Robin Sinclair Cormack
MM: My name’s Margaret Mullett. The date is the eighteenth of April, 2011, and I’m interviewing Professor Robin Cormack in the guest house of Dumbarton Oaks. Also present, Shalimar Fojas White, Günder Varinlioğlu, and Rona Razon, who’s going to ask questions about field work later on in the interview. Robin, do we have your permission to record?
RC: You do have my permission to record.
MM: Perhaps we could start with your career before you came to Dumbarton Oaks. Can you give us some highlights?
RC: The question I’ve often been asked—and I’ve never answered—is why I came into Byzantine studies at all. And, in a way, I’d like to give the long answer, which I’ve never given before, because so many other Byzantinists seem to have had an easier answer, like “I was born in Istanbul,” or “I had an inspiration when I went to Trebizond when I was three, and I did this ever since,” and this is not how it worked for me. And I more or less came into Byzantine studies by chance and happenstance, so could I just say how that happened? I was born in 1938 and I went to a school in the UK of a kind which no longer exists, although people are always trying to bring it back because it was thought to be such an academically successful system. So I went to what was called a grammar school in Bristol, which was a direct grant school and entry to that school was entirely by examination and for those who couldn’t afford the very low fees there were scholarships. And I went to that school when I was seven. When I was eight, I started learning Latin and when I was nine, I started learning Greek. And my Greek teacher was a very unhappy, dissatisfied schoolmaster called Philip Sherrard who subsequently I became a colleague of in King’s College, London and continually met after he moved to Greece and worked on Byzantine spirituality. And Philip, I suppose, was somebody who introduced me to Greece. In this school, at the age of twelve, you made a choice about your future examination subjects and I entered the Classics form with twenty-three other boys—it was a boys’ school and from the age of twelve to fourteen we did a few other subjects—we dropped all subjects at the age of fourteen, in my case, because I was young in the class and then took university entrance at eighteen. So I was with a group and we were an exceptional group in the school, because all twenty-two of the twenty-three got scholarships to Oxford University to read Classics. What was good about the school was, first of all, it was by academic ability only—so you can see it was full of very bright boys—and secondly the schoolteachers at that time were quite exceptional. Every single Classics teacher had a first in Classics from Oxford University. In another generation these guys would not have gone to school teaching; they would have been university teachers. And indeed one of them still is—David Raven is still a lecturer in Classics in Oxford University now. So we had an exceptional teaching at school and we, for example, read the whole of Virgil and Homer in the original language at school. We were trained to do verse, we were trained in accents—we had a very great Classics training, with the result that when I went to Oxford to read Classics, I and all my fellow students from this school were incredibly disappointed. We thought that the dons at Oxford were self-indulgent and lazy and we all wanted to leave Classics. And all of us except one did so. The only one that remained in classics was W.V. Harris, who went to Columbia and is still there. All the rest of us said, “We must get out of this subject with no future,” about which we were quite wrong probably but that’s what we all decided. And I applied to go to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London to work in history of art—I wanted to move into modern art history, that was my aim, and I had to wait for a year before going there and I had my first job in the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where they told me that I would be the only student at the Courtauld who knew how to hang a painting because every month I had to hang an exhibition. And my bosses were Roland Penrose and Herbert Read, who were quite famous critics and collectors at the time, and I learned a great deal from being at the ICA. I went to the Courtauld, after, for a second degree—a two-year degree—to do modern art. The system at the Courtauld was that your first year was spent in learning about the Renaissance and what art history was—this is the 1960s; what art history was in the 1960s was how to attribute, date, and find a provenance for a painting or any other work of art and that’s what art history was. You didn’t do any more than that; it was an un-theoretical, empirical subject extremely well taught at the Courtauld. And second year, I applied for the modern course but was taken aside by a medievalist, George Zarnecki, who suggested that with the language background I had, I would be much smarter to work in Byzantium or the Middle Ages. And he was extremely persuasive and so I moved, my second year of the Courtauld, to do a survey course on Byzantine art. My teacher was in the Warburg, another part of London University, Hugo Buchthal, and I went for my first class and he explained how the course worked. On paper, you did everything in Byzantium—architecture, arts, all periods. He said, “What happens on this course is that I teach you about manuscripts and you do the rest yourself.” A very, I’m sure, typical way of learning in that period. Hugo Buchthal was an amazing art historian who had a complete photographic memory of every manuscript he’d ever looked at. And so as you discussed manuscripts and you would mention an image, you could see him turning over the pages in his mind until he said we’ve got the folio, 89 recto—that’s the picture you mentioned. It was an extraordinary art experience. After that first degree at the Courtauld, I then started to work on a Ph.D. and I was interested in iconoclasm because André Grabar’s book had come out, which was a very influential book on my years, and I wanted to work on Thessaloniki after iconoclasm. By this time, Hugo Buchthal, who’d been extremely disappointed not to become director of the Warburg Institute—the post went to Ernst Gombrich instead—in anger left the UK and went to New York to teach, which was a very good decision for him because the Ph.Ds in London, before me, he only had two Ph.D. students—Paul Hetherington, who was interested in Rome, and Cecelia Meredith, who worked on Codex Ebnerianus in Oxford and wrote an extremely good thesis on that subject. And I was the only other advanced student he had. Since he was leaving London, he explained he wouldn’t be able to supervise me but by chance Cyril Mango had just been appointed to King’s College so they were my two supervisors for my Ph.D. And the happenstance now is, why am I in Byzantine studies? Because Hugo Buchthal went to New York and the Courtauld decided to make an appointment in Byzantine art. It was a new appointment at the Courtauld—not at the Warburg—and it was a joint appointment in the University of London between the Slavic School and the post was advertised and I was the first person at the Courtauld ever to apply for a job rather than be appointed and there was a shortlist and the condition of the post was that you taught Slavonic, east European, and other art in two parts of London University and that the first year of the post you would learn Russian—it was an extremely useful thing to have done; very pleased with that. And so that’s how my career began at the Courtauld Institute. I was appointed in 1966 and, apart from some years of leave, I then remained at the Courtauld until retirement in around 2004, when I went to the Getty and currently I do have a full-time lecturing post in Cambridge, in the Classics faculty, so I’ve gone back to the texts which I first learned.
MM: Let’s look at it from the other end. How did you hear of Dumbarton Oaks, first, and what was its reputation in the world of Byzantine studies?
RC: The answer’s quite easy. I heard of Dumbarton Oaks through Dumbarton Oaks Papers and Dumbarton Oaks Papers, when they came out, recorded the annual conferences. They were fantastically important volumes and one would rush to read them and that gave you the names of people who were either on the faculty at Dumbarton Oaks or who spoke at the conferences. In addition to that, Sirarpie Der Nersessian gave lectures in London in the sixties on Armenian art and by that time I believe she’d left Dumbarton Oaks and moved to Paris. She was an extremely charismatic lecturer, persuaded me that Toros Roslin was the greatest artist of the Middle Ages—a view I still hold, really. And so Dumbarton Oaks one knew through the papers and then I knew because Cyril Mango, who supervised me, had actually been at Dumbarton Oaks and then soon went back to Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: Great. So you were a Fellow, a Visiting Fellow, 1972-3, is that correct?
RC: That’s correct.
MM: And you hadn’t worked with D.O. before that; that was your first experience.
RC: That was my first experience with Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: So how did that come about? Someone suggested you apply? What was your project? Why did you decide to come?
RC: Okay. Positive and negative reasons. Cyril had suggested that at some point I should go to work at Dumbarton Oaks. In London that didn’t seem the immediately obvious thing to do because the Warburg library is quite superb in Byzantine studies and certainly at that time, one felt, probably matched Dumbarton Oaks in terms of resources. But what was happening at the Courtauld was that the post I had turned out to be quite unsatisfactory, because a joint post turned out to be two full-time posts in two different parts of the University of London, teaching Russian art on a syllabus which couldn’t be matched—I couldn’t combine any teaching and so I was doing a phenomenal amount of teaching, going to meetings, and not getting any research done. So the attraction of Dumbarton Oaks was to get away from teaching and to have a year of research. And I actually gave in notice to the Courtauld and went to Dumbarton Oaks but was reappointed to the Courtauld singly, leaving the Slavonic school, when I came back, so I suppose you could say it was slight leverage also to go to Dumbarton Oaks in my personal career. But the main aim was to have unlimited time on research, partly because in my Ph.D.—I was appointed in the second year of my Ph.D., so I wrote my Ph.D. while teaching and without much research time. I’d spent one year in Greece and then just a few months in the library. And then I had to write the thesis in between teaching and learning Russian and going to Russia. I kind of needed a bit of space and Dumbarton Oaks certainly gave that space.
MM: And the project was Thessaloniki still, was it?
RC: I think so; basically to write up Thessaloniki, though in the end I never felt my thesis could turn into a book and so I published it as chapters and not as a book.
MM: And exhibitions, too?
RC: Yes, I started. I started doing exhibitions. My first exhibition was also in the seventies, an exhibition of Bulgarian icons which I did in Edinburgh. So I did my first experience of curating an exhibition around that time, as well.
MM: Can you remember your initial or first impressions of Dumbarton Oaks? Are they still fresh? Can you do that?
RC: I think they’re pretty fresh. There’s various layers of impressions—there’s the good things and there’s the bad things. And it was clearly a time of transition when I came to Dumbarton Oaks—absolutely obvious that things were changing, which actually was also true in the U.K. Universities changed an enormous amount in the early seventies, as university expanded and teaching and accountability became a major aspect of being a university teacher. And that was quite traumatic for a generation before mine, for whom university teaching had virtually no accountability, with the result that it always looked rather self-indulgent. And there were no projects. All research was individually motivated; one never cooperated with other people. And so that transition from what I would call self-indulgent to a greater accountability was beginning to happen in 1970. It was happening in London; it was clearly happening in Dumbarton Oaks. So my initial impressions were the formality of Dumbarton Oaks, the slight oddity that all the best offices were by the administrative faculty and visiting fellows were quite lucky—I was one of the last to get an office, a very small office—I was very, very pleased to have that. But there was obviously a difficulty of space and it was difficult to see how decisions about priority for space had actually been made. The good side was the book library; the way it was organized with art history at the center was quite amusing and there was a runner to the Library of Congress so any book not here, you simply filled in a list and they were brought by a runner the next day. And that was important for me because I was interested in interdisciplinary aspects of Byzantine studies and that could be fulfilled—the system, that was excellent.
