant topic to – you know, “Do we teach? Do we not? How we do it?” So, Ihor was, certainly, when he came here, a great presence. And also his special relation to Cyril Mango – that was obvious.
AMT: So, did you live in this building, the Fellows Building?
HB: Yes, yes. I lived on top of the stair, the next room to the left.
AMT: And I understand that at the time – ’59–’60 – there was still a staff in the building who served meals to you?
HB: Oh, yes, oh, yes.
AMT: It was quite elegant, or…?
HB: Yes. I mean, there were two parts always, which you must also remember: the lunch, over there, in the next room, and after-lunch. This was always a solemn assembly in this room – totally intimidating. Because not only the faculty (on which we can talk) assembled, and as you remembered, Father Dvornik would come for coffee, because the after-lunch was independent from the lunch. And we would march in and Kitzinger would ring the bell, and then they would serve the lunch, and he would always preside at the head of the table. And you know, sometimes it became more solemn when it was a Founders Day and the Blisses came. But here was the real center of Dumbarton Oaks – this room, for me, in terms of dialogue/discussion, because everybody was sitting here, around, and also a lot of guests. So, the guests were officially welcomed after lunch here, and they talked with the faculty, and so it was not just the faculty, but a lot of guests, also from Europe – Fellows, guests for a short time, then guests from Princeton or Harvard. So, the biggest impression I got from Dumbarton Oaks was in this room.
AMT: So, it’s appropriate that we’re interviewing you here today.
AMT: Now where was your office, or were you in that big reading room?
HB: Yes, I was in the big reading room. And I was sitting at the part towards the street – toward 32nd Street. And we were all in this reading room – the Fellows. It was very entertaining – very noisy, you know, everybody talking. You know, we had some very fabulous Fellows, very colorful.
AMT: Who were they?
HB: Like Father Magoulias, who was a star because he was so extremely funny. And he was here with his wife. And they lived in the big room over there [gestures] – up there. So, they played always a record – “Never on Sundays” – with Melina Mercouri. And he was the social center. Then there was Pia Schmid, who was a fellow German from Munich. And for me, the most important fellow was David Pingree. David Pingree was already then so learned that it was incredible – Sanskrit and everything. He mastered all possible languages from Latin, Greek, and you know, other languages too, and also, history of science. So, he was my neighbor – in the next room. And he was very kind to me because he taught me English – that was a very, very important relation – to David Pingree.
AMT: Now besides Kitzinger, with which other faculty members did you feel comfortable talking?
HB: Yes, I mean, Father Dvornik, anyway, because I knew him from Europe; but Paul Underwood because of the interests. You know, he was so extremely kind. And he would see me so often and show me the latest photographs coming in from Istanbul – from the Byzantine Institute – the new discoveries and so on.
GB: Very exciting.
HB: So, that was for me, of course, a personal introduction to Byzantium, where I never had been. Yes, I had been, at twenty, at the Byzantinist Congress in Istanbul. That I must correct. ’55. Then I was just nineteen.
AMT: Now you –
HB: Can I just continue? [looks at his notes] So, of course Downey was a little bit aloof. You know all these people as well as I do. Anastos – very communicative. And there was always, for weeks or so, Philip Grierson. And Philip Grierson made a great impression on me. I did not understand him well – his quick language, his fast language – initially. But this became a long relation for over years. But I must add that during the first year, I think that Otto Demus was here as a guest. Of course, a great figure whom I worshipped and still do. And next year – the second year – there was André Grabar. And then, of course, Kurt Weitzmann came, you know, always for certain periods. But then, I think, in the second year, also, Ernst Kantorowicz moved in for the summer. And he had a specially close relation, of course, to Ihor. And then, of course, meetings – Board of Advisors? I don’t know what it was called.
AMT: Board of Scholars.
HB: Board of Scholars. There, I must say, I met all the big German émigrés like Werner Jaeger. I mean, I tell today, I still have seen Werner Jaeger – nobody believes me, you know. And you know, I think there was also Paul Tillich, and so, in my view, the faculty was enlarged by this Board of Scholars who all came for symposia and were here also a lot on and up. So for me, this was a world of learning. And a person I came very close to very quickly was Richard Krautheimer. And this remained a very, very close relation until his death in Rome. I visited him a lot in Rome. And so I visited him then in the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. So it is not just the faculty, but the bigger circle –
AMT: – larger community –
HB: – larger community, that’s it.
