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New Acquisition: Le Temple du Soleil

James N. Carder (August 2017)

Posted on Aug 10, 2017 03:50 PM by James N. Carder |
New Acquisition: Le Temple du Soleil

Hergé, Le Temple du Soleil (Paris: Casterman, 1977). Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.EP.BK.0559).

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives Ephemera Collection recently acquired an adventure comic book set in Peru and involving the ancient Inca civilization. Le Temple du Soleil (The Temple of the Sun) is the fourteenth book in the comic series Les Aventures de Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin), created by the Belgian illustrator Georges Prosper Remi (1907–1983), known as Hergé. First published in serial format between 1946 and 1948, Le Temple du Soleil was a continuation of Les Sept Boules de Cristal (The Seven Crystal Balls), and was first published in book format in 1949. The Ephemera Collection copy is from the 1977 reprinting.

Le Temple du Soleil finds the boy hero, Tintin, and Captain Haddock in Peru in search of Professor Tournesol. As the adventure unfolds, a young Quechua Indian, Zorrino, reveals the existence of the temple of the sun, the last retreat of the ancient Inca civilization, where Tournesol is held prisoner and condemned to be sacrificed. Captain Haddock, Tintin, and Tintin’s dog, Milou, enter the temple but are taken prisoner themselves by the Incas. However, they are saved from sacrifice by a providential solar eclipse which Tintin proclaims he has brought about. They leave the temple promising never to reveal its existence.

In Le Temple du Soleil, Hergé fairly accurately depicted Inca artifacts and costumes due to his use of available scholarly books, including Conrad de Meyendorff’s 1909 L'Empire du soleil: Pérou et Bolivie. Hergé especially borrowed from the engravings in Charles Wiener’s 1888 Pérou et Bolivie, including the image of the creator god Viracocha from the sun gate at Tiahuanaco. He also relied on the illustrations in two National Geographic articles of February 1938 (73, no.2): “The Incas: Empire Builders of the Andes” and “In the Realm of the Sons of the Sun (Incas),” which reproduced eight paintings by H. M. Herget representing “scenes of pre-Columbian life.”

Viracocha Engraving by Charles Wiener.   Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Milou break into the Temple of the Sun.

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New Acquisition: Loire Valley Poster

James N. Carder (July 2017)

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 11:53 AM by James N. Carder |
New Acquisition: Loire Valley Poster

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives Ephemera Project has acquired a poster promoting train and bus visits to the Loire Valley in France. Designed in 1967 by the graphic artist Bernard Villemot (1911–1989) for the SNCF (Société nationale des chemins de fer français), France’s national state-owned railway company, the poster foregrounds one of the Renaissance formal gardens at the Château de Villandry. Seen in the distance across the Loire Valley is the Château de Chaumont, relocated by the artist from its true location further down the river. The Château de Villandry and its gardens were arguably the star venue of tourism in the Loire Valley as it regained momentum in the mid-twentieth century. The poster’s purpose was to further increase visitation to the area by means of the formal garden image’s allure.

Villandry had been acquired in 1906 by the Spanish doctor Joachim Carvallo (1869–1936). Between 1908 and 1918, he restored the chateau and transformed the then-existing English-style informal gardens into formal gardens more consistent with the history of the chateau. For his Renaissance garden reconstructions, Carvallo employed the sixteenth-century book Les dessins des plus excellents bâtiments de France by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau, a copy of which is also in the Rare Book Collection at Dumbarton Oaks.

The poster’s artist, Bernard Villemot,  was a graphic artist who, between 1932 and 1934, had studied in Paris with the artist Paul Colin. In the mid-1940s, he began designing posters, including a famous series of travel posters for Air France. Villemot is known in France as one of the last great poster artists of the twentieth century and for his ability to distill an advertising message to a memorable image with simple elegant lines and bold colors. Three books have been published that survey his art: Jean-Francois Bazin, Les affiches de Villemot, (1985); Guillaume Villemot, Villemot: l’affiche de A à Z (2005); and George H. Bon Salle, Embracing an Icon: the Posters of Bernard Villemot (2015).

Château de Villandry Renaissance garden as it exists today Château de Villandry Renaissance garden as it exists today.


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Dumbarton Oaks Newsletters

James N. Carder (June 2017)

Posted on Jun 27, 2017 11:17 AM by James N. Carder |
Dumbarton Oaks Newsletters

The newsletter that you are reading, The Oaks News: A Monthly Bulletin from Dumbarton Oaks, is the latest in a succession of news bulletins dating back to 1941 that have been published at Dumbarton Oaks. The Oaks News had its first digital issue in February 2012 and continues to be published monthly for the staff, alumni, and friends of Dumbarton Oaks in order to inform them of the institution's varied activities in all departments. Copies of all newsletters, both historic and current and both in print and digital formats, are preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.


