The Oaks News
To bid farewell to this year’s fellows, Special Projects Librarian Sarah Burke and Fellowships Coordinator Kathleen Lane organized, in connection with the library exhibition Mirabilia, a Miracle Fruit Fête. All staff and fellows were invited to try a berry that changes the flavor of the food that is eaten after it. The lively event took place on the Bowling Green on May 2. Firsthand reports indicate that the berry lived up to its miraculous propaganda—those who had eaten claim that for at least 30 minutes after eating the fruit sour foods like rhubarb and lemon tasted sweet.
Lisa Trever, "Moche Mural Painting and Practice at Pañamarca: A Study of Image Making in Ancient Peru"
In 2010, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection inaugurated a new pre-doctoral fellowship scheme, the William R. Tyler Fellowships. Eligible applicants are Harvard graduate students working on dissertations in art history, archaeology, history, or literature of the Pre-Columbian or Mediterranean/Byzantine worlds. Lisa Trever, the fourth of our incoming Tyler Fellows, is a Pre-Columbianist studying Moche murals. She writes:
"My dissertation project is an art historical study of the mural paintings found within the adobe temples of the late Moche center of Pañamarca (c. 600–900 CE), located on the north-central coast of Peru. Mine is a contextualized study of the relationships between painted images and architectural spaces that includes mural paintings known since the mid-twentieth century and others discovered by my dissertation fieldwork. Continued analysis in 2011–12 focuses on visual and stratigraphic analysis of the multiple, superimposed layers of painting observed on temple walls as well as residue analysis of liquids splashed on the walls as libations. The paintings of Pañamarca form part of an ancient Moche visual and ritual tradition wherein mimesis and pictorial narrative were central representational concepts. I ground this study in a discussion of the philosophical foundations of mimesis, both in the west and as might be recovered from visual and material evidence that underscores the importance of corporeality and embodiment in ancient Moche artistic and ritual practice. I interpret the Pañamarca paintings as images to be seen, experienced, and physically engaged with in real social spaces and during different moments in time. In particular this study analyzes the phenomenological effects and performative capabilities of canonical Moche mural paintings within the site’s Ceremonial Plaza, Platform II, and newly discovered Recinto de los Pilares Pintados. These temple paintings served to model ritual behavior and embody religious doctrine as they effectively participated in the instantiation of the late Moche presence at the southern frontier.
3D Modeling of Cultural Heritage
On Friday, April 6, the Dumbarton Oaks community enjoyed a visit from Bernard Frischer, Professor of Art History and Classics at the University of Virginia, where he is also Director of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory. Professor Frischer gave an engaging multimedia presentation in the Founders' Room on his team's application of 3D digital tools to the simulation of cultural heritage artifacts and sites. The talk was timely, since the VWHL projects help identify issues and challenges that Dumbarton Oaks will want to consider as it develops its own 3D digital models.
One of the 3D models presented by Professor Frischer was of fourth-century Rome, digitally rebuilt and designed to be a pedagogical tool. He noted that the process of assembling the model prompted scholars to make new observations and discoveries. Other examples of his models can be viewed at http://www.digitalsculpture.org/, which tackles the barriers often faced by 3D modeling when attending to the complex geometry characteristic of sculpture. Showcasing sculptures from the University of Virginia (Caligula) and the Dresden State Museum (Pan-Nymph), Professor Frischer demonstrated how difficult art-historical questions of interpretation can be illuminated using computer modeling.
Dumbarton Oaks in the news, April 2012
Dumbarton Oaks was featured in the Washingtonian’s April cover story, 61 Hidden Gems. The article highlighted the Museum’s “impressive collection of pre-Columbian art, artifacts from the Byzantine Empire, and European masterpieces.” You can peruse the list here, and find Dumbarton Oaks in the item titled Don’t Bypass the Byzantine.
The recent article in the Washington Post, Music Review: A Far Cry at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, favorably reviewed performances at Dumbarton Oaks by the Boston-based ensemble, A Far Cry. The 17-member string ensemble performed in the Music Room at Dumbarton Oaks on the evenings of April 22nd and 23rd as part of the Friends of Music Concert Series. The back-to-back performances by A Far Cry marked the end of the 2011–2012 concert season at Dumbarton Oaks.