MM: I wanted to ask about daily life—where you worked, where you ate, where you slept, and that kind of thing.
RC: Yes. There was a problem about daily life, because I had a wife and two small children and my wife gave up her job in mathematics teaching to come to Dumbarton Oaks and we were housed in McLean Gardens, up by the Cathedral in the apartment which in previous years had been occupied by Henry Maguire and his family, who had fully briefed us, in fact to enormous details like the fact that there were no egg cups for eating boiled eggs out of, a detail which never really worried us. McLean Gardens was quite a walk and we were advised not to walk. And we didn’t have transport and there was no doubt that in that period spouses were excluded from participation in institute; they were not expected ever to appear or to be invited to any social occasions. And this was deeply resented by my wife, who spent the year being very angry, and our children, who were age four and five, went to excellent schools—one to a Montessori school—and so they, the children, were extremely happy, but my wife, who was after all a fellow academic but in mathematics, felt that the treatment of spouses was most regrettable and, in a way, my wife never forgave me for taking her to Dumbarton Oaks for a year. I’m no longer married to my first wife.
MM: So there were social events in Dumbarton Oaks, to which spouses were not invited as well as work. Did the tea still exist? Daily tea?
RC: Daily tea still existed. The problem with Dumbarton Oaks, in my time, was there’d been a major change: that Mildred Bliss had died fairly recently, that Ernst Kitzinger had decided he wished to go to Harvard to undertake teaching and therefore had to be replaced as director of studies, and there was a small faculty—Meyendorff I assume was on the faculty, certainly around. But Ihor Ševčenko and Cyril Mango were essentially the faculty and they made it quite clear that they were opposed to the appointment of William Loerke as Director of Studies, causing a pretty unpleasant atmosphere throughout my year. And this was exhibited by lunches where they generally spoke in languages not understood by William Loerke. And there was definitely a stand-off between the faculty and William Loerke, which I—all of us—felt was unnecessary, but we had to live with it and one of the things that William Loerke initiated was a seminar for the visiting fellows and Cyril Mango was asked to do a seminar and, perversely it seemed to me, he chose that we would work on a manuscript which was of such extraordinary difficulty and obscurity that it would hardly bring a group together. This was the letters of Ignatius the Deacon and the seminar consisted of translating those letters, which we found very, very difficult, all of us, and some discussion of the context of those letters. It’s quite interesting that, years later, Cyril did publish an edition of those and our names are recorded as being in that seminar. It wasn’t really an ideal subject to bring people together, though we certainly got more benefit out of that than had there not been a seminar at all. Otherwise, fellows—the Byzantine Fellows—gave a talk about their work and the seminars for the Pre-Columbians and Garden Fellows were separate. Having said that, I don’t think there were any Garden Fellows. Betty MacDougall was in charge of the garden department, an extremely open and useful person to talk to. And I did go to some seminars for the Pre-Columbians. At that time the main interest was understanding language—it was a lot about language transcription and archaeology—extremely interesting to go to.
MM: But it was clearly a crucial time in D.O. and it was also the Golden Age, wasn’t it? It was a time when archaeology seemed to be very dominant. Was that your impression?
RC: Yes. I mean, all the faculty were extremely positivist and empirical and that’s the tradition I had been trained in. I haven’t mentioned it, but before I went to university, in my gap year, I was trained in archaeology by a medieval archaeologist, Philip Rahtz, an absolutely brilliant English archaeologist of the same ability of Martin Harrison, whom I also knew. And so yes, positivism was absolutely—and empiricism—was the order of the day.
MM: If you look at the staff list for that period, it’s extraordinary, the way resources were put into the material side of things. Were they around? Were they part of daily life or were they out in the field and occasionally came through?
RC: Well, the person who was working in the building was Robert Van Nice, and he was in the basement and was fascinating. I spent quite a number of visits going to ask Robert Van Nice about the work on St. Sophia. By this time it was supposedly drawing to an end, and he was obsessed by the paper that was going to be used in the printing, because he believed it was going to expand seasonally—it’d be larger in the winter and the summer and therefore his drawings would be inaccurate. He was also very angry that he’d been stopped by Paul Underwood and was not allowed to measure the minarets of St. Sophia. He was stopped one meter, I think, from the building because someone realized, no doubt quite correctly, that he would never finish if he really did what he wanted to; those drawings and talking to him about them were quite extraordinary, seeing the mason’s mark on slabs, the detailed drawings. He was criticized by Ernest Hawkins for not asking any questions, and I don’t know if that’s an aspect or not. At that time, it was mooted that Rowland Mainstone should cooperate with him to write a joint book. And Rowland Mainstone did ask many questions, but they were entirely limited to the statics of the dome. Rowland Mainstone had no interest in Hagia Sophia except why the dome fell at various points. And they didn’t get on, and that joint publication never happened. So, certainly Robert Van Nice was very much here. Peter Megaw came during the year and was present, and obviously William Loerke had to consider what the future of the field program would be, although this was already the period when permits for Turkey had come to an end because of the purchase of the Sion Treasure—and that was obviously an element at the time. Another big discussion at the time was whether Dumbarton Oaks should move to Harvard—that the whole place should move and become part of the Harvard campus. That was a very big, well-discussed issue in that year.
MM: So it wasn’t just the library, it was actually the whole institute?
RC: The whole institution.
RC: And one of the most exciting things that year was the concert of Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in the Music Room because I think there’s nothing more exciting than going to a performance of a piece of music in a place for which it was written—and that’s an experience I’ve only really had repeated in San Marco in Venice, going to a concert of music composed for San Marco. I think that should be regular, though I do remember the permanent faculty—this had obviously happened before—they said that it was a tedious, inferior piece of music, which shouldn’t be played. It was actually – Stravinsky being one of my favorite composers anyway, I thought it was a great thing to do. I hope it’s often done.
MM: I was very fortunate to hear it when the Bliss symposium happened a couple of years ago. And it stood up extremely well.
RC: There were very few Bliss stories, but the one that I always remember—and I guess it’s been recorded elsewhere—is that Mildred Bliss, on the whole, didn’t have much interest in the Byzantine center but that to their surprise she turned up to one of the symposiums which was never published, which was the reconstruction of Holy Apostles in Constantinople. And it was noticed, I was told, that Mildred Bliss came to Underwood’s reconstruction of the ground plan of the church and at the end asked him if she could have a copy of his plan. He went around to her place a few days later to give her a copy and asked her why she wanted a copy of the ground plan of Holy Apostles in Constantinople and the answer she gave was, “It looks as if it would be a great plan for a garden.”
MM: Interesting. So, did you work with, did you have interactions with the collection when you were here? Was the museum – interactions with scholars?
RC: Yes. The curator was employed, and she was in the basement and I discussed various objects with her. I was particularly interested in the provenance of where things had come from. And in the seventies there was a general concern among all museum curators about how much information on file should be made public. And so that was some difficulty and Sue was uncertain what the correct protocol would be, but we did look at some files and noticed that the number of works that came through George Zakos documented as coming from the Lebanon, and obviously that was interesting for anybody who knew that George Zakos had a shop in Istanbul, in the bazaar, and that, therefore, provenance from the Lebanon from George Zakos was obviously an interesting provenance. This was the time when a book was written about George Zakos and other dealers; it’s a book—I now can’t remember the author and I haven’t seen it since, but all dealers were given pseudonyms and George Zakos was called Gregory Omega. So I ought to find this description of George Zakos. So it was easy to see the museum. I was not allowed to see the Sion Treasure, which was not accessible for viewing by anybody—and anyway it was no doubt in desperate need of conservation. But otherwise any question to Sue Boyd, she would answer as well as possible and also comment on the inadequacies, as she saw it, of the Ross catalogue, which, on the whole, there was a feeling that it was good to have it, but it could have been done better.
MM: And she produced another –
RC: Of course. It was improved.
MM: How about photo collections. Was Marlia around here at that time?
RC: Yes, Marlia Mundell was in charge of photographic collections, and they were accessible and easy to use. In the course of that year, Marlia decided to leave Dumbarton Oaks and applied to the Courtauld to do an MA with me, the following year, so the next year Marlia Mango and Lucy-Anne Hunt and a third person did a course on Syrian and eastern Byzantine art, as part of the MA.
MM: And a lot came of that.
MM: How about publications? Did you see anything of Julia Warner at that time?
RC: One saw Julia Warner, but I had not much contact with publications.
MM: What about the Director of Studies? Did you have daily interaction with Loerke? What did the Director of Studies actually do in those days?
RC: Well, it was William Loerke’s first year; there were all these big issues about the future of fieldwork, of Dumbarton Oaks, which I’m sure he was very concerned with. He certainly had an open door – his study. But obviously, the seminar chosen was one to which he, with no Greek, would never have come. It was carefully chosen to exclude William Loerke. He was very sociable, so we all went to William Loerke’s house for Thanksgiving and met his wife and his family. I guess I didn’t have very close relations with William Loerke because I was a Cyril Mango student and since all the tensions were between individuals, he would have assumed that I would be on the other side, I guess, though I gave him no reason to think that. And in the course of that year, he agreed that I could work with Ernest Hawkins on a project we had to publish the southwest rooms of St. Sophia. So, that was something for which I asked his permission and permission was given that that should be done. I guess that he was also very concerned with setting up the San Marco project, because Irina Andreescu was in her second year as a junior fellow, finishing her Ph.D. for Grabar in Paris, and she also had initiated the San Marco project, which was supported by Peter Megaw when he was here with Loerke and was to be headed by Otto Demus with whom Irina met. So in a way, the big discussions were setting up that project, which was obviously a complicated and difficult project to set up because it was essentially a photographic project, not in any way an examination project, and of course the ultimate difficulties about the project, was that Otto Demus had decided the answer to all the questions in the 1930s and just wanted to photograph in the 1970s, and when scaffolding went up, there then did become questions of how far you could recognize Byzantine and later restorations in San Marco.