The Underworld Courier Vol. I, No. I (January 11, 1941) The Underworld Courier Vol. I, No. I (January 11, 1941)

The earliest newsletter, the Underworld Courier, was a private publication produced by Dumbarton Oaks staff to keep the founders, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, then residing in California, abreast of developments and happenings at the nascent research library and collection. Twenty-one issues were printed between January and November 1941.


Dumbarton Oaks Newsletter Vol. I, No. 1 (January 1979) Dumbarton Oaks Newsletter Vol. I, No. 1 (January 1979)

Between January 1979 and April 1982, nine issues of the Dumbarton Oaks Newsletter were produced for staff. The 1979 issues are interesting as they chronicle the ever-increasing need for library shelving space, a need that was never completely solved until the completion in 2005 of the Robert Venturi-designed library. As construction began to install third-floor shelving stacks in the Main House, the newsletter of January 1979 stated:

It’s estimated that the renovated third floor stacks, the compact shelving in the basement, together with shelving in the Reading Room, Reference Room, Catalogue Room, second floor halls and the Library offices, will accommodate close to 130,000 volumes. This will allow for a growth of approximately 40,000 volumes, which means that at the average annual growth rate of 2,500 volumes, the Byzantine Library Collection will have enough space for about sixteen years. As far as the future in concerned, we can safely predict that with new technologies, especially microform holdings of periodicals, more space can be obtained after the initial sixteen years’ growth will be used up. [Vol. I, no. 1 (January 1979)]

A hiatus in newsletter production occurred between 1982 and 1994, at which time the Byzantine Studies program began publishing its own digital newsletter, first annually and later intermittently until its last issue in January 2015. Similarly, the Garden and Landscape Studies program initiated Landscape Matters: News from GLS @ Dumbarton Oaks in 2008. This annual digital publication occurs each fall.


In the Know at D.O. Newsletter, Vol 1, No. 1 (July 2009) In the Know at D.O. Newsletter, Vol 1, No. 1 (July 2009)

In July 2009, the first institutional digital newsletter was launched, In the Know at D.O., which was issued monthly until February 2013.

And most recently, the Dumbarton Oaks Communications Manager began publishing a digital staff newsletter on April 14, 2017, the Director's Office Weekly Bulletin.

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Esclarmonde – Byzantine Empress and Sorceress

James N. Carder (May 2017)

Posted on May 18, 2017 03:30 PM by James N. Carder |
Esclarmonde – Byzantine Empress and Sorceress

Esclarmonde Poster by Auguste-François Gorguet, 1889. Dumbarton Oaks Archives Ephemera Collection (AR.EP.PS.0556)

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives Ephemera Collection has acquired an 1889 poster made for the opera Esclarmonde by Jules Massenet. The opera was commissioned for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris and starred the American soprano Sybil Sanderson in the title role.

Sybil Sanderson as Esclarmonde, 1889 Sybil Sanderson as Esclarmonde, 1889

The opera’s libretto, written in prose by Alfred Blau and versified by Louis Ferdinand de Gramont in 1882, was based on a twelfth-century chivalric tale, Parthénopéus de Blois, which Blau had rediscovered in 1871. However, in Parthénopéus, the protagonist empress-sorceress is named Melior; Blau borrowed Esclarmonde’s name from a thirteenth-century French epic, Huon de Bordeaux, where Esclarmonde is the daughter of the emir of Babylon.

In the opera, Esclarmonde is a Byzantine empress and sorceress who is in love with the French knight Roland, Count of Blois. She uses her magic powers to transfer Roland to an island where she joins him nightly, hiding behind a veil to conceal her identity. When the king of France offers Roland the hand of his daughter in marriage, Esclarmonde falsely believes herself betrayed and, cursing Roland, surrounds herself with a ring of fire and demons. Later, her father offers her in marriage to the victor of a chivalric tournament, and that victor turns out to be Roland who happily becomes the empress’ valiant consort.

The Art Nouveau-style poster, designed in 1889 by the artist Auguste-François Gorguet, depicts Esclarmonde in a Byzantine-inspired costume with a jewel-encrusted loros panel and a crown reminiscent of the coronation crown of the Russian czarina, Catherine the Great. The color lithograph (chromolithograph) poster was published by Georges Hartmann, who was also the exclusive publisher of Massenet’s scores between 1870 and 1891.