AMT: So, how did you happen to stay on a second year?
HB: Well, of course, I had the feeling that in just rewriting my Ph.D. thesis it was not enough initiation into Byzantium because – especially so, since the Ph.D. thesis was on an Italian topic. So, I tried to negotiate: “Is there any possibility for me?” And they said, “We will think about it.” And I said, “Maybe I can work with something of the Byzantine Institute – with new discoveries, and so on.” And then I mentioned the mosaics of St. Sophia would be fantastic. And then they decided, “Young boy, wait a little bit. Wait some years. This is just above your level. We talk about.” But then they found, you know, you can imagine, it was really an interesting story. Then they said, “Well, there are the frescoes of St. Euphemia in Istanbul. They are in a very bad condition, and the whole excavation of Alfons Maria Schneider’s of the ’40s is a mess. So, we have to do a publication on this. So, since you are German, and if you are ready to go to Istanbul to work with the findings, and do all this, then you can come back and work here on the materials from the excavation of St. Euphemia of the ’40s.”
GB: That’s very interesting, in that it brings me to the question to ask: if Alfons Maria Schneider could have been able to do this? Or why is there the Dumbarton Oaks interest in the Euphemia frescoes?
HB: Because Underwood was involved in the restoration of the frescoes. And then he found out, there are not just the frescoes. There is all this material sitting in the archaeological museum nobody knows of. And then there was still the second excavator – actually, Alfons Maria Schneider, to tell the truth, he had directed all this from Göttingen, but he had not done it. The person who had done it was Naumann. And Naumann was at that time director of the Istanbul Institute – of the German Archaeological Institute. So, he agreed that I could stay there for a while and he undertook at the same time then, the excavation of the Lausos Palace nearby. So, I participated a little bit at that and later on too. So, actually this was the hardest academic job I ever did, because there was ceramics, sculpture, frescoes, mosaic, you know, the architecture, the liturgical installation, and there was nothing on all this. There was a brief article in I don’t know where from Alfons Maria Schneider. But I did an excavation in the collection. Not on –
AMT: Is this called forensic archaeology?
HB: Yes. Right, right, right. I learned a lot.
AMT: It was a wonderful training for you.
HB: It was a wonderful training. It was a wonderful training. And so I justified my presence here by a function for the activities of the Byzantine Institute.
AMT: But you were called a Fellow still.
HB: Yeah. Right. And out of this came later on a book, together with Rudolf Naumann, on St. Euphemia, which covers everything. And Rudolf Naumann wrote a kind of introduction. But then I really got a good training in Byzantine art.
GB: It is very interesting to listen to you and to the description of the scholars and the impact they had and what you learned in this very decisive year – again, you, being this young promising scholar and being exposed to this kind of explosion of scholarship. And again, by looking through your letter where you have indeed already in the letter you sent in 1959, beginning of February, where you mention that you are preparing your Habilitationsschrift.
AMT: Oh, my goodness. This was...
GB: And you say that it is about the Stuttgart Psalter.
HB: Really? Wow, I forgot completely about this.
GB: So, I think that what you described – and please correct me if this is not the right impression which I have now – which is indeed that you had planned, you had a way to attack the art history field – to find your way. Then, being here, it got changed. And it was maybe, really – the major way, or the most important way one could change, was to be exposed to the scholarship. And then, of course, to look for opportunity to extend this kind of productive work in exclusion. Is that something which…?
HB: Absolutely. Well, the biggest change in my plans with my Ph.D. topic was that Kitzinger advised me to do a monograph, because I had done all South Italy in one thing. And he said, “That’s nonsense. That’s dilettante. Do a good monograph on the – .” And I did then my Habilitationsschrift on what originally had been my Ph.D. topic – the larger region of South Italy.
GB: And you published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1972 –
GB: – your article in German.
HB: In German?
AMT: When I realized that I –
HB: – Exactly. Studien zum Beneventanischenhof. And this was an entirely historical study, in a way.
GB: It has the very last chapter on the architecture.
HB: Yeah. But indeed, I think this article is a mirror of my new awakened interest in historical, numismatic, and other things, in order to describe a court of that type.
GB: Yeah – a very broad picture, again, which you develop in this article, which is just amazing.
HB: Well, you see how much I tried to live up to the level –
AMT: – the standards.