MM: I’m not sure which way to go, whether to say, to ask – let’s think about the intellectual life. You talked about the seminar and you all gave talks. And occasionally people would come in and give talks. What happened?
RC: There were very few talks from outside. I only remember one, which was a German scholar who talked about the bronze horse, and I only remember this occasion because of what I’d felt at the time was the outrageous introduction by Ihor Ševčenko, who introduced the visiting scholar with an introduction that took one hour and ten minutes and covered all the aspects that were going to be covered by the speaker, who had rather little to say when it finally came to speak. It was a very odd experience. So I don’t remember many seminars. What was good was that in the second term, the speakers at the conference arrived, so Kurt Weitzmann came, who was speaking, and Hans Belting came, and others – and so one had the interaction with them to discuss their papers before the symposium, and that – it was the first time I had melt Hans Belting, and that was a very good interaction, and we also traveled together, both to Cleveland to see objects there and to New York. So, it became very, very useful for meeting researchers in the field from outside, as well as from inside.
MM: That was the provinces symposium?
RC: That was the provinces, yes.
MM: And they were there for what, a month beforehand?
RC: Two months, at least.
MM: Two months?
RC: I think Weitzmann came soon after Christmas. It was extremely interesting to meet Weitzmann, with whom I had a slightly difficult issue, because, not knowing I was going to meet him and being young, I had written an extremely hostile review of his latest book in Burlington Magazine. This was his publication of the Sacra Parallela, Paris Greek 923, and I’d written a long review attacking his methodology, his questions, the results, in fact every single thing about what he said, which I felt rather strongly, and still do, is a striking example of how not to study a manuscript. And I met him and he had read the review and he was very generous and said, “I’m perfectly happy with your criticism, but beware my students.” And it’s a prediction which turned out to be correct, that his teaching of his Ph.D. students was so extraordinarily thorough that, although Weitzmann’s work I think had always been criticized in Europe—and not only by me; also, about the same time, by Christopher Walter, who, both of us said that his methodology of treating pictures as if they were text was inappropriate and seriously wrong and misleading and that the reconstruction of lost manuscripts was a cul-de-sac which we didn’t like—but I think in the States, critiques of Weitzmann have only very recently emerged and his initial students maintained that methodology right up to the nineties. So it was extremely interesting to meet Weitzmann. He was not an easy person because he didn’t like children and I happened to have children. He didn’t like children because he thought they were full of germs, which is obviously quite correct, and he had always felt his health had been wrecked by his visits to St. Catherine’s on Sinai and that he needed to be looked after, as indeed he was very well looked after by his wife. He retired that year, which was wonderful for me because Gary Vikan put on an excellent exhibition at Princeton of Princeton manuscripts, and there was a symposium at Princeton, and that was really one of the many important things I did while I was in the States during that year.
MM: So you traveled quite a bit – with Dumbarton Oaks people?
RC: I only traveled with Hans Belting or, to Princeton with Dumbarton Oaks people, though in my year there were two other English fellows, Elizabeth Jeffreys and Michael Jeffreys, who took it in turns—I can’t remember which one was Fellow that year and which one was fellow the next year. And unlike us, they had a car, and so we did travel places in the region with them.
MM: Was Tyler a distant figure?
RC: Tyler was an extremely distant figure who maybe one met at the Christmas party in the distance. I had no contact with him at all.
MM: You were aware of the administrative structure; I mean it’s something you have an eye for. Did you, at that time, see how the place was run, think about it, have ideas about it?
RC: I was aware of it. The big issues I think I’ve already mentioned, and there were all sorts of ways in which one could see that the Byzantine section was felt to be over-privileged by other sections, so there were certainly tensions in the place.
MM: Could Pre-Columbians come to lunch at that time?
MM: They did.
RC: Pre-Columbians were extremely extroverted and a good group in my year, but there was clearly a feeling that resources weren’t necessarily allocated fairly. I wasn’t privy to those conversations, but that was clearly thought to be so. I haven’t mentioned: the Ševčenkos had an open house quite frequently; one used to go for drinks in their house and Ševčenko would show the latest books that he – or off-prints that he’d been sent. And so that was a way of keeping up. Ševčenko was very prominent. I remember an announcement he made at lunch one day, which was that he was sad to announce that the only other Byzantinist with a sense of humor had just died, Anatole Frolow, a rather typical Ševčenko announcement at that time. And the faculty – one thing I definitely remember with Ševčenko and how the library worked was that we had the system of taking out the tabs so you knew who had the book. I wanted a book on the inscriptions of Palestine. It was out to Ševčenko, so I went to his office and asked if I could use it and he graciously said, “You can have it for thirty minutes.” When I got it to my office, I saw he’d already had it out for 25 years, so you can see that there were kind of hierarchies in Dumbarton Oaks.
MM: What about the fabled Mango-Ševčenko relationship?
RC: Actually, one was very unaware of the Mango-Ševčenko relationship. They were so united in their hostility to William Loerke that their personal relationship was on a high that year.
MM: What can you tell us about the library? I mean, apart from the plan to move it. Irene Vaslef, I think, comes in just about this time?
RC: Yes, she was certainly there. Yes. The problematic of the library – in terms of art history it was brilliant; it really had everything you needed. Finding texts was somewhat more difficult. And that was exaggerated by one of the fellows in my year, Mr. Stephen Gero, who for some reason only worked at night and had an office, which was locked during the day. But he removed all the Bonn Corpus, for example, to his office, and so we all had a bit of a problem with texts because they weren’t easy to find and they’d all moved to Mr. Gero’s room. Mr. Gero had a very difficult year because, although he’d recently finished his thesis with Ševčenko, Ševčenko made it quite clear that he thought the thesis was a waste of space, really, and that looking for eastern sources of iconoclasm had been a fruitless pursuit. So I think that Stephen Gero was not a particularly happy man, that year. But he certainly didn’t make life easy for us. But the combination of the Library of Congress and the art history made the library excellent. However, it was very slow in acquiring books, particularly from Greece. And also, binding meant that the books that had come in the previous year were now all the way at the binder. In a rather bizarre way, I lost out on, in my year at Dumbarton Oaks, on recent literature. It took me some years to catch up, because the one thing that you couldn’t read here was the recent literature, unless you went around to Ševčenko’s office, who, of course, was being sent every offprint that was ever written and had a full-time secretary to acknowledge his off-print collection.
MM: But presumably if the scholars were in the attic, in the third floor, the periodicals were not up there and art history was not up there at that time?
RC: I don’t remember where the periodicals were. I simply don’t remember.
MM: But there was still a sense that books were all over the house?
RC: Yes, absolutely. Yes.
MM: All over.
RC: Yes, you collected. But, I mean, I guess that you collected a lot of books at the beginning of your year and thereafter you basically – most people seemed to have in their rooms what they needed.
MM: I think I probably want to ask you your comparative reactions now. You’ve been back as a visiting scholar for almost a month. How do you feel about similarities and differences?
RC: Since the seventies, I’ve called in on Dumbarton Oaks while Giles Constable was director and later, and so I met Kazhdan here, but this is certainly the most substantial amount of time I’ve spent since – it’s a long time ago, isn’t it? And, I mean, everything about the place is very different, even though physically the front door may be the same. There’s a feeling of access and openness and friendliness, which certainly was not what one felt back in the 1970s. My initial feeling about the library was that it was absolutely brilliant compared to what it was before. I have in the course of the month had some misgivings about the way the library works and I’m sure it will have to evolve further. What one notices is the expansion of the Museum and the expansion of the Museum offices—and the combination of Pre-Columbian and Byzantine in the Museum. But there’s a very much greater feel of activities and interaction – I mean it is a very different place, both physically and socially and intellectually. It’s active in a different way, which, as I said, you would expect because there’s been a change from personal scholarship to projects. And that has been such a phenomenal change in the way academics have worked between then and now. But certainly Dumbarton Oaks has participated in that revolution.
MM: And you could argue that it was actually quite early in the game, through the big fieldwork projects, which were so much a part of that Golden Age period.
RC: Yes, except the big fieldwork projects were actually begun by Whittemore and inherited by Dumbarton Oaks. So they didn’t actually initiate; they made the decision to continue and I think that the fieldwork done, when taken over by Dumbarton Oaks, in Cyprus and in Istanbul, particularly, was the highlight – or one felt that was the importance of Dumbarton Oaks, that whereas other places were letting material decay, decline, that Dumbarton Oaks was in the forefront of preservation, conservation, and study. And certainly when I came, that was my picture of Dumbarton Oaks. My picture of Dumbarton Oaks was the extraordinary importance of its activities, but I would, as I say, modify that by saying they made the decision to continue rather than to start those activities. And from the beginning, it seems to me, Dumbarton Oaks was an academic-centered institution.
MM: I ought to link a little bit to the fieldwork questions that Rona’s going to ask you, I think, and ask you about your own participation. So you talked, during your year here, and then you did the work. I was trying to figure out whether it was before or after you did the room over the southwest ramp. It was afterwards.
RC: It was after that. That was initiated while I was here and, while I was looking at materials in the photographic library, I was also in touch with Ernest Hawkins and he, who I’d met before—and it's conceivable that we’d talked about this project before, but certainly it came together by an agreement with Ernest that we could handle the permit difficulties—because it would be impossible to be officially working for Dumbarton Oaks; at the same time, William Loerke agreed that the work could be published by Dumbarton Oaks but by this time Dumbarton Oaks was forbidden to work in Turkey as a result of purchasing the Sion Treasure. That had caused a great deal of concern, particularly among British archaeologists. And Martin Harrison came to Dumbarton Oaks to beg Dumbarton Oaks to give back the Sion Treasure and not to continue with this. And I met Martin Harrison and Nezih Firatlh, the director of the archaeological museum, and they felt very strongly that Dumbarton Oaks would always be punished until the treasure was returned.