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New Acquisition of Photographs of Gardeners

James N. Carder (April 2017)

Posted on Apr 02, 2017 11:10 AM by James N. Carder |
Filed under: ,
New Acquisition of Photographs of Gardeners

Donald E. Smith, ca. 1970. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc,360.[Neg.]).

Richard Amt, staff photographer at Dumbarton Oaks between 1963 and 1974, recently donated to the Archives fourteen photograph negatives of gardeners working in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. Among these images are several of Matthew Kearney, Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds, and his assistant superintendent, Donald Smith. Amt employed a square format for these images and used both Agfa and Kodak black-and-white film stock.

Amt had been an aerial photographer during his four years in the U.S. Air Force and then became a photograph technician for The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He joined Dumbarton Oaks in 1964 as staff photographer at the time a darkroom and studio had been equipped in the basement of the newly completed Pre-Columbian pavilion. In 1974, he moved to the National Gallery of Art as staff photographer, where he remained for twenty years, becoming chief of photographic services during his last nine years there.

Matthew Kearney, ca. 1970. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, AR.PH.Misc.365.(Neg). Matthew Kearney, ca. 1970. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, AR.PH.Misc.365.(Neg).

Matt Kearney (1909–1973) was born in Ireland. After immigrating to the United States, he began a career as a gardener. Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss hired Kearney in 1930, and he worked under the Blisses’ garden superintendent, William Gray, and later, beginning in 1937, under superintendent James Bryce. In 1948, he took over as Superintendent of Gardens and remained in charge of the gardens until his death.

As a young man, Don Smith (1928–2012) had worked for Beatrix Farrand at her estate Reef Point in Bar Harbor, Maine, before receiving a degree in horticulture from the University of Maine, Orono. At Dumbarton Oaks, he served as Assistant Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds (1952–1974) and then as Superintendent of Gardens and Grounds until his retirement in 1992. 

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“Théodora” Souvenir Booklet

James N. Carder (March 2017)

Posted on Feb 28, 2017 04:45 PM by James N. Carder |
“Théodora” Souvenir Booklet


 René Lalique, Sarah Bernhard as Theodora, 1902 Souvenir Booklet. Dumbarton Oaks Archives Ephemera Collection (AR.EP.PP.0279)

The Dumbarton Oaks Archives is building a collection of ephemera that relates to the institution’s three programs of study. A recent acquisition for this collection is an illustrated souvenir booklet printed for the 1902 revival of Victorien Sardou’s play, Théodora, which in 1884 had helped rebuild the fame and fortune of its star, Sarah Bernhardt. Théodora soon traveled the world, including America, bringing to its enthusiastic audiences a theatrical Byzantium complete with Oriental mystery, lavishly decorated spaces, and, especially, luxurious clothing and jewelry made from gold and colorful gems. For this reason, the booklet offers us an important chronicle of the turn-of-the-century popular culture perception of the Byzantine world.

The booklet is more a theater souvenir than a program—there is no cast list or enumeration of the play’s eight scenes, for example. But the ten pages of illustrations offer an interesting glimpse into the props, costumes, stage sets, and even the music of this widely popular play.

The cover has an image of Bernhardt as Theodora painted in 1894 by the French jewelry and glass designer, René Lalique (1860–1945). Theodora, her head backed by a cruciform halo, wears an imaginative crown ringed by imperial eagles, which, more menacingly, are also seen on the pendilia that hang across the empress’s ears. Included in the booklet are sketches by Georges Clairin (1843–1919), a French painter and illustrator and Bernhardt’s reputed lover, who designed the poster for the play’s 1902 revival.

Also found are prop designs by René Foy, a French jewelry designer, and examples of the costumes of Théophile Thomas (1846?–1916), originally designed for the 1884 production. Among the set designs are those of Alfred Lemeunier, Marcel Jambon (1848–1908), Alexandre Bailly, and Amable (Dauphin-Amable Petit) (1846–1916). Several bars of the incidental music that Jules Massenet (1842–1912) composed for the 1884 premier are also included in the booklet.

Several pages from the booklet are on display in the exhibition, Imagining the Empress: Selections from the Dumbarton Oaks Ephemera Collection, which opens in late April.

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 1)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 2)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 3)

Theodora Souvenir Program (pp. 4-5)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 6)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 7)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (p. 8)

Theodora Souvenir Booklet (back cover)

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Azalea Inscription

James N. Carder (February 2017)

Posted on Feb 07, 2017 02:40 PM by James N. Carder |
Azalea Inscription


Fragment of Original 1935 Azalea Inscription. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.OB.Misc.079).