GB: You see in the documents how much the young scholar had already been, of course, not only accepted, but highly appreciated. Because I think – I think, I don’t know – but I think in this time, as nowadays, it is not easy – let’s put it this way – to publish an article in DOP.
HB: Yes, this was, indeed, a high honor conveyed to me.
AMT: Because most of the articles were by the permanent faculty, or they were symposium papers, for example.
HB: Yes, but I should like to add one thing. If I talk in Europe about my early Dumbarton Oaks experience, my emphasis is always on another aspect: that I met Eastern Europe in living representatives. I had never thought of – to meet – and I no idea of the German Bundesrepublik was a very closed territory. And we were developing to the European Union. So, the other part of Europe was actually non-existent. It was behind the iron wall. And paradoxically, Dumbarton Oaks, suddenly, brought me in contact to that Europe which I did not meet in Europe.
AMT: So while we’re talking about the general environment in ’59–’61: Mr. Bliss was still alive. Could you tell us something about the Blisses? I believe that Mrs. Bliss came more often to Dumbarton Oaks than Mr. Bliss.
HB: Yes, indeed. I mean, they both came to lunch on the Founders Day. And they usually offered an object for the collection. So, when we had lunch over there, they were unpacked something – a chalice, you know. And then they said, “This is for the collection, for our Founders Day.”
GB: Once a year a Founders Day?
AMT: And that was the day of the inauguration?
AMT: Maybe we should celebrate that again here.
HB: And we were very impressed, of course. Then, really, we had a very solemn lunch.
AMT: And very good food.
HB: Very good food. And besides, Mrs. Bliss came very often from the Founders’ Room to the study in order to have tea with us. And she would address me and say, “What did you do today, Mr. Belting?” So, I mean, it was of course, a phrase – polite – but she even took notice of myself, which I find today more astonishing than at the time when I look back. And then of course, the impression they had on me were the concerts, because Mrs. Bliss would be enthroned at the foot of the staircase leading to the Music Room. And he was standing behind her. You know, she was like a queen and he was standing behind her. And both, of course, impressed me immensely.
AMT: And did they greet people as they arrived?
HB: Yes. They received. So, everybody who came to the concert was received first at the entrance by the Blisses. And we were allowed to gather in the back.
AMT: The Fellows?
HB: The Fellows.
AMT: And did you have to wear black tie?
AMT: Because when my husband and I were here a little later, in 1966–68, the men did have to wear black tie.
HB: Ah, yeah.
AMT: It was very, very formal.
HB: Ah, yeah. No, at that time…but we were like Hauspersonal. I mean, we did not count, you know, we were additional people. The others – they all had black tie.
AMT: The rest of the audience?
HB: The rest of the audience, yes. But we were allowed to come in when everybody had taken the seats and then we could come in and stand in the back or sit in the back. And then the third occasion where I got to know them a little bit was at symposium, because they invited everybody at the end of symposium to their house, you know, which was somewhere there [gestures left] – a big house in Georgetown. So, then after the end of the symposium, we all walked over there and had lunch with the Blisses.
AMT: That was on the Sunday – Sunday lunch.
HB: No, that was Saturday.
AMT: Oh, so you didn’t – maybe it was a different schedule, because there were often shorter symposia in the early days.
HB: Okay, okay. No, I mean, I remember that they ended in Saturday at lunchtime.
AMT: I remember now that the early symposia had many fewer speakers than now.
HB: Ah, yeah.
AMT: Often there were just seven speakers.
HB: Yes, yes.
AMT: And from my time, which was just shortly after you, I remember that the lunch served to the symposium guests at Dumbarton Oaks was extremely elegant, with a whole salmon with scales made of cucumber slices, for example.
AMT: Was it the same in your time?
HB: No, I mean, my experience was that we had no lunch then at all here, but we walked all to their house.
AMT: Well, maybe because we didn’t go to the Blisses’ in our time, we had a more elegant lunch here at Dumbarton Oaks.
HB: Yes, yes.
AMT: That’s probably the explanation, okay. So, can we move on now to ten years later, when you – oh, it is ’69–’70 when you came back as a visiting scholar. And I just want to remind you that Mrs. Bliss had died in January of ’69 and Jack Thacher retired in December of ’69 – so, shortly before your arrival. And this must have been a time of great change at Dumbarton Oaks.
HB: Yes. Well, I arrived, I think, in the fall of ’69 and stayed until the spring of ’70.