MM: So, you spent that summer in Istanbul.
RC: That’s right.
MM: And I seem to remember you were very kind to young scholars who were visiting at that time. You entertained us in the Dumbarton Oaks apartment.
RC: The Dumbarton Oaks apartment was really useful. And it was not only a base for others working in Istanbul, but it had a library there and it was absolutely invaluable being there. Yes, all sorts of people came, and I obviously remember that Lee Striker was working at Kalenderhane and Martin Harrison was working—I guess it must have been finishing off on Sarachane, on St. Polyeuktos—and seeing those two operations going on was extremely exciting.
MM: How long had D.O. had that space?
RC: I don’t know, because Ernest, until that time, had had an apartment at Moda on the other side of the Bosporus and so, because he had been required to retire by William Loerke that year—something about which he had a considerable anger and bad feelings—and so as he retired he gave up his apartment in Moda, and therefore he was also staying in the Dumbarton Oaks flat, which he hadn’t done before. I simply don’t know—Michael Hendy was there. I just don’t know how long it had been or how long it went on for, but for that year it was really important.
MM: Did Richard Anderson come through?
RC: Yeah. Yes.
MM: Was he – did he come through often in Georgetown, as well?
MM: So he was basically in the field.
MM: That was quite a commitment, in a sense, to have an architect on staff all the time.
RC: Yes, but we didn’t – I mean, we only knew him socially. He wasn’t any part of the projects. And I will perhaps come back to the other things I did with Ernest later on.
MM: Before I hand over, is there anything else that you remember from the D.O., the academic side of it, that you haven’t talked about?
RC: I haven’t talked about some of the personality clashes, which in a way should be on record. And an obvious personality clash was between Cyril Mango and Ernst Kitzinger. I don’t know how far this has been recorded but—this might take a few minutes, but the – because of my age I was able to meet: Buchthal was my supervisor, Cyril was my supervisor and Kurt Weitzmann, who again like Buchthal had a phenomenal photographic memory for images—and as much as I disagree with his methodology, I’ve never disagreed with his datings and re-datings of material, in which I think he’s always been great. I met Otto Demus, who also had a phenomenal eye and was the most, probably the most generous art historian. I mean he never wrote a review which wasn’t positive. And his book on mosaics in Norman Sicily I think every student should continue to read. And I’ve mentioned Nersessian and I met André Grabar in Paris but not here. But I didn’t meet Kitzinger until after I’d been to Dumbarton Oaks. Because he had personally appointed William Loerke, his name came up quite often when I was here. And the most surprising episode for me was the review by Cyril Mango in the Times Literary Supplement, TLS, of the collected papers of Kitzinger, edited by Eugene Kleinbauer, when a devastatingly hostile review came out in, I guess, the eighties, which was both unfair and, I thought, mean-minded but embarrassingly often correct, in that he had seen the problematic in some of the philosophical thoughts of Kitzinger. And so I think that that publication probably did shift perceptions of the importance of Kitzinger in art historical work and began to undermine his theoretical interest. But when I did read Kitzinger, he seemed to be the most generous of that generation in sharing ideas. Whereas Weitzmann would tell you what he thought, Kitzinger would ask you what you thought and it seemed to me that partly lay in his different career, because when he left Germany he had to write his Ph.D. thesis in three months. When he left Germany, he left of his own will and came to London without any employment and he made his living by writing reviews for the Times Literary Supplement, for which he was paid, and that was enough to keep him going. And he wrote his book on the collection of the British Museum. And, he explained, that’s how he survived. And when war broke out he was sent to Australia, and on the boat to Australia he learned Russian, spent his time learning Russian. When he arrived in Australia, a telegram came from Dumbarton Oaks, inviting him to Dumbarton Oaks, so he then went from Australia to Dumbarton Oaks, where he then remained until just before I came. And he invited Cyril Mango to Dumbarton Oaks, having read Cyril’s thesis on the Brazen House. So when he arrived, Kitzinger said, “You’re fully untrained in art history; you should go on some courses.” Cyril resented this, and it began a kind of mission against art historians who were trained but impractical. And he always quoted Kitzinger being in his house in Dumbarton Oaks, unable to work out how to use a hedge trimmer and somehow this became Cyril’s metaphor for the incompetence of art historians. And they were obviously completely conceptually ill-matched for each other, and Cyril, when I talked about this review, said, basically said, “I wanted to put on paper why art historians are so bad at doing Byzantine studies.” Kitzinger, I tried to—they were both at Oxford—I tried to invite them to meet each other and they both told me they would never be in the same room as each other again. So their feelings were very strong, and recently in the Getty I read the Kitzinger archive and the letters he wrote at this time – [pause to change AV tape]
RC: I want just to finish this important episode, I think, in, really, in intellectual history. I read the archive of Ernst Kitzinger, which is complete in boxes at the Getty and the correspondence that he received after the review—he wrote to various people saying, what should he do about this review by Cyril Mango—and the few replies he got all said the same, which is what advice I would have given too: don’t do anything. Don’t write a letter, complaining, because if you do, it will give Cyril Mango the chance to write yet another devastating comment. Unfortunately, Ernst did not take the advice he was given, wrote a letter, and got an even more unpleasant follow-up letter from Cyril Mango. As I said, I think that it was written in an unpleasant way. Intellectually, I think it’s a very important critique and it’s something that – you now can’t look at Kitzinger’s attempts to explain stylistic evolution without taking the caveats of Cyril into account. But what you see is one man who had no interest in theory, Cyril Mango, I would say, and one who had enormous interest in theory and was always struggling to find new theory. So that is important. And I did talk to Cyril about theory, because I wrote a book, Writing in Gold, in the mid-eighties, which was a complete change of approach for me from positivistic art history into theoretical art history—the main impetus was Michel Foucault’s work. And I asked Cyril, since he could have gone to Foucault’s lectures in Paris and could have read the works, what the influence of Foucault was on him and he simply said, “I don’t have time to read books like that.” As just one final footnote on my personal career, I do think that the change and the move into theory in Byzantine art history and other subjects has been a really exciting thing. For me, because I was trained in Classics and came to Byzantium—from the ancient world to the modern—my theoretical frameworks have always come from Classics. And Foucault and post-structuralism permeated Classics in the early eighties, and that’s where I came from. And I’ve always found that there’s a difference of mentality between those who come into Byzantium from the Classics—those who find it at the end, as it were, of the sequence—and those who come in from the modern, looking back, and find it rather at the beginning of the sequence. And I think there is a healthy disconnection between approaches of people from where they’ve come at the subject.
MM: Alright, thank you very much. This is the point we’ll move to fieldwork questions.
RR: Hello. Thank you, again. My name is Rona Razon. I’m here on behalf of the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives. First let’s talk about Ernest Hawkins. So, specifically, when did you meet him and what was your relationship with Hawkins?
RC: Okay. I think it’s well stated by Steven Runciman in his autobiography that people who went to Istanbul in the fifties and sixties – they all seemed to have an introduction to Ernest Hawkins. They somehow managed to find him somewhere, and he would take them around the city. Ernest Hawkins also lived in London in the winter. And I met – I was introduced to Ernest Hawkins by Hugo Buchthal in the winter of 1963-1964 in London. He explained that—have I got the years correct?—he explained that he would be putting up a scaffold in St. Sophia in the summer and that I would be welcome to go, but actually as a student I didn’t have the funding to go. But as far as I can see, every other Byzantinist went and went up the scaffolding to see the apse Virgin. And when Ernest came back in the winter he did explain to me what had happened. The only person who didn’t go was Ernst Kitzinger. And the scheme of that work—they had permission to put up a scaffolding in the apse because Ernest always felt that the Whittemore job in the 1930s had been inadequate and that the dispute about the date of the virgin could be solved with a reexamination. And the plan was for Cyril Mango and Ernest Hawkins to look at the archaeology and for Kitzinger to write on the iconography of the virgin. It was well known that Ernst Kitzinger had vertigo and had never been up a scaffolding in Sicily, so that all his work in Sicily was done from photographs. They constructed a very special scaffolding for St. Sophia, which was—apparently it was just like a staircase, a covered staircase from the gallery. And it was constructed so that Ernst wouldn’t even know he’d done anything to go up a staircase into an area. Even so, it was a step further than Ernst took and so the iconography was never published. But Kurt Weitzmann, for example, went up the scaffolding and informed Ernest that the mosaic was definitely fourteenth century, and Ernest was very pleased that when he went down the scaffolding he agreed it was ninth century, and that was one of Ernest’s triumphs in his view. To me, the archaeology and the subsequent report by Cyril Mango and Ernest is absolutely convincing that the mosaic as we see it is the mosaic uncovered by—inaugurated by Photius in Lent, 867. And I think it’s slightly unfortunate that Dumbarton Oaks, later on, even published an article by Nicolas Oikonomides, incompetently, from the archaeological point of view, attacking this view. And I was a lot less angry than Ernest Hawkins was, though. And he was hopping mad about the publication by Oikonomides. And I think it hasn’t helped the subject for it to be published in such a prestigious journal, such an ill thought-out contribution to the subject, but there you are, that’s a bit of my prejudice, but I’m reporting Ernest Hawkins’ very strong feelings that the question was solved by the archaeology and that work was done for Dumbarton Oaks.
RR: So did you meet him before your fellowship, or...?