In 2016, the Dumbarton Oaks swimming pool, bathhouse loggia, and the surrounding pavements and walls were completely renovated. As part of this project, the 1935 “Azalea Inscription” on the northwest enclosure wall was reproduced to replicate the original. Because the stucco background of the inscription was badly cracked and spalled, the inscription could not be restored but had to be replaced. To insure an accurate replacement, photographs and measurements were taken and drawings made. Also, the original 1935 Beatrix Farrand workshop drawing for the inscription was consulted to insure that the lettering would not have a mechanical, typographical appearance.

Azalea Inscription (Model for the Full Scale Drawing), Garden Archives, GD I-2-15. Azalea Inscription (Model for the Full Scale Drawing). Garden Archives, Rare Book Collection, GD I-2-15, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Fragments of the original inscription were salvaged and are now housed in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

The inscription was located next to a white azalea in the pool area:

Like the flash of a wing

I came upon

The loveliest thing

Since Avalon

White Blossoming

Azaleas wan

As a wounded king

As a dying swan


The verse is the fourth stanza of the poem Reprieve by Joseph Auslander (1897–1965). Auslander, a graduate of Harvard College, was a good friend of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss and would become the first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress between 1937 and 1941.

Azalea Inscription, Reconstruction, 2016 Azalea Inscription, Reconstruction, 2016

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Artful Mapping of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

James N. Carder (January 2017)

Posted on Jan 23, 2017 03:55 PM by James N. Carder |
Artful Mapping of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Spencer Lenfield, Map of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 2016. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.AP.GG.SP.051).

Over the years, many maps and plans have been made of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. Some of these have artistic embellishments that attempt to capture something of the gardens’ character rather than merely outline the garden spaces. The latest of these is a watercolor rendering prepared for the Dumbarton Oaks website by Spencer Lenfield, Postgraduate Media Research Fellow. The map captures the colors seen in the gardens throughout the seasons: the hot pink of Plumb Walk, the yellow of Forsythia Dell, and the reds and oranges of autumn foliage. The map serves to help web visitors virtually explore the gardens:

Discover more about the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks, including details on trees and plants, inscriptions, furniture, and ornaments. Click anywhere on the map below to find out more about a garden section.
The original watercolor is now part of the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.AP.GG.SP.051).

In 1935, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, the founders of Dumbarton Oaks, also sponsored artful renderings of the gardens. They commissioned the Czech-American artist, Rudolph Ruzicka (1883–1978), to make the first map of the gardens. Ruzicka included vignettes of plant materials within the map and framed the map with thirty-eight depictions of garden spaces, hardscape elements, and furniture, as they existed at the time. He labeled the garden areas and depictions, providing the canonical names that continue to be employed.

Rudolph Ruzicka plan and vignettes of the Gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, 1935. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, AR.AP.GG.SP.015. Rudolph Ruzicka plan and vignettes of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1935. Archives, AR.AP.GG.SP.015, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Also in 1935, the Blisses commissioned the cartographer, Ernest Clegg (1876–1954), to paint a bird’s-eye view of the house and garden to be installed in the overmantel frame of the Renaissance fireplace in their music room. Clegg worked in ink, watercolor, and gouache and employed aerial photographs of the gardens that the Blisses had had made for this project. A digital reproduction of this map now hangs in the overmantel in order to help preserve the original artwork from further fading and deterioration.

Ernest Clegg, Map of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1935. Dumbarton Oaks House Collection, HC.P.1935.01.(I). Ernest Clegg, Map of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1935. House Collection, HC.P.1935.01.(I), Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

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The Year Santa Visited DO

James N. Carder (December 2016)

Posted on Dec 08, 2016 04:35 PM by James N. Carder |
The Year Santa Visited DO


Santa Claus Arriving at Dumbarton Oaks, 1998. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.Misc.309).

Dumbarton Oaks has a long-standing tradition of getting into the seasonal spirit by throwing a holiday party. Staff, fellows, friends, and family all attend and for several hours enjoy food, drink, and lively conversation in the splendor of the historic music room. In 1998, during the tenure of Director Ned Keenan (Edward L. Keenan, 1935–2015), Santa Claus made an unexpected appearance at the holiday party. Ned, dressed in suit and tie, had just left the room after greeting his guests when Santa walked down the music room stairs followed by a DO head security officer carrying, of all things, a piñata. Upon entering the music room, Santa exclaimed, predictably, “ho-ho-ho!” He waved to the party guests, wished them all the very best of the season, and then invited the children in attendance out to the music room terrace.