AMT: So, you were there just before Thacher retired, then.
AMT: Yes, okay. And Romilly Jenkins had died, so was there a Director of Studies? Do you remember?
HB: What was Ihor’s role at this moment?
AMT: Well, I think he had been Director of Studies, ’66–’67, but I believe in ’69–’70, he was what he told me, “Senior Faculty Member.” I’m not sure if there was a Director of Studies.
HB: No. Well, but my memory is not very precise in that moment. I have to tell that I got an offer in ’68. Then there was already the idea that the faculty was no longer to be the model for the future. But we had several meetings – Ihor, Cyril, and myself – before that happened, before I got this offer – whether we should somehow work together. I was, of course, far younger than both of them. But the idea was a kind of trio. I don’t know. I mean, this is very rough, because I’ve forgot the details. But there was a plan, certainly, that Ihor would be a leading figure. And in my view, he was about to – he was…hmm…in my memory, he was director. And everybody was very curious how he would handle this, but maybe for a short time.
AMT: Because I’m not sure he held that title. He may have functioned as a –
HB: In my memory, he functioned like this. Yes.
AMT: Because we do have in your dossier some of the correspondence about the negotiations with you to become a faculty member – a member of the permanent faculty. And this would have been – well, this actually started even before Underwood died, right? So, it wasn’t really to replace Underwood; it was in addition.
HB: No, no.
AMT: But then Underwood did die. And then you were interested.
AMT: But then you had another offer from Heidelberg.
HB: Yes, I often talk about this. My life would have taken a different direction. I had already accepted this position here. I had got the parchment and everything. And then I got an offer for a full professorship at Heidelberg, which was quite unexpected because I was definitely too young for such a position. Nobody expected this. Actually, three people declined this, and then in the last moment they thought of myself. [laughter] So, this was a very difficult decision and well, I mean, I’m never sure whether I did the right decision. But indeed, it was a decision to stay with family in Germany.
AMT: And to teach.
HB: Yeah, right.
GB: Although you would have had a chance to teach here, as well –
HB: But this was a big topic, always.
AMT: – Well, not very much.
HB: No, no but, you know, this was a constant problem discussed among the faculty – how they would keep their contacts to Harvard and to go there and teach, and how one could find a convenient solution. But it was never possible to find a convenient solution.
AMT: And in the end, I believe that relatively few did go to Harvard to teach.
HB: Yeah. But the possibility to go there was, of course, very important. But indeed, then they were very kind, and I explained the situation, and then I said I would come for half a year. Since I will not come, I will come for half a year – when I had already accepted the chair in Heidelberg. And that was half the year. That was ’69 to ’70. And in that time, I worked on the study on the illuminated book in Paleologan time.
AMT: With Buchthal. Or where was Buchthal?
HB: No, that was later – that came later when I did a book with Buchthal on this group of Palaiologina for the Dumbarton Oaks Studies and with Cyril and Doula Mouriki on Pammakaristos. But that came later.
AMT: Okay. So, the illuminated book was just your own.
AMT: But I would say that in a way it was fortunate that you accepted Heidelberg, because as it turned out, there was the severe attrition of the faculty at Dumbarton Oaks. And as I just had this conversation with Ihor, and he told me how it was arranged for him to move to Harvard, as the first Dumbarton Oaks Professor in 1973.
AMT: By then, all of the faculty were gone except for Bill Loerke. Cyril Mango had gone.
AMT: Yeah. So, in the end, you probably would not have stayed here anyway.
HB: Yeah. Right, right. But maybe I would have been rescued by an American university.
AMT: That’s quite possible. [to GB] Do you want us to focus a little more on the book? – On the illuminated manuscripts?
GB: Actually, my thoughts just went on with mentioning – you mentioned the variety of scholars you had then, in the future that you had relationship, of course, working projects together. Is that something which again goes back to your having been in touch with them here and having just developed your interest in the field? So, is that still kind of linking, or is that still the Dumbarton Oaks connection which has even further developed – actually moved you on in keeping in touch with Byzantine art history? Is that right? I mean, between, let’s say, the first two years – actually, I thought it was three years – but you were – ’59 –
HB: Two years.
GB: – to ’61. And then there was a gap. You came back in ’69. So, what happened? You stayed in contact, of course. You had relationships, you had correspondence, you had developed your network. There was no possibility, there was no necessity to come back, of course, because you had to teach –
GB: – you had to develop – To come here, yeah.