RC: Yes, so I met him in the winter 1963-4 and I subsequently was in Greece for a year, for my research in 1965, and then went to Istanbul and visited the monuments he was working on. So, at that time he was not doing much on Sophia, he was working on Fethiye Djami, work was being finished on Fethiye Djami, and he was working the Kariye Djami, and what was important to learn from Ernest was his methodology, because what was utterly striking about Ernest, since he was trained as a sculptor and not as a Byzantinist, and went to Istanbul in 1938 as part of Whittemore’s team to conserve—so he always looked at Byzantium with a sculptor’s and a painter’s eye and the question he always asked in building was, “What did it look like before the artist began work? What were the problems that the artist faced when he worked, and how did he solve them?” And that was his systematic method. And the outcome of that was, he revolutionized the description of how mosaics were made. He worked out that the current view, which you’ll see expressed by Underwood and Kitzinger and many others before Ernest changed it, was that mosaics were made in the studio with a cartoon, carried down to the church and fixed on. He showed how that was completely impossible, because the effects of light position and curvature were taken into account and this meant that the mosaics could only have been made in situ. And that gradually shifted the way that Underwood and Kitzinger wrote. That also came out in the important article by Underwood in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers on the Nicaea mosaics. That was a paper completely initiated by Ernest, because Ernst Kitzinger, in his paper on art between Justinian and iconoclasm, had argued a nonsensical analysis that the Nicaea mosaics – Ernest went through with Underwood how you should actually read the evidence of sutures and how the work was done and that – nobody’s ever doubted that we understand the secrets of work in Nicaea, as published in Dumbarton Oaks, a very important paper.
RR: Well let’s go back a little bit, to when he started in Hagia Sophia, in 1938. When we talked before, you mentioned that he was recruited by Thomas Whittemore. So, what were the challenges that he encountered with Whittemore and other fieldworkers at that time?
RC: Well the work had begun earlier. Apparently, Whittemore, when he needed more workers, would go during the recession in England and advertise and pick people up. Alwyn Green was one of the other people that were picked up, who did the work of the facsimiles; I think, in Dumbarton Oaks, they’re done by Alwyn Green. And I think that they worked together but they were highly temperamental artists and they disagreed with each other and Ernest Hawkins had a sneaking admiration for Whittemore, although he was a class of diplomatic American completely outside his experience. And he had a sneaking admiration because, of course, Whittemore did delegate everything—not only the work but even the writing, the so-called, the preliminary reports; the work on Hagia Sophia, published under the name of Whittemore, are attributed by Ernest and others to Anatole Frolow, who wrote them in Paris and they were not written by Whittemore at all. And so there were obviously tensions, but he gave them work and Ernest never went back to being an artist, except, in his later years he went back to life drawing classes, but he never – it ended his belief that he was going to be an important British sculptor. He changed into a conservator and Byzantinist, so Whittemore changed his life and he was very happy with that change, though his wife was never very happy, because she just wanted him to live in London and be a sculptor. She was never comfortable with his nomadic life between Cyprus, Istanbul, and Chios. So I think that he was a critical part of the team. He claims that it was he that persuaded Whittemore to start work in the Kariye Djami, because Whittemore only had permission from Ataturk to work in Hagia Sophia. So I think Ernest must have been quite a nuisance, even, to Whittemore, but that’s kind of – they got along with each other.
RR: Was he close to any other fieldworkers in Hagia Sophia?
RC: Alwyn Green was the person he was closest to and he corresponded with Alwyn Green right up to – so, he was still writing in the nineties – so, up to both their deaths, they were in close contact. And when I asked questions about the thirties, I used to write to Alwyn Green to ask if he could remember things which Ernest couldn’t remember.
RR: Let’s talk about your relationship with Ernest when you started working with him at Hagia Sophia, between ’72 and ’73, is that correct?
RR: So when you started, here in Dumbarton, you also started working with Ernest Hawkins?
RC: We discussed what possibly I could do. It was agreed in Dumbarton Oaks that we could go there. The problem – so I worked with Ernest, and although previously when I’d seen Ernest he was officially working for Dumbarton Oaks, everything was organized so that there were problems in the Fethiye Djami in that when he asked the Turkish laborers to rebuild a wall, they would rebuild it in Ottoman style and not in Byzantine style and they had to take it down again and rebuild it. The problems with my work were quite different and so you have to contextualize this, that going to work in Hagia Sophia in the summer of 1973 meant we could not mention the word “Dumbarton Oaks.” We were given permission to work and used Underwood’s material, which I’d read, but in Istanbul we went to the director of Hagia Sophia and asked permission to look at the icons in the southwest rooms. We knew—Ernest knew—that the icons that were removed from Turkish immigrants in 1917 were stored in those rooms and that if we said that we were going to look at those, we’d actually confess what our plan really was. So I’m afraid it was a bit underhand. The director agreed we could work in the southwest rooms for two weeks and that we would be supervised by Şinasi Bey, who was an assistant, and that all our time would have to be with Şinasi as the commissar. We were perfectly happy with that except that Şinasi had a drink problem and tended to arrive late in the morning—we arrived at six in the morning and waited for him to arrive, any time between six and ten. And we also had to take him out to lunch. So Şinasi was both an essential part of our work but also made it slightly more difficult. We went into the southwest rooms, knowing that what we wanted to do was understand the sequence of the mosaics, describe them, and to clarify exactly what had happened to that part of St. Sophia, which was an addition to the building – of the original Justinian building. It was part of the picture of the palace. Şinasi was slightly surprised when we put up a scaffolding up to the height of the mosaics, but we said this was necessary to photograph the icons from the scaffolding—and of course we didn’t actually look at the icons at all in the two weeks. But, we just managed, working fast, to take enough photographs and to look in detail at everything in those rooms and we both felt at the end of that time that we had solved the secrets of the work in those rooms. And that we published and we felt that publication was archaeologically accurate and I don’t think it’s been challenged since; that was good. We hoped in that time to do work in the southwest buttress. The chapel had been photographed, and Ernest thought it eleventh century. Şinasi was unable to find the key and we never got into the southwest buttress. I’ve been in it another time, but I never got in that time, so that work we didn’t do.
RR: And this project was financed by Dumbarton Oaks, correct?
RC: I think it was financed by us. I may have got my fares to Istanbul, but we stayed in the apartment.
RR: The Dumbarton Oaks apartment?
RC: The Dumbarton Oaks apartment. So in that sense it was financed, but any costs I think we probably covered ourselves.
RR: What were the challenges working with – between Hawkins and Underwood. What did Hawkins think of Underwood?
RC: Okay. Yes. Can I just say two other things I didn’t say and then come back to that, because that leads on to Kariye Djami.
RC: Subsequent to that work, in either the next year or the year after, having established a relationship with the director, we went out and we put scaffolding up in front of the Deësis mosaic, and we did about seven days on the Deësis mosaic, which we weren’t quite comfortable about results – we thought we dated it – we weren’t quite comfortable and so we kind of always published that in dribs and drabs. We’ve never done a full publication of our reasons for that. And we also – I have to say I can’t remember when this happened, but I spent a month with Ernest in St. Sophia when the bronze doors of the vestibule were brought back. And maybe you know what year that was but I can’t remember what year that was, but I do remember the quite extraordinary circumstance that the bronze doors had been taken down, left out in the atrium, the front of St. Sophia, had been robbed by thieves – enough of the bronze had been stolen that to – this has never really been confessed, but there were then conservationists from Rome—Madame Borrelli—did a remake of the lost bits of the bronze doors. And then – and I think they may even have been taken to Italy, but I don’t know how that was done. Then, the doors had to be put back. And Ernest and I were there, because nobody knew how to get the doors back. They’d been taken off so many years before, even the floor had been filled in and there were no workers. And it seems, judging from the photographs here in the Archive, that the only workers we could find were an aged Armenian team, and they may have been the ones that took it down – took the doors down. And it was quite extraordinary having six aged Armenian laborers putting up these massively heavy doors. And we had to dig out a hole to put the base in. We had to put them up. And we worked at night, because we tried working during the daytime but there was no – people had to come through those doors. And Ernest used to get extremely angry, because instead of going into St. Sophia they would stop and watch us digging up a hole. And I remember Ernest saying, “You’ve come to see the greatest monument that man has ever put up and all you’re doing is watching us digging a hole. Go away.” So we worked at night, which – maybe sometimes slept – Ernest had a stove and two camp beds up in one of the rooms of the gallery of St. Sophia and I feel very fortunate to have been at night in St. Sophia, because it takes people a long time to appreciate the size and scale of St. Sophia, but you sure appreciate much quicker if you’re there in the dark. So I did work with Ernest on the Deësis and on putting up those doors and obviously he was regarded by St. Sophia as an American worker from Dumbarton Oaks, but a person in his own right, as well. He played the ambiguity of his position to allow us to work there.
RR: Because when you worked with this door project, it was a secret project, right?
RR: And it was financed by –?
RC: It was financed by FIAT. For St. Sophia, though, obviously the monograms and so on are published in Dumbarton Oaks papers, so not only did I do the work in the dark, I can see my memories of it are rather obscure as well.
RR: Why was it a secret project?
RC: Because it was being covered up, that there had been damage done to the doors. And I don’t know why they were ever taken off. I think the whole episode is obscure to me.
RR: Well, Hawkins – I believe you said before that Hawkins thought of Kitzinger and Underwood as armchair scholars?
RC: Yes. I’ve tried to write up something about Ernest’s relationship in the recent publication of the Kariye Djami, under an article called “The Talented Mr. Hawkins,” where I do try and portray him as a kind of extreme British 1930s artist, up against very professional American academics, and I tried to portray the views that Ernest had of Dumbarton Oaks, which were really, in the event, unjustified, but which he certainly felt very strongly. He felt that the fieldwork program – that he did, unrecognized, a great deal of work, that Underwood spent insufficient time in the field to be able to write the kind of report that Ernest would have preferred, and so there certainly was a tension between Ernest’s work in the field and those people who came from the States.
RR: So, Hawkins also worked in Cyprus with Peter Megaw. First, I’m just curious: why, because Megaw’s name is Arthur Hubert Stanley – so why Peter?