  Arrival of the Bear Piñata Arrival of the Bear Piñata Santa and the "Naughty or Nice" Question Santa and the Naughty or Nice Question

There they took turns swinging a stick at the piñata—a feat made all the more difficult by the unpredictable position of the ever-moving bear—until the inevitable occurred, and all were happy with gifts and candies.

Swinging at the Piñata Swinging at the Piñata   Half a Piñata and Gifts and Candies Half a Piñata and Gifts and Candies

With hindsight, Santa’s appearance at Dumbarton Oaks seems foreordained. Where else would the spirit of Nicholas of Myra, the fourth-century Greek saint and bishop, arrive with a piñata, the offshoot of the clay pot that the Aztecs had broken with a club in mid-December to honor the birthday of the god Huitzilopochtli? The Dumbarton Oaks Archives has images (analog and digital) of holiday parties from 1996 to the present.

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Ephemera: The Dumbarton Oaks Disciplines as Viewed in Popular Culture

Lane Baker (November 2016)

Posted on Nov 01, 2016 09:45 AM by Lane Baker |
Ephemera: The Dumbarton Oaks Disciplines as Viewed in Popular Culture

Scholars typically study significant objects that were made to last—books, artworks, buildings, inscriptions, etc. More often than not, these objects have been made by and for the elite. The general population tends to leave a more ephemeral record. “Ephemera” are historical artifacts that were never meant to be preserved and may come in many forms, e.g., postcards, stamps, playbills, flyers, catalogs, and more. These commonplace objects offer unique glimpses into everyday life and culture, revealing dimensions of the past that scholarly documents might obscure or overlook. Since 2015, the Dumbarton Oaks Archives has been collecting historical ephemera relevant to the institution’s research interests of Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape studies. Most of these items date to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and were created primarily for audiences in the United States and western Europe. They offer us insight as to how the general population encountered and learned something about the Byzantine Empire, Pre-Columbian cultures, and garden and landscape design and horticulture.

The following are three examples from the collection.

Salut de Constantinople, Intérieur de la Mosquée de Sainte Sophie Intérieur de la Mosquée de Sainte Sophie. Ephemera Collection, Archives, AR.EP.PC.0013, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

In 1916, a tourist in Constantinople bought this postcard. It depicts the interior of “the Mosque of St. Sophia,” thereby at once evincing the city’s blend of Byzantine and Islamic cultures. The colors, which have been layered on a black-and-white photograph, paint a fanciful portrait of the Byzantine building. For many people in the west, such imaginative images would have been their first exposure to the exotic grandeur of Byzantium.

Templo dil Azteki Aztec Temple Stamp. Ephemera Collection, Archives, AR.EP.ST.0515, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

The Swiss chocolatier Toblerone created this stamp as part of its larger “Temples and Churches” stamp series (1920s). It depicts an imaginary “Temple of the Aztecs,” taking cues from a variety of real Mesoamerican temples. Like many of Toblerone’s earliest advertisements, this stamp is written in Ido, a constructed language for international communication. The same spirit of internationalism that spurred the creation of these artificial languages also led advertisers to appeal to the recipients’ interest in far-off and exotic locales like those of the Pre-Columbian world.

Harrison Trees Brochure, AR.EP.BR.0362a Harrison Trees Brochure. Ephemera Collection, Archives, AR.EP.BR.0362a, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

In 1914, a prospective home gardener picked up this eye-catching pamphlet. Distributed by Maryland arborists J. G. Harrison and Sons, the pamphlet claims that trees from Harrisons’ Nursery benefited from an ideal climate and healthy soil. It lists the prices of many different species, from fruit trees to ornamentals. In the early twentieth century, ornamental and orchard gardens became something that ordinary people could afford. Pamphlets like this one document that transition, showcasing the ways that arborists reached out to novices hoping to craft their own landscapes.

The Dumbarton Oaks Ephemera Collection is an ongoing project, presently numbering some five hundred objects. Coming soon is a website featuring the collection as well as a special exhibition, which will open in the new year.

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The Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Vivid Black and White

James N. Carder (October 2016)

Posted on Sep 28, 2016 10:25 AM by James N. Carder |
The Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in Vivid Black and White


Julia Cart, Dumbarton Oaks, Courtyard [Pebble Garden], 2002

Even after the availability of color photography and, later, the advent of the digital image, a number of artist-photographers have continued to work with black-and-white film stock. They also continue to develop their art in darkrooms, usually employing either the silver gelatin process or the more matte platinum/palladium process. These artists use these media in many cases so that they can better manipulate the image in a printmaking-like manner and create rich tonal effects that range from bright white to velvet black.