HB: No, except for St. Euphemia book.
GB: Exactly, yeah.
HB: And then my teaching in Germany started in ’65–’66. And from then on, you know, my interest went on a different road, because I never taught Byzantine art in Germany. It was a position to teach general art history. There was even an agreement in Munich saying they should avoid Byzantine art because there was the other institution, you know with Restle – so, I mean, actually there were these two periods, of the St. Euphemia and the illuminated book in Paleologan times, followed by this collaboration with the two other Dumbarton Oaks Studies. That was a Byzantine intermezzo.
GB: What about later with Hugo Buchthal?
AMT: That’s the atelier of the Palaiologina.
HB: Yeah. Well, he had taught at the time at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. So, we met and he learned about my interest in Byzantine book illumination, and we somehow suddenly developed this plan. And actually, student revolts were such a prominent experience in Germany, that this was for me also escape – to go to London and to work with him on this book which, however, proved to be very difficult, because we were two different generations. We had very different views of scholarship, and above all, when we corresponded, his German was of a different time than my own. So, misunderstandings were happening all the time. So, it was finally an unhappy compromise, but the book became.
GB: Aha. What about Richard Krautheimer and your relationship? Now, just thinking of relationships which you have developed with German scholars beyond the time of having met them here –
HB: Well, he then went soon to Rome. He retired to Rome.
GB: Yes, we know.
HB: So, I saw him a lot in Rome. And also my Munich students – sometimes they stayed in his household and looked after him and even gave him medical treatment. And he was such a prominent presence in the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome. So, that was, of course, very strong. And then my relation to Kurt Weitzmann stayed very close.
AMT: Can I go back to your collaboration with Buchthal? How did you envisage dividing up the work?
HB: That was a big problem, yeah. I mean, we never really found an elegant solution for it. But I think that, yes, it was a hard time for both of us, and it was also a kind of detective story to trace all these manuscripts and so on. But this had a follow-up – I remember now – that was much easier and even happier one, because a paleographer from Rome showed me a Turin manuscript with a colophon from the year 538 with Belisar on them – you know, the famous Italian paleographer from Rome. So, I did a small book – no, I did a big book, but small in size – not so thick, but a big size, on the Bible of Niketas.
AMT: Ah yes, Cavallo.
HB: Cavallo. Guglielmo Cavallo. Exactly. So this was very easy – quick, you know – everything was clear. We could bring together three manuscripts. But this was a kind of episode, so to speak. You know, it was too tempting to do this. And to rename a whole group with the donor, Niketas, and then trace it back to a Bible from the time of Belisar – you know, sixth century. This was not a big project – it was very easy. And I sent around our Heidelberg photographer to Turin, Florence, and Copenhagen to do photographs under the same conditions so one could see this is the same edition of the Bible. But this is not typical, because at that time, I did very different things. I wrote a book on image and its public in the Middle Ages.
GB: And this is after you had worked with Hugo Buchthal and it worked. And it was still, in a way, of course, in exactly this kind of – I mean, leading back a Middle Byzantine manuscript to a sixth century prototype – is of course, precisely what Hugo Buchthal was dealing with for the Renaissance and all that. This is exactly the type of research. So it was still in his –
HB: Absolutely. I reached Buchthal also because of Dumbarton Oaks – of the connections: Richard Krautheimer and also – and he became a big source for me on German émigrés. You know, he knew everything. He was a student of Panofsky. So, he told me every – you know, I felt some times I had lived pre-war, you know, as a student of those authorities, because I was so familiar with these stories.
AMT: With those people. Now, Hans, to change the subject a little bit back to your year, ’69–’70, that you were here. That was, I believe, the time, at which some discussion began of moving Dumbarton Oaks to Cambridge. I know you were a Fellow at that point, but were you aware of these discussions?
HB: Yes. Sue Boyd has reminded me that I even played – as she sees it – a big role in this question, because we had a conference at New York in ’76–’77, when Giles Constable had just become director here. And it seemed that he was determined to do the move to Harvard – at least that was the gossip and what he said also pointed into this direction. And she tells the story – I do not remember – that I stood up and did a long, you know, energetic talk: “This should never happen! Because…” And so on, so on, so on. And she says – I don’t say this… – that from this time, the move to Harvard had no longer been pursued by Giles. Not because of my talk, but because of the whole atmosphere in New York at this conference.