Local public gardens were the subject of a recent online edition of the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide. Entitled Flora to Fawn Over, the piece features Andy Cao’s and Xavier Perrot’s Cloud Terrace as item number 39.
Tylka Vetula, Serials and Acquisitions Librarian, retires May 2012
The entire Dumbarton Oaks community and the library staff in particular will be sorry to see a beloved colleague retire this month. Tylka Vetula, Serials and Acquisitions Librarian extraordinaire, will leave behind an undeniable void, and will be truly missed when she leaves Dumbarton Oaks at the end of April after eight years of service. Friends and colleagues gathered on April 23 to bid Tylka a fond farewell and wish her luck in the future.
Launch of the official Dumbarton Oaks Library and Archives Facebook page
Dumbarton Oaks Library and Archives are pleased to announce the launch of the official Dumbarton Oaks Library and Archives Facebook page created by the library and archives staff. This page represents the wide variety of collections and projects from the Research Library, Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Through this page we hope to further the overall mission of Dumbarton Oaks by sharing information about our multi-formatted collections, as well as the institutional history of Dumbarton Oaks.
Our page officially launched April 14, 2012, on the 104th wedding anniversary of Robert and Mildred Bliss, who were married on April 14, 1908.
Please visit, “Like”, and share our new Facebook page!
ICFA, DO Conversations, and the Gardens are all blogging
Blogs are a great way to communicate with a large and geographically disparate audience. They can also provide up-close and in-depth examinations of materials, processes, and events that aren't accessible to the general public. Dumbarton Oaks has several blogs that achieve all these goals, with plans for several more in the works.
Want to learn more about how a large collection of research and fieldwork papers are processed, or get a sneak peek at some great archaeological records? The Robert L. Van Nice Collection, a processing blog for the Robert L. Van Nice Records and Fieldwork Papers (1937–1985) at the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, is full of interesting finds and descriptions of archival processing work.
The online component for and record of The DO Conversations series, which offers opportunities to staff and fellows to participate in cross-disciplinary and interdepartmental discussions on a weekly basis, has an online component too! Check the DO/Conversations blog to learn more about this series of events.
Managed and authored by the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens staff, What's Blooming at DO is the official Dumbarton Oaks gardens blog. Featuring stunning photos of plants, insects, and garden architecture, this blog is a great way to experience the beauty of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens whether you are able to visit them in person or not.
Allen Grieco (PhD École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) is Lila Acheson Wallace Assistant Director of Gardens and Grounds & Scholarly Programs as well as Senior Research Associate in History at Villa I Tatti (The Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies). In April 2012 he was Visiting Scholar in Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks.
Dr. Grieco has published extensively on the cultural history of food in Italy from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries and co-edited several collective volumes, amongst which are Food Excesses and Constraints in Europe, special issue of Food & History (2006), Dalla vite al vino. Fonti e problemi della vitivinicultura italiana nel medioevo (Bologna, 1994), and Le Monde végétal (XIIe–XVIIe siècles): savoirs et usages sociaux (Vincennes, 1993). Currently co-editor-in-chief of Food & History (Turnhout, Brepols), he is also in charge of a bibliographic project on the history of food in Europe funded by the Mellon Foundation and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. He has taught at Harvard, Florence, and Bologna, and has created an English-language graduate program at the Università delle Scienze Gastronomiche, Pollenzo (Italy).
Q. Dr. Grieco, you have come to Dumbarton Oaks to conduct research on the gardens of Cecil Pinsent (1884–1963). How have your responsibilities as director of the gardens at Villa I Tatti led you to pursue this project?
I have been at I Tatti for 23 years, where I spend about half my time overseeing the gardens and grounds. These include not only the gardens proper (7 acres) but also a surrounding agricultural landscape of about 66 acres that includes olives and vines. Careful management requires making historically-informed decisions regarding maintenance and restoration in order to ensure that the original character of the landscape is respected, even as it is allowed to evolve. So from both a practical and a scholarly point of view, it is essential to understand the history of the site as it was designed through the collaboration of the patrons with their landscape architect and architect.