Over the years, the Archives and House Collection have received black-and-white images that were photographed in the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. Recently, for example, Julia Cart, a photographer based in Charleston, South Carolina, sent the Archives a print and digital files of garden images that she took in 2002 with a vintage Rolleiflex camera. Ms. Cart works exclusively in film, using antique, large-format cameras. She has said that she is, “above all, a respectful student of natural light.”

Julia Cart, Dumbarton Oaks, Path [Ellipse], 2002 (HC.PH.2017.01) Julia Cart, Dumbarton Oaks, Path [Ellipse], 2002 (HC.PH.2017.01)

In 1999, the artist Tanya Marcuse also photographed in the gardens using black-and-white film. Although she often works in color and in a large-scale format, her Dumbarton Oaks images were created in small scale (approximately 10 by 12 centimeters) using the platinum/palladium process and involving closely cropped and detail imagery. She generously gave prints to the House Collection.

Tanya Marcuse, Lovers Lane Pool, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1999, HC.PH.2000.01 Tanya Marcuse, Lovers Lane Pool, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1999. House Collection, HC.PH.2000.01, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.  

Tanya Marcuse, Boy, Mexican Pebble Garden, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1999, HC.PH.2000.02 Tanya Marcuse, Boy, Mexican Pebble Garden, Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1999. House Collection, HC.PH.2000.02, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Dumbarton Oaks’ staff photographer, Joe Mills, is also a photography artist who often uses black-and-white photography to create photomontages and collages in a surrealist style. In 1979, he took haunting images in the gardens, and, in 1995, he offered prints of this series to the House Collection.

Joe Mills, Untitled [Trees with Shadows], 1979, HC.PH.1995.07 Joe Mills, Untitled [Trees with Shadows], 1979. House Collection, HC.PH.1995.07, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.  

Joe Mills, Untitled [Horizontal Tree Branch on South Lawn], 1979, HC.PH.1995.11 Joe Mills, Untitled [Horizontal Tree Branch on South Lawn], 1979. House Collection, HC.PH.1995.11, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Others who have photographed the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens in black and white include Carol Betsch and Mel Curtis.

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The Dumbarton Connection

James N. Carder (September 2016)

Posted on Aug 31, 2016 11:55 AM by James N. Carder |
Filed under:
The Dumbarton Connection

Coat-of-Arms Plaque of West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.OB.Misc.076).

According to Paul Neeson, chairman of the Dumbarton Castle Society in Scotland, there are over two hundred entities worldwide with the name Dumbarton. Mr. Neeson and his wife recently visited Dumbarton Oaks and presented the Archives with the coat-of-arms plaque of West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, whose capital, the city of Dumbarton, is the site of Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle. The alternate spellings of Dunbarton and Dumbarton both derive from the medieval Scottish Gaelic Dùn Breatainn, “fortress of the Britons,” where the n in Dùn was pronounced as an m.

Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle

The name Dumbarton Oaks also has a Scottish connection. The name comes, in part, from the name that the Scotsman Colonel Ninian Beall gave to a land grant he received from Lord Baltimore in 1702. As Grace Dunlop Ecker speculated in her 1938 book, A Portrait of Old Georgetown:

About 1703, Ninian Beall, a Scotsman, who had received several grants of land in Maryland along the Potomac from Saint Mary’s up, wishing to offer his sword to Lord Baltimore, came sailing up the magnificent river, and as he neared the creek flowing into it on the Maryland side his eyes rested on the high promontory which rose above the water, and into his mind came the great rock of Dumbarton standing above the Firth on the Clyde near Glasgow, and so he gave to his new grant of 795 acres the name reminiscent of home.

Beall named his tract “Rock of Dunbarton,” a spelling that persisted in documents until approximately 1780, when “Dumbarton” became the preferred spelling.

Knowledge of this history prompted Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss in 1933 to name their estate Dumbarton Oaks, combining the grant name, Dumbarton, with the nineteenth-century name of the property, The Oaks.

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Friends and Family: The Bliss Photograph Collection

James N. Carder (August 2016)

Posted on Aug 01, 2016 11:45 AM by James N. Carder |
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Friends and Family: The Bliss Photograph Collection

Lucrezia Bori. Inscribed: "To Mildred and Robert whose friendship has always brought me great happiness. Affectionately, Lucrezia, April 20, 1959." Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.PH.BL.Misc.245).