AMT: I remember that conference quite well, because I was appointed to a committee to meet with Giles Constable, representing the Byzantine Studies Conference, to also protest against this. So, that was exactly the same time.
HB: Yes, I mean, I think Tyler already changed the climate somehow. You know, Thacher was completely – he was a society figure of the same class like the Blisses almost. And he was so close to them that he was also continuing their plans. Whereas, then, Jenkins was, you know, different story. But then Tyler – we had the impression immediately, in ’69 to ’70 – did play a different game. You know, he wanted to change the place somehow.
AMT: That’s curious, because, as a friend of the Blisses, or at least, the godson of the Blisses, you would think that he would want to continue the status quo.
HB: That was not our impression at the time.
AMT: Now, after ’69–’70, you came back to Dumbarton Oaks at a later time, to work on icons.
HB: Exactly. I mean, Giles, to whom I was, after a while – I had the feeling – I was closer to him than before – we developed a project which led to my book Likeness and Presence that the materials from Byzantine time should be studied here, and I got a long-term appointment, or whatever, which meant that I could come every year in the vacation period – between the two terms. In Munich this was very good, also, because March and April are free from teaching – in Munich. So, that was a time I came here – several times.
AMT: So that would have been the early ’70s.
HB: That was the late ’70s.
AMT: Late ’70s.
HB: Up into the ’80s.
AMT: So, that’s after Giles, right?
HB: No, no – I think –
AMT: – No, you’re right, I’m sorry. I’m confused – into the ’80s, yes. Mhm.
HB: So, then I wrote a book, practically, in Rome – when I had a year in Rome: ’85 to ’86. But then I already had assembled a lot of materials and we also had negotiated with Kurt Weitzmann that he would part with some of his precious photographs, which was always a big topic, because they were not kept in Dumbarton Oaks. And the question of accessibility of his material was always a big topic. So, indeed, but then I only came for this one project here. And only for brief stays between Munich terms.
AMT: And you told me that you actually offered Bild und Kult to Dumbarton Oaks for publication?
HB: That’s true. But then it was still in German and there was not yet a translation. But actually this book is absolutely, you know, a product of my relation to Dumbarton Oaks, I think. Yes, yes. So, this was very important. Then I saw a lot here, but only as brief time guest, because at that time I had already the chair in Munich and I had a huge teaching load, and very different problems. For instance, I wrote my End of the History of Art?, which was translated in ten languages, I don’t know – so I was in big battle over methods and so on. So, Dumbarton Oaks was for me like a paradise. I could go there for two months and do real research.
GB: And that means that when you were here during this period, you came to study and to do your research in the library, I guess?
HB: Yeah, absolutely.
GB: So, that was the need and purpose of your visit here. Is that because there was no other library in Germany to do that? Or was it still more than that?
HB: It was more than that. It was much more than that. I had a feeling I could do a certain type of work only here.
GB: And because of the retreat? And because of the being close –
HB: That was part of it but not only – but meeting people. For instance, for Bild und Kult later – Likeness and Presence – I asked a lot of people about sources. Typical, you know. Nancy Ševčenko was very generous. But I asked Cyril, you know, when they were here. So, I went around and got my sources and – this was, for me – I could not have gotten it any place else.
GB: So, while you were here working on this important book – you can’t say it otherwise – it was still that you had exchanged, you communicated, you had your thesis, your –
GB: That means that you were sitting still and reading in the readers’ room while the others were still there as well? Or how close was –
HB: No, no. At that time, they offered me for a short period an office – in varying places.
GB: And lunches, then. What about lunches? You had lunches then together with the Fellows when you were here?
HB: Yeah, yeah.
AMT: In that room?
HB: Yeah, yeah. But it was already much freer. We didn’t have the faculty lunch.
AMT: Yes, because Giles democratized lunch.
HB: Exactly, yeah, yeah.
AMT: And people came at different times. We didn’t all sit down at exactly the same time.
HB: Exactly, yes.
GB: So, you came during the time Fellows were here, not in the proper summer term?
AMT: In the spring.
GB: In the spring.
HB: In the spring, because of this Munich arrangement, that I was free in March and April. And of course, then Philip Grierson would come from Cambridge, so there were things which were going on. My English is today awful. But anyway, you know I’m – for this climate – and I have a big program this week down there – so I feel a little bit tired because of language. But otherwise, I’m delighted.