RC: I don’t know. Everybody called him Peter, always. That was what you called him. I mean, Megaw was trained, I think, as an architect in England, or at least professionally trained. But he went out to the British School at Athens in around 1935, ’36, and he wrote a phenomenally important article called “Some Notes on Some Little Byzantine Churches,” which actually solved the chronology of most little Byzantine churches in a wonderfully understated way. This was a period at the British School when I knew many people who went there – it was kind of a Boy Scout era at the British School, where they literally wore shorts and tramped all over Greece and looked at monuments. And Megaw must have tramped to all these buildings he talked about; he must have been extremely energetic. And he—and this is the important contact with me—he began to look at the drawings of the British architects for the school made in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly on Thessaloniki, and his project was to publish a corpus of the monuments of Thessaloniki. And this I learned later on. But Megaw, in I think 1936, was appointed director of antiquities in Cyprus, as part of the British Civil Service. And he clearly did a fantastic job in giving, really, very good professional British attitudes, using them inside but without being colonial, so that the whole antiquities service in Cyprus, I think, owed a lot to his administration; he was a great administrator and that’s where he worked with his Greek wife, Electra. And the problem with Electra was that for tax reasons, she couldn’t – she had to be in Greece. And they both wanted to live in their house in Hampstead, but they only ever stayed there a month a year, for tax reasons. So, Megaw worked in Cyprus, and he worked with Ernest. Ernest started the project in Asinou with Peter Megaw – that was definitely a personal project of theirs. And they then recommended Dumbarton Oaks take it over. Megaw had to leave his post in Cyprus because of political changes and he became director of the British School at Athens in about 1964, which was lucky for me because that’s when I went out as a research student to Greece, so he was the director there. And without that I had a problem, because I was living in Thessaloniki and that caused administrative problems in Greece because I was the first supported Greek government scholar who had not been in Athens and it was conditioned that you had to register as a student in Thessaloniki but they had no way you could register as a foreign student. And the Dean of Arts, faculty, Linos Polites, a wonderful Byzantinist, tried the whole year to get me registered but I failed to do that. And then, when I came to Athens to work in the British School library, I was told I wasn’t allowed to work in it because their rules were: you had to live in Athens and not Thessaloniki to work in the library, so Peter somehow got me. So that was my contact and I think it must have been this time that Ernest and Peter recorded the work on Zeyrek Djami, on Pantokrator, which was a Dumbarton Oaks project but which they did together. So they were a kind of team, it seems to me, that came into Dumbarton Oaks. And obviously they published Kanakaria. The working was a team with each other on Cyprus—I’m never quite clear what the relation with Dumbarton Oaks was for Kanakaria. And I’m not sure what relation with Kiti, which has never been published and I’m not sure where the manuscript of that is.
RR: So, what year was this when Hawkins and Peter Megaw were together in Cyprus?
RC: In the sixties. I don’t, I mean – Pantokrator is, the work is – I think one probably can work all that out from preliminary reports in D.O.P. And I’m not sure, not quite clear. And maybe not clear because Ernest probably wasn’t. Ernest was completely hopeless in terms of secretarial organization and he kept getting things wrong, sending a card to the wrong places, so he would never be sure who he was working for, whether he was working for Peter or for himself or whatever. So that makes perfect sense that I’m not very clear, since I can see it partly through Ernest’s eyes. I mean, basically I met Ernest and he showed me the various works they were doing in the sixties. I worked with him in the seventies. In the late seventies and eighties we traveled together because he wanted to have seen every Byzantine mosaic, so we went to Sicily, for example. We went to Poreč. So I traveled a lot with him and when he died he gave me all his papers and all his slides, and his slides are in the Courtauld and are being digitized; and the papers I still have and, although I’ve always wanted a student to work on them, there isn’t very much new in his papers that isn’t published so they’re not of great value, but in the end a home needs to be found for Ernest’s papers. He did not want his slides to be – he didn’t give them to Dumbarton Oaks because he was not allowed to photograph on Dumbarton Oaks scaffolding; that was only official photographers who were allowed to. And he was extremely angry that he had to take all his own photographs surreptitiously and unofficially. So he didn’t feel they should go to Dumbarton Oaks, since they had been – his work had been officially, kind of, banned.
RR: How was it traveling with him? How was that? How was he, as a person?
RC: Ernest was appallingly energetic, very fidgety, apparently required no sleep whatever; and so he was not an easy person to travel with. Even on our visit to Sicily, on which I learned a lot, because the great issue between Demus and Kitzinger is: what’s original, and what is not? And we just spent a lot of time with binoculars, trying to find out a methodology of how you decide, in Monreale, what’s original and what’s not. And his methodology was: if you can see a part which looks absolutely 12th century, then you look for the sutures and outside the suture it will probably be later. But I think there still remains a difficulty of how much re-working has been done in Monreale—probably rather a lot. But that’s what we worked on. But meanwhile, walking through the street, because he had his bag snatched and his binoculars snatched and so he wasn’t a, kind of, easy person to travel with, except that intellectually he’s very exciting to be with.
RR: You mentioned before that he was forced to retire from Dumbarton Oaks—is that correct? Can you tell us about that?
RC: That’s how he put it. And I guess he was probably 70, but he could not see how any professional rules would apply to him, basically. And he certainly had so much – you could do anything in Istanbul under the name of Ernest Hawkins. He thought that Dumbarton Oaks, by giving up the fieldwork program and by not using him, was really wasting resources that had been so important.
RR: You mentioned a while ago that he thought that Thomas Whittemore’s work was inadequate in the 1930s. How so? How?
RC: His word would be, a bit highfalutin. I mean, he did not think it was down to earth, practical, careful enough. And it’s true. If you go through those enormously long descriptions of the mosaics – real flowery language and not very accurate. So, it looks – he felt that it’s a façade: it looks like a highly careful piece of work but actually it’s all a bit of a façade. And it wasn’t quite as careful. And that’s why redoing the apse mosaic was, for him, an absolutely major, important reworking of inadequately done work, he thought.
RR: You mentioned a while ago that you traveled with Hans Belting. Can you talk a little bit about Hans Belting and where you traveled with him? What was your relationship with him?
RC: Yes, alright. I met Hans Belting in Dumbarton Oaks and very much enjoyed traveling around places in the States, but that – we went, for example, to see the Cleveland marbles and the tapestry in Cleveland where Alice-Mary Talbot’s husband was the curator at the time and took us in on a closed day and we spent a whole day with them. And obviously we were very interested in the question of whether the Cleveland marbles were fakes, which was a big issue in the seventies, to some extent still is, and what you could say about the tapestry. So we, on the whole, looked at works of art together. I think an interesting case of more separation from Hans Belting was over Fethiye Djami. When Cyril decided to publish the Fethiye Djami, he decided that he would do the history; Hans would do the style and would do the iconography. And Hans applied for scaffolding but that was refused because he applied through the name of Dumbarton Oaks, so that was inevitably refused. Ernest was very angry and said, “If you’d asked through Ernest, it would’ve gone up.” And then Hans wrote his piece and subsequent to that, Ernest and I went back to Fethiye to analyze Hans’ work and we both came to the conclusion that he’d gone seriously wrong in Fethiye. And I published a critique of that in an article, which actually came out in Greek, so not many people may have read it. Basically, Ernest and I looked at the mosaics and came to the conclusion that they were all done by one artist, whereas I think Belting had dozens of workshops in a church, you know, which you could hardly get two people into. So we criticized the notion of a series of three or four workshops, we criticized the notion of developing style. In particular, we criticized the notion that some parts of the mosaic had a mixture of fresco technique and mosaic technique and that this was a positive method of the artist, which could be picked up in Kiev and other places. The reason for that particular fact in Fethiye is because those mosaics are in very dark places where no light came and you can see that the artist has economized on materials where you could never see the mosaic. So we thought that – this is very much an Ernest Hawkins and in that case positivist Cormack view against the extraordinary formalist, abstract views of Belting. So, in that sense, I’ve always enjoyed being with Belting but I’ve always, kind of, disapproved of his formalist work. And when he was writing his big book on lightness, we talked on the telephone and he compared it with Writing in Gold, which he said was very trendy and he said his book was very traditional—and it’s actually true; although people think Belting is trendy, he’s incredibly traditional and working absolutely in the parameters of Otto Demus, as a stylistic – he’s a stylistic formalist, I think, in many ways; does it very elegantly, in very, very difficult German.
RR: So, when did you meet him exactly?
RC: I met him at Dumbarton Oaks, when I came.
RR: So, seventies?
RR: Let’s go back to Cyril Mango. What was your relationship with him, besides – we know your relationship with him as an advisor. Did you work with any projects with him at all?
RC: No. Just, when he was in London he was working on Neophytos and—that’s the hermitage in Cyprus—and we talked quite a lot about it, but he’d already done the work with Ernest. So, basically my relation was that he was my Ph.D. advisor and we met on infrequent, irregular occasions and talked about issues, and when I sent in written work, he was not the kind of supervisor that sent it back with any comments, except references you’d missed. I think I missed a reference on this about the iconography ascension in Ukrainian in 1892. And I would say, “Send me this one,” on a postcard. I’d discovered that this reference was only available at Dumbarton Oaks. And I’m afraid I’ve never followed it up—so be it. So, the benefit of talking to Cyril Mango is his extraordinary clear mind, his ability to talk through a subject on his terms, giving the pros and the cons—very positivist, and this is the claim he makes in his critique of Kitzinger, that he’s a naïve positivist, I think he calls himself. But he is extremely good at balancing facts, one against the other, and coming to a pragmatic conclusion. In the years that I was at Dumbarton Oaks, he was writing his book on Byzantine architecture and he appeared to write that between ten o’clock and midnight, regularly. I mean, he had his day completely organized, what was done, but between ten and midnight, he would be in Dumbarton Oaks, typing his manuscript and thinking it through and quite often, at lunchtimes here he might talk about what he was going to talk about, so putting his ideas together. And that book is an extremely careful, analytical balancing of facts with, of course, a subtext of extreme polemics against Krautheimer’s work on Byzantine architecture, so it’s a book with a purpose, because he particularly disapproved of the theoretical framework of Krautheimer, which he thought was inherited by Tom Matthews, and is polemic against functional architecture – it’s extremely strong in that book. But that was – so I always found Cyril extremely good at just sitting down and giving you an opinion very well thought, usually ungenerous toward any critique but carefully thought through. And that has remained Cyril’s strength. His extremely articulate and careful description of a city, particularly of Constantinople, where he grew up, was discovered by Ernest Hawkins when he was a schoolboy, fourteen. Ernest, actually, as far as I know, brought Cyril into the orbit of Byzantine studies by treating him—as me and others—to “please come and look at this. What do you think?” And so, Ernest, I believe, was as much a teacher of Cyril as he was of me.