During their lifetimes, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss assembled a large collection of photographs of their friends, associates, and family. As is evidenced by images of their residential interiors, the Blisses framed and displayed these photographs on tables throughout their homes. Moreover, preserved correspondence shows that the Blisses actively solicited these photographic portraits and gave their own images in exchange. Many of the portraits are signed by noted photographers, including Edward Weston (1886–1958), Pirie MacDonald (1867–1942), and Alice Boughton (1866–1943). The Dumbarton Oaks Archives recently completed a project to scan this collection of 293 photographs and is presently publishing them on the institution’s website.

AR.PH.Misc.002 Bliss Apartment. Archives, AR.PH.Misc.002, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. AR.PH.Misc.044 American Legation Residence, Stockholm, ca. 1927. Archives, AR.PH.Misc.044, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Occasionally, the photographs are associated with correspondence which augments the Blisses’ acquisition of the image. A youthful portrait of Laurence Curtis 2nd (1893–1989) is inscribed “Mrs. Bliss, pleasant memories of Paris 1916–1917, Laurence Curtis 2nd.” and is associated with an undated and somewhat cryptic letter that reads:

Dear Mrs. Bliss, Here’s wishing you and Mr. Bliss a very merry Christmas. This picture was taken just before I went to Paris to the Embassy, and is the last I had taken before the war. I am delighted to have you have it, but I hope you will not put it where it can be seen. You see I am a little ashamed of having shown it to you! Most sincerely yours, Laurie Curtis 2nd.

Interestingly, neither the photograph nor the letter alludes to the poignant events of Curtis’s time in Paris as a twenty-four-year-old. In 1916–17, at the height of the First World War, he served with Robert Woods Bliss in the U.S. Embassy in Paris before joining the United States Navy. During his training, he was involved in a plane crash that resulted in the loss of a leg. He would later graduate from the Harvard University School of Law and become a congressman from Massachusetts.

AR.PH.BL.Misc.145 Laurence Curtis 2nd and Correspondence. Archives, AR.PH.BL.Misc.145, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

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Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev and the Bulgarian Badge Set of the Royal Order for Civil Merit

James N. Carder (July 2016)

Posted on Jul 06, 2016 09:35 AM by James N. Carder |
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Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev and the Bulgarian Badge Set of the Royal Order for Civil Merit

Bulgarian Grand Cross badge set of the Royal Order for Civil Merit, Second Class. Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.OB.Misc.044.a-b).

The Byzantine historian, Alexander Alexandrovich Vasiliev (1867–1953), was a senior scholar at Dumbarton Oaks between 1944 and 1948 and thereafter a scholar emeritus. After his death in 1953, his papers and related materials became part of the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (see Research Papers and Office Papers). Among this collection is a Bulgarian Grand Cross badge set of the Royal Order for Civil Merit, Second Class.

IMG_5611.JPG Box for the Bulgarian Grand Cross badge set of the Royal Order for Civil Merit, Second Class.

Housed in its original velvet- and silk-satin-lined box, the Civil Merit set consists of two badges, one suspended from the Bulgarian royal crown and attached to a grosgrain neck ribbon and the other a pin. Each badge is of enameled silver-gilt and has a white cross with oak leaves and acorns between the arms. The pendant badge is double-sided. One side has a red circular medallion with the monogram ФI for King Ferdinand I, who instituted the Order. Bordering the monogram is a white ring inscribed: ЭА ГРАЖДАНСКА ЗАСЛУГА (“for Civil Merit”) and a star signifying the second class of the order. The reverse side has a red circular medallion depicting the Bulgarian lion rampant with a shield of the Saxon coat of arms on its breast. The white bordering ring is inscribed with the date: 2 ABГУCTЪ 1891 (“2 August 1891”), the date the order was first issued. The Royal Order for Civil Merit was conferred on Bulgarian civilians and, rarely, others for exemplary service or acts of merit that warranted the gratitude of the country.

The Badger Quarterly (October 1937) “U. of W. Historian Given Rare Honors,” The Badger Quarterly (October 1937)

Confirmation that the Bulgarian Grand Cross badge set belonged to Alexander Vasiliev is found in an October 1937 newspaper article, The Badger Quarterly’s “U. of W. Historian Given Rare Honors.” The accompanying photograph shows Vasiliev with the image of the boxed Civil Merit badges superimposed. Interestingly, the article does not chronicle Vasiliev’s receipt of the Civil Merit badges but rather his receipt of an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens, Greece, and the announcement of a publication on Byzantine history by the Archaeological Institute of Prague to be dedicated to Vasiliev.