GB: We can switch to German if you’d like.
HB: No, no, that’s fine. That’s fine.
GB: Actually, we did not ask about the time frame, but we’ve been going for more than an hour.
AMT: I think we’ve covered a lot of ground. I think we’ve covered most of your visits here. Is there anything we haven’t asked you that you’d like to have a chance to tell us?
HB: Yes, I mean, my last official presence at Dumbarton Oaks was a symposium of 1990, which I did together with Herbert Kessler, on icons. And that was a very special event for me, because we invited both what we regarded as our teachers – as guests of honor. He invited Weitzmann and I invited, as symposiarch, Kitzinger. So, they both were not always very close but then they enjoyed terribly of being invited as guests of honor. And then I had also invited friends from Holland – Henk Van Os. But I think this was the last official event in which I participated at Dumbarton Oaks.
AMT: That was the symposium in which Oikonomides did that wonderful one on the icon as asset.
HB: Exactly, yes. Exactly.
AMT: – famous, yes…I remember that.
HB: And there was another episode I remember well because I had invited also David Freedberg from Columbia. And I had proposed to him that we criticize our books as friends, not just for doing damage to the other, but just to exchange freely, which he did not dare, quite. But that was the idea – that I am talking about his book about images, and he talks about my book, which had just come out at the time (1990).
GB: Yeah, exactly, in German. And then four years later in English.
AMT: And so it was like a colloquium, or just the two of you?
HB: No, that was a symposium – that was part of the symposium.
AMT: Part of the symposium. I see.
HB: And Ihor was very – how should I say – dissatisfied with this idea because he said, “We are talking here”… [looks at his watch] We should…oh, yes.
GB: Oh, four minutes. Can I then maybe ask one question which is just – because we haven’t talked about – maybe it’s not even really necessary – but it’s a question I’m very interested in, of course. What was the role – what was the collection during that time? You, now having seen, of course, the re-installation – I having seen, experienced your excitement about it – about seeing back the objects and so on – of course, I was interested in hearing what it was like being here, living here with the scholars, being exposed to those objects which were on display.
JM: Let’s pause and let you have as many minutes as you’d like, okay?
GB: Oh yeah. [break to change discs]
HB: And it was clear for instance when I accepted the chair in Munich that, you know, this would be – No, I just wanted to go – plead. It was very amusing, you know. I have a long history with Ihor too. But his complaint in this symposium was that we should talk about each other, so I should talk about Freedberg, and Freedberg should about me. He said, “This is not done here at this place. We’re talking about history and not about living persons.” So he made a big speech against this terrible behavior, to write on – to speak on colleagues, and so it was an interesting situation. But now, let’s come to the collection. The collection was of course the major topic of Kitzinger.
AMT: Yeah, yes, of course.
HB: And the things which come to mind immediately are his problems with identifying certain pieces, whether they are maybe fakes, like the Theodosian thing. So, that was a big topic, you know, and he was very tense. So, actually for the majority of the faculty, I would say the collection was not very much on their mind. Different with Cyril Mango, of course, but then there was a special relation between Cyril and Ernst, because Ernst never took Cyril seriously as an art historian, because Ernst was educated in the German tradition. And he even offended Cyril once, I had heard, before my time, in proposing him to do a Ph.D. in art history in addition [AMT laughs], because then he said, “Then I will accept you.” So, the two often were very [HB brings hands together for emphasis] – you know, this was a delicate point.
HB: Because they were talking about the same things from very different angles.
GB: Oh yeah, sure.
HB: And Kitzinger had been, of course, as a really young scholar in the British Museum. He had written this famous small catalogue, so he was very attached to the collection. Then, of course, there were lacunae in the collection; for instance, there was not yet the St. Peter’s icon. You know, the Byzantine large-scale object – it was just present as copies of frescoes of the Kariye and so on. But you know, so this was dissatisfaction, that for some, the collection was too late antique and too little Byzantine. So, they always said, “Yeah, this is nice, but Byzantium, we think, is something different.” So, I think there was, of course, the question of acquisitions, and that was a prominent topic, a difficult topic, because the majority of the faculty could not deal with this topic, you know, whether this is right or wrong, but – then Mrs. Bliss was still very much involved, so there was also authority from above. So, it was more a diplomatic subject than a scholarly subject, I think.