RR: Do you still correspond with him today?
RC: With Cyril?
RC: Not much. Cyril has felt that those who moved into theory have always taken a wrong turn. And he – we asked him to do the history for the Byzantium exhibition, which I was the curator for, at the Royal Academy, and he willingly did that but he did not so willingly come to the exhibition. He came to the opening, I think; I doubt he came again. So he’s – Cyril is now somewhat of a recluse in the countryside outside Oxford. I last saw him at a really good day on Sinai, on the manuscripts at St. Catherine’s on Sinai, which he chaired. He was a good chairman, but actually slightly misinformed on some of the literature, but he is – Cyril has never deviated in his methodology ever. And he’s always used his own talents to the maximum ability. He drew his own ground plans for the architecture book, he takes his own photographs. He’s an extremely practical person and an extremely precise scholar with an extremely good knowledge of Greek, but in some ways slightly too good, so that the book which most people use of Cyril Mango’s, Sources and Documents, which he put together very quickly and had just done before I came to Dumbarton Oaks – he himself said it was a great pity that the Greek text could not be reproduced side by side with the English translations, and I have found, using his translations, that very often they’re not translations, they’re paraphrases. And I think his facility with Greek meant he sometimes didn’t use a dictionary, when somebody who was less able might have realized there was a difference between Medieval Greek and Classical Greek. And he’s made a number of mistranslations. But usually it’s not mistranslation so much as paraphrases. And I think that book, in particular—it’s so important in the subject—you should never use those passages without checking the Greek, and I’m sure Cyril would say exactly the same.
RR: You talked about how you became interested in Byzantine and Classical studies. So, why Thessaloniki in particular?
RC: Really because Grabar’s book gives the materials from Thessaloniki and because it was rather clear to me that people had totally underestimated the materials in Thessaloniki. And I wasn’t the only person that thought this. So when I arrived in Thessaloniki and went to Hagia Sophia, which was going to be the center of my thesis, I met two other research students who’d come to the same conclusion: Jean Spieser, who was also there to work on St. Sophia, and a German scholar who was also to work on St. Sophia. We kind of divided up the territory, and so the German scholar then worked on St. Irene in Constantinople, instead of St. Sophia, and Jean-Michel Spieser worked on St. Demetrios; and I worked on St. Sophia. So it became slightly awkward, a few years later, when I came across the W.S. George drawings of St. Demetrios, because it kind of wasn’t my territory; I’d ceded St. Demetrios to Spieser. But I did publish that. So, it was striking when I went to spend a year in Thessaloniki how nobody ever visited the place—very few people there. Unlike my contemporary, Julian Gardner, who was in Rome, who was networking every single day of his life in the British School at Rome, in Thessaloniki I became the local guide for visiting British government ministers who had to go to Thessaloniki. And also there was a British Council office there so I went there but I was required to go to lectures in the university—even though I couldn’t get registered—and I soon opted out of those. They were given by Stylianos Pelekanides, and they were a translation into Greek of Grabar’s L’iconoclasme byzantin, which, good book though it was, I reckoned I didn’t need to go to a rather long series of lectures which were no more than translation. And Pelekanides was a rather odd art historian; I did meet Chatzidakes and Xyngopoulos. I met them, had appointments to meet Xyngopoulos in Thessaloniki and these were very impressive scholars and I was very lucky to meet them. But it was absolutely clear that the monuments of Thessaloniki were not well known and that when you read people who talked about them, they hadn’t been to the monuments; they used the old plans of Letourneau and Diehl or in the nineteenth century. So I was—I think it was a good place to go: I was able to get to Mt. Athos from there, I traveled to Cappadocia from there, which was very around-the-bend. But I got to know very well the monuments of north Greece and I still feel that people don’t know them as well as they should—really a fantastically exciting place to be.
RR: And currently, your research interest is in the cultural history of the Monastery of St. Catherine at Sinai, is that correct?
RC: Yes. I first went to St. Catherine’s in 1971 with a small group, which in retrospect was quite amusing. It was organized by Hugo Buchthal to see the manuscripts. And I went with Beat Brenk, Hans Belting, Hans L’Orange, Bezalel Narkiss, and me. And I went for a month to the monastery, which at that time was in Israel. And you fly to the Santa Catarina airstrip. The only obligation was to take food for a month with you. And so I spent a month in the monastery then and saw a lot of material. And over the years I’ve been back more and more frequently, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be inside most of the parts of the monastery, including the storerooms. And I – what I want to talk about in my book is not the art history, because the art history of Sinai is not going to be published for another 50 years, there’s so much, but the feeling that you get in Sinai of: why do people want to live at the end of the world? So it’s a kind of cultural history of the solitary – and partly how Sinai can both be the most exciting cultural center and also the most remote, so that’s the paradox at the center of the book. But, simply trying to write down those bits of work I’ve done, but obviously one by one the icons, the manuscripts, and all the other objects and the architecture will be published by art historians, but that’s going to take a long time.
RR: Is there anything else that you would like to add that I haven’t asked you?
RC: Yeah. What I wanted to do in my first job was work in Russian and I learned Russian. And there was endless money in the sixties and seventies to work in Russia, basically as a spy. And since my boss was actually Blunt, all this was quite interesting, although when I first was going to Moscow I went to Anthony to ask if he’d got any advice on visiting Russia and he said, “I only visited Russia once, with Ellis Waterhouse, in the 1930s and it was a dreadful place and I never wanted to go back,” which in retrospect, since he emerged as a spy for the Russians, was an interesting comment. I thought that visiting Novgorod, Pskov, other places for which I got visas in the Soviet Union, was immensely exciting. I was able to go to Georgia, to Armenia. I had money to go anywhere. But at that time the rules of access for foreign scholars were extremely strict so in the Lenin library in Moscow you could order a manuscript but you were not allowed to write notes or have a microfilm or take photographs. So I felt that the obstacles for working in Russia were too difficult, and actually I shifted into working in Turkey, at Aphrodisias, so I became the medieval consultant for Kenan Erim at Aphrodisias; we did publications of Aphrodisias. And then, I moved back into Greece and –
RR: So, around what year was this when you went to Russia?
RC: I went to Russia in every year from 1968—except the years in Dumbarton Oaks—for the next ten years. I saw – you know, I got quite an expertise in Russian material, but just felt the hazards. And what I would say for any person now is that there remains opportunity in Russia, and there’s immense opportunities in the New York Public Library; the Slavonic holdings are unbelievably rich. I only discovered these about five years ago, when I was taken around, because Trotsky worked in the New York Public Library and in the twenties invited the librarians to purchase libraries and materials – quite unbelievable, the richness of the material in New York, including photographs of all the Russian monasteries as they were in the nineteenth century with the pieces which in 1917 were removed from them in situ. So, one thing I shall never do but think should be done is to work out the sources, the inventories, where things were in the nineteenth-century Russia, which are now in museums. So I regret not having worked in Russia, but there’s so much to do in Byzantine studies – I mean it’s just, it’s still the fastest growing subject in art history, in my view.
RR: What are your future projects or lectures, besides the research project that you’re doing now?
RC: Well I’ve just recently finished an article to be published in a conference on the Anglican cathedral at Khartoum, because I’ve been able to go to Sudan. And that article is about how the work of George and Weir Schultz in the late nineteenth century in Greece influenced their later work and in particular influenced the design of the new twentieth-century building in Khartoum, how it relates actually to St. Demetrios; the model is St. Demetrios. And how Demetrios is reinterpreted as primitive Christianity in Sudan. So I think that’s one of the things I’ve published. And I’m also working on a book on Classicism, which is about continuity and discontinuities, but somehow that’s got subsumed to Sinai, which is at the center of what I’m doing.
RR: Do you have any advice to future scholars, Byzantinists out there?
RC: We had a conference—and I’m sure Margaret Mullett was present at this in London—where we lined up every generation of Byzantinists, from Steven Runciman in his nineties—were you one of them, Margaret?
MM: I chaired it.
RC: You chaired it – where people were asked what the priority was and the younger you got, the less you thought Greek was a priority, it transpired. I think that the problem for Byzantinists is always going to remain languages. You can’t but admire people like Cyril and Ihor, who already had about ten languages by the age of sixteen and learned a few more, but learning languages is absolutely essential in this subject; you’ve got to go on doing it. You have never learned enough, and languages do get easier. They get more difficult as you get older, but easier as you learn more, so my advice certainly is that in this subject you must use languages, you’ve got, somehow or other, to have a familiarity with Latin and Greek, but that wonderful things are written in nineteenth-century Tzarist Russian. They’re not easy to read, but their nineteenth-century material is good. My own program is that what an art historian has to do is to be interdisciplinary and to balance empirical knowledge of the objects, the material objects, with methodologies and ways of looking at it; and that the challenge of art history, but particularly Byzantine art history, is how to balance theory and object-led art history. And, you know, I think some people have done it better than others, but it’s the challenge for everybody.
RR: Well let’s go back to the Byzantine Institute. If we could talk about Nicholas Kluge and his work –
RC: Yes, I mean, Ernest must have had some contact with Kluge, but basically Kluge was a photographer for the Russian Institute and also recorded in St. Demetrios and in Nicaea. And Kluge’s work is basically held by Alicia Bank in the Hermitage—I think that’s who it went to—and she gave a print of his records of Kiti to Ernest, which Ernest gave to me, in his will. So, Kluge’s work is—and all the work done by the Russian Institute—is extremely important. Kluge was a recorder for them. I thought that his work was not as good as the work of W.S. George, when you could compare them. And it’s slightly more colorful and less accurate, but it’s quite atmospheric. Beyond that, Ernest certainly talked about the Russians: Karadakov, who went to Prague; Frolow and Kluge went to Paris. But they were an older generation, even than Ernest. So I know their importance but I know nothing about them personally.