The villa was acquired by Bernard and Mary Berenson in 1901 and bequeathed to Harvard University in 1960. An existing farmhouse was redesigned by the architect Geoffrey Scott as the Berenson residence, and Bernard Berenson’s friend and associate Cecil Pinsent began work on the gardens in 1909. Construction progressed through several phases, was interrupted by World War I, and then completed in 1919–25.
Over the years I have been able to piece together through various sources the general evolution of the gardens. My initial interest in Pinsent’s work grew out of this practical need to understand the history of I Tatti, but it has expanded to include Pinsent’s career as a whole. I am particularly interested in how I Tatti, his first major garden, fits into his larger body of work.
Q. Prior to your arrival at Dumbarton Oaks, what have you have you been able to learn by consulting primary materials such as plans and letters in the holdings of the Berenson Library at I Tatti?
The holdings at I Tatti have provided insights into certain phases of gardens’ construction, with glimpses of Pinsent’s conversations with the Berensons, particularly with Mary, through correspondence, as well as some preserved building permits that help document construction. There is also a collection of historical photographs that show the state of the gardens, as well as the larger site, during the various phases of construction. However, we are at a great disadvantage in reconstructing this history because Pinsent burned the vast majority of his papers and drawings before he died.
Q. With so many gaps in the primary materials related to Pinsent’s work, what are you hoping to find in the Dumbarton Oaks library?
My research at Dumbarton Oaks focuses not so much on Pinsent’s work at I Tatti, but rather on the contextualization of his design approach within the broader world of landscape architecture during the early twentieth century. For this purpose, the library’s holdings have been especially helpful because of their depth—not only in early twentieth-century monographs on garden design but also in garden and design periodicals of that period. It is this broader view that I have had difficulty constructing elsewhere and that the time here at Dumbarton Oaks has been so useful in addressing.
Q. What is the potential scholarly significance of the project?
I plan to publish this research as a series of articles on the gardens of I Tatti, or perhaps as a monograph on Pinsent’s work as a whole. As significant as Pinsent was in his time, and especially given his prolific output, it is curious that he has been largely ignored by scholars. He began to attract some notice in the 1980s, and there have been a few articles and one conference on him since that time, but much of the discussion has been anecdotal rather than analytic and interpretive. I am hoping to draw attention to Pinsent’s qualities as a designer, and to reassess his significance for early twentieth-century landscape architecture.
If you are reading this article, then you've probably noticed that things look and feel a bit different here at www.doaks.org. We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new website, made possible with the implementation of the content management system Plone. After months of planning, organizing, designing, coding, and uploading content, we hope that everyone appreciates the new look. Plone allows everyone on our staff to do basic editing and content management of their departments' pages. It also makes background things like linking, cross-referencing, and uploading images incredibly simple. It has also allowed us to do bigger things like reorganize our website navigation, begin cataloguing our assets digitally, and completely overhaul a certain newsletter. Plone has already helped us to refine our web presence, and will continue to streamline the way we distribute information to the public. We hope that this will be a pleasant change for our staff and especially for our scholars and visitors!
On April 22nd and 23rd, the Boston-based chamber orchestra A Far Cry performed the final concerts of the 2011–2012 Friends of Music season. The self-conducted group of young musicians (the Criers, as they call themselves) made its Washington, D.C. debut last year right here at Dumbarton Oaks. We were so impressed by their musicianship, energy, and freshness, that we immediately invited them to play for us again this season, and they did not disappoint. Their impressive performances of music by Heinrich Biber (Battalia), Ludwig van Beethoven (the "Serioso" String Quartet, arranged for string orchestra by A Far Cry), Osvaldo Golijov (Tenebrae), and Benjamin Britten (Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge) were warmly received by Friends of Music audiences. The Washington Post’s Stephen Brookes attended and reviewed the concert.
According to the New York Times, A Far Cry “brims with personality or, better, personalities, many and varied.” The orchestra was founded in 2007 by a tightly-knit collective of seventeen young professional musicians and since the beginning has fostered those personalities, developing an innovative structure of rotating leadership both on stage and behind the scenes. The Criers maintain strong roots in Boston, rehearsing at their storefront music center in Jamaica Plain and fulfilling the role of Chamber Orchestra in Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.