GB: So, it was not that there was a major interest in what Kitzinger definitely did publish articles in – there was the interest in doing research with the proper collection?
HB: Not so much.
GB: But it was, yeah. That was much later than when – like the ’80s, I think, or late ’70s – and Cutler did the research on ivory with a fresh approach.
HB: Yes, yes.
GB: Not those done in the manner of the Weitzmann school, so to speak, but the material aspect –
AMT: But he wasn’t a faculty member.
GB: No, he was not. No, I mean, exactly, but even the research scholars and Fellows who came – why, you came back and had your short-term stays here – was there a time where you had more activities, research activities, reading related to the collection and to the specific objects?
HB: I don’t think so. But when was the St. Peter’s icon acquired?
GB: That was ’80–’81.
HB: That was a big topic.
GB: Yes, sure. There was Weitzmann’s article –
HB: Then everybody was, you know – but then already there was no longer a faculty.
GB: Yes. What was – that is the question I’d like to return to – previously you spoke about the plan to move Dumbarton Oaks up to Harvard. What was at that time the thought about the collection?
AMT: I think the collection would have stayed. Yes, the collection and the gardens would have stayed, but it would have just been for the public.
GB: Aha, the public, okay.
AMT: But the studies center, especially the Byzantine studies center, was to move to Harvard.
GB: And Kitzinger would have – would kind of – do you remember his opinion on that?
AMT: Well Ihor and I had slightly different recollections. I recollect that he was in favor of it; Ihor, who was in favor of it, said he thought Kitzinger was not in favor.
GB: That’s interesting.
AMT: So, we’d have to check the archives on that, where there is a lot of information about this topic.
HB: Yes, but Kitzinger was a happy man in Harvard, if he ever was able to be a happy man, but at least in Harvard he was. But here he was more tense; he lived under certain pressures. Also, to balance art history against other aspects, you know, other Byzantinist disciplines, but also because he lived under pressures from the Blisses.
GB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HB: They gave him commissions to do research on Baroque jewelry and so on, you know, which he did not enjoy, of course. So, I think he was as a teacher in the department at Harvard, he was happier.
GB: That seems as if the Blisses considered him as a kind of envoy advisor, being – of course, he was responsible, kind of, for the reaction that what they had received – well, going back to Royall Tyler, if they hoped that they still have – Or, of course, they corresponded with a lot of different people.
HB: Sure. But the problem was not anything connected to the collection. The problem was when it extended the territory of the collection and was just their personal likings, when they wanted to make nice acquisitions for themselves.
GB: Yes. Yeah, yeah. Although they should have learned this lesson which Royall Tyler tried to teach them –
AMT: So strongly that –
GB: – to focus.
GB: – to follow the Byzantine track, and then, of course, later on, you know, without, of course – well, the Pre-Columbianists were also – but they still, I think, got very tempted whenever they just – when something showed up on the market. That’s –
HB: Yes. But I also remember – if I may just mention it – the twins, as we saw them, of Ihor and Cyril, you know. That was a very prominent part of Dumbarton Oaks’ history, in all its ups and downs, I think. And for me it was important to meet them also for my own decisions, what to be, because I decided then for art history, because I could never, you know, match their knowledge and their different backgrounds, you know. It was very impressive. But I think we all trembled – we all hoped, you know, they would become – and this was my impression – they would become the two pillars of Dumbarton Oaks. At least this was my view.
AMT: But that didn’t work out.
HB: No, no, no. Exactly. But as a whole, as you have seen, Dumbarton Oaks in many ways has been maybe the most important, you know, factor in my academic life, even if I followed different routes.
GB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, especially now that – That’s very, very interesting to hear that the first two years, I think – whatever happened afterwards – is not a direct path, that being here, and the feeling. I mean, I think that you would not have had the chance to be in such a scholarly community at any other place in the world at that time.
HB: No, absolutely.
GB: And again, at that time, I think, without having decided to be a Byzantine art historian, of course not – I mean just really looking for the opportunity to –
HB: No, exactly. But also the encounter with the group of German émigrés, with all these celebrities, was for me a decisive moment, so I am very grateful to this place.
GB: We are grateful to you.
HB: Thank you.
AMT: Thank you so much, Hans, for spending this time with us.
HB: It was my pleasure to come here today. It will be a part of my memory of this place, a very important part. Thank you very much for this opportunity, and on this beautiful day, eh?