RR: Did he mention anything about Kluge’s death? Because I read in one of Hawkins’ notebooks, where he states he was hospitalized all of a sudden, and then a few months later he dies, I believe in 1947. Do you know anything about that?
RC: No, no I know nothing about that. No. I mean, it does remind you: one of Ernest’s complaints about fieldwork in Istanbul was that the – he wasn’t allowed to photograph. The photographers came out and took photographs and then went back to Dumbarton Oaks, and they never knew what photographs were taken or whether they’d come out. I mean, you know, in Dumbarton Oaks they did, but Ernest actually didn’t know what records had been taken – it was a kind of ignorance on the ground.
RR: Well, if you want to, Günder and Shalimar, do you have any more questions?
GV: Since you started to talk about Hawkins, may I ask a question about him?
GV: You mentioned previously that it was possible to do any work under Ernest Hawkins, because he had built relationships with the Turkish authorities. And his relationship with Dumbarton Oaks was very clear. How was that possible? How did he manage to be in good contacts with Turkish authorities even after the Sion Treasure problem?
RC: Because he was a complete individual in his own right, extremely attractive person. He wined and dined everybody that mattered. He was, socially, extraordinarily expert and likable, so I think people just liked Ernest. His Turkish was bizarre in the extreme, as all his foreign languages were, but everybody kind of worked out the sort of thing he was saying without knowing exactly what he was saying. And so it was just immense good will and also the belief in Istanbul that he’d done a very good job and that he was the right expert. And he had made it quite clear that his expertise were different from Italian restorers, who would take mosaics off and redo them, so he had managed to sell his particular brand of scholarship and expertise—rightly—and that was how it worked.
GV: My second question is regarding Aphrodisias. How did you get involved with the project? Was it through Kenan Erim, or –?
RC: Yes. What’s odd about Aphrodisias – when it started, with National Geographic money, it was the quickest dig that there ever was in Turkey, I suspect – I mean, they used bulldozers to get rid of the mosque and the Turkish village to get down to the Classical area – got rid of it very, very quickly. And also he wanted results for funding, because funding had to be done every year, with the result that—I guess the date would be about 1962—by the ’80s, all that material had been got but nobody had studied it. Kenan didn’t find it easy to get on with other scholars, but there was – a lot of expertise came from the UK, so Joyce Reynolds worked on the inscriptions, and then she trained Mary Beard and Charlotte Roueche to work on inscriptions. Mary decided that wasn’t the direction she wanted to go, so Charlotte took those over. Michael Hendy came from England to work on coins. So, when Kenan thought that somebody ought to look at the medieval finds, it wasn’t surprising that he asked advice from Joyce Reynolds and found somebody in the UK, so he asked me if I would look at the materials. It was a pretty severe shock to see the condition of the materials in Aphrodisias, because, while it’s true that Kenan had kept the objects, as soon as he discovered that something was medieval, he stopped excavating it, so looking at medieval meant looking at churches, which had been abandoned as soon as it was discovered they were churches. Also, the medieval materials were not well recorded in the notebooks. Only ancient sculptures were recorded. And he had made the terrible mistake of – all the photography was done in Polaroids. So by the time I came, the Polaroids were faded, the notebooks were thin, and the labels on the objects had been eaten by mice. So, one was actually starting from first beginnings. That was possible in the temple, though actually the temple wasn’t completely excavated. But tri-conch church was something that I worked on and I published a really important fragment of a sixth-century angel, Michael, which I put together, which I published but which has subsequently disappeared, I believe due to a fire in the storerooms. So, actually I had immense respect for Kenan Erim’s ability to find things and his ability to reconstruct broken sculpture, which is a wonderful expertise. But as a social place to go, Aphrodisias was pretty hateful and no one was happy there. I happened to overlap with Martha Joukowsky, who was working on the prehistoric materials and Martha, who’s a millionaire, used to order beer for us but it went into the kitchens and we were not allowed to go into the kitchens so she’d spent all this money on beer, which we were not allowed to go and get a beer during the hot afternoons; and it was very weird to work on a site with a treasure-hunting archaeologist, as he fully realized. And the annual visits, which I was at, between Hanfmann from Sardis—we went to Sardis and they came to us—you couldn’t see two more different kinds of excavations. But all of us had a kind of sneaking admiration that Kenan Erim had got the funding for Aphrodisias – and the finds are just phenomenal. You know, it’s a wonderful site to have worked on and I think that currently, through the work of Bert Smith and NYU and the digitizing of all the notebooks, that it’s a much better place to work now. It’s a very good site. But you had to have been there.
RR: You had briefly talked about Robert Van Nice a while ago. Would you like to add anything—more information about him? How was your relationship with him?
RC: Bob Van Nice would – any question you asked him, he would open his notebooks, his photographs, and he would submerge you in material. And you got the feeling that Bob Van Nice was submerged in a mass of material – graffiti, whatever it was, he had recorded it and he always said that he had a mortgage out on St. Sophia – if it went up for sale, he should have the first option on it. And, seeing him working in the building and seeing the accuracy of his methodology, it was very, very impressive. I mean, I think that is an absolute model, that book, for any architectural record—it’s beautiful.
RR: Did you collaborate with him with any projects at all, small or large?
RC: No, I mean, I asked him questions about things. But he was a model thinker. Really, I think. I mean he just had too much material. He never got out from beneath it, it seemed to me.
RR: Did he have any help at all, or was he just working by himself?
RC: His family used to help him. I think he did have help, but basically –
RR: His family?
RC: I think his family did a bit. But basically he was a one-man band, definitely.
RR: His family helped him with his projects?
RC: I think his daughter – didn’t his daughter used to go out to Istanbul? I don’t remember this clearly at all, but that was – he was doing a project, but it was a one-man project. That’s what academic studies were like until quite recently. People – you know, research was what you could do, yourself, not what you could do with a group. And except for archaeologists, who learned to work in teams, I think others didn’t. Archaeologists were brilliant at working in teams.
RR: How about David?
RC: Yes. David Winfield’s career is really important, I think. He, as he put it – he had a disastrous student career in Oxford, and the one thing they told him was he wasn’t going to be an academic. And he left Oxford. I don’t know why he got interested in wall painting— but he went to Yugoslavia, as it then was, and he was trained on Sopočani by Serbian restorers. And he was then discovered by David Talbot Rice, who’d got permission to work on St. Sophia at Trebizond and needed somebody to do the work and hired David to do the work. So David went out, and again we’ve got the position of the academic in the UK and the worker in the field, thinking he’s carrying all the work. David took photographs, which were printed up, he said, locally in Trebizond, and would sell them to Talbot Rice, who thought – completely misunderstood them because they were so badly printed up. They were much better than that and then, the publication of Trebizond – he used these badly printed-up Turkish Trebizond photos, which is why the plates in the book are absolutely dreadful. The problem – problematic at Trebizond is what exactly the dating is and Winfield and Talbot Rice thought it dated to the 1260s. And the funny thing is it looks awfully like Sopočani and there’s an awful lot of repainting there. And I asked David about the wall, and I said, “There’s repainting there, isn’t there?” and he said, “Look, I didn’t do it. I think some of the Turkish assistants did it.” But how did Turkish assistants manage to work in the style of Sopočani, I’ve always found slightly baffling. And so certainly what they found at Trebizond was extremely disappointing from the point of view that it was a funded project, which didn’t look too good. And I think it was a bit enhanced, somehow. And obviously David has been attacked. He, at the same time, worked for Michael Gough on Eski Gumus, on the rock-cut church at Eski Gumus, and restored those works for the British Institute at Ankara. And of course there’s a lot of repainting in Eski Gumus, as well. And it means that a number of people have criticized David Winfield’s work at Asinou and Lagoudera, saying that there is repainting on it. I do not know the truth; I know that David says there’s not repainting in those churches. But his early reputation has somehow clouded – what may be gossip or what may be accurate, I don’t know. The important thing, it seemed to me, because I visited David at Lagoudera, is his cooperation with June Winfield, his wife. They worked extremely well together and she’s more of an artist than him. And in some ways, he’s followed the Ernest Hawkins principle of trying to work out exactly, from first principles, how the monument was painted. And that led to his article in Dumbarton Oaks Papers on methods, which is, I mean, exactly an Ernest Hawkins methodology. And Ernest read that article and approved of most of the things that are said – it says a lot of very good things. But David has always been kind of self-consciously anti-academic. And the feature of his writing, which is usually a bit verbose – but it’s also aggressively simple – so, in his work on Georgia – he did important work in Akhtala, on Georgian buildings; when he reported those, he always described churches as being either square or rectangular or oblong or cross-shape. This was kind of anti-Krautheimer, to over-simplify things. So there’s a kind of faux naïveté in Winfield that is perhaps, I think, intentional. But his work is exactly in the tradition of Ernest. They knew each other; they both worked together on Asinou to start with. And it’s exactly the same principles of seeing how the artist worked on the spot and June then did a lot of reproduction—drawings and copies; and in Asinou she did a lot of copies of the frescos. And so he’s a real hands-on, not angry anti-academic but just anti-academic, really. But not angry in the way that Ernest was. And after Lagoudera was finished, then David returned to England, where he surprisingly became a restorer-advisor for the National Trust, which is the state—I’m not sure if it’s state or private, whether it’s English Heritage or National Trust—anyway, a very official body for English country houses. David took a lot of very good photographs, of which the negatives for a number are in the Courtauld Institute in London, but I believe that his negatives and the photographs he took to the Hebridean island where he lives were lost in a fire. So I believe that it’s very important to pick up on the copies that David had made both, I think, for Dumbarton Oaks and for the Courtauld, because I think the negatives don’t exist anymore.
RR: Well thank you very much for your time and for sharing your story with us. Thank you.