Reverse side of the pendant Bulgarian Grand Cross badge of the Royal Order for Civil Merit Reverse side of the pendant Bulgarian Grand Cross badge of the Royal Order for Civil Merit

The exact details of when and why Alexander Vasiliev received the Bulgarian Royal Order of Civil Merit badge set is not preserved in the Vasiliev papers at Dumbarton Oaks. However, in 1934, he attended the Fourth International Congress of Byzantine Studies that was held in Sofia. He presided at both the opening and conclusion of the Congress and gave the lecture: “Les trois fondateurs de la byzantinologie russe.” It is likely that his participation at the Congress and his research on Byzantine topics related to Bulgaria offered the occasion for his receipt of the Bulgarian honor.

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Household Linen

James N. Carder (June 2016)

Posted on Jun 02, 2016 03:45 PM by James N. Carder |
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Household Linen


Facts Worth Knowing about Household Linen and Collection of Recipes for Removing Stains, Compiled by W. G. Pilgram, 1921.

Preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives is a pamphlet titled “Facts Worth Knowing about Household Linen and Collection of Recipes for Removing Stains.” Published in 1921, this pamphlet originally belonged to Mildred Bliss’s mother, Anna Dorinda Blaksley Barnes Bliss (1851–1935), and is inscribed on the cover: “Property of Mrs. W. H. Bliss, please return.” Apparently, Anna Bliss gave the pamphlet to her daughter, as the cover is also inscribed: “Valuable. Keep for Mildred.” Possibly, she gave Mildred Bliss the pamphlet to aid in the housekeeping of Dumbarton Oaks, which the Blisses had purchased in November 1920. The printed flyleaf of the pamphlet reads: “Dedicated to the Ladies of America who Admire Fine Linen.”

The number of linens needed for a household the size of Dumbarton Oaks was considerable. On November 14, 1921, Mildred Bliss dictated a memorandum, also preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives, to her housekeeper, Amy Olney. She requested that Miss Olney acquire bed linens and towels for Dumbarton Oaks to include a sufficient quantity for “six masters bedrooms and fourteen maids and eight chauffeurs rooms.” Undoubtedly, knowledge about the removal of stains from this large number of linens would have been paramount for the successful running of the house.

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75 Years Ago This Month: The Change from Domicile to Institution

James N. Carder (May 2016)

Posted on May 04, 2016 11:35 AM by James N. Carder |
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75 Years Ago This Month: The Change from Domicile to Institution


Byzantine Reading Room designed by Thomas T. Waterman, 1941, using two former bedrooms on the second floor of the Main House.

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss’s gift of Dumbarton Oaks to Harvard University in November 1940 included two recently constructed exhibition and library pavilions which were to be the functional center of the new research institution. The Blisses envisioned that the Main House, however, would remain a residence and provide housing for senior scholars and distinguished guests as well as spaces for teas, dinners, and receptions. The house would continue to be managed by a live-in staff of six who had their own living quarters, including bedrooms, a communal kitchen, and a staff dining hall.

By May 1941, it was clear that this arrangement was not going to work. The library had already outgrown the space originally provided for it, and scholars and fellows needed more office space in which to do their work. In a letter dated May 20, 1941 and preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives, director John Thacher wrote Mildred Bliss, who was in California:

What would you think of conceiving of the main house as a whole as the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library? This would seem to me to give added dignity to the library and would stress even more the importance of the library and research activities. It would mean giving up actual living in the house and having all the servants live out and making the six servants’ rooms on the second floor into individual study rooms for the fellows – a space for which they are constantly clamoring. Such a change, it seems to me, would put the emphasis very definitely on the importance of the Research Library and the research activities.

Thacher envisioned housing the ever-expanding library as well as the necessary library staff offices in the Blisses’ former bedrooms and guest rooms on the second floor. On May 27, 1941, he wrote a similar letter to Paul Sachs, Chairman of the Dumbarton Oaks Administrative Committee:

The important thing at this time to decide is whether, in principle, you and the Committee would be sympathetic with the idea of visualizing the main part of the house as the Library. I hasten to say, however, that as I see it, the music room, the oval room, the present library [Study] and the drawing room [Founders Room] would remain unchanged, but it would mean that the service end of the house, as well as the second floor bedrooms, would be completely altered. Therefore, the house would cease to exist as a domicile. As I have dreamt about the possibilities resulting from such a change, I can see both a permanent solution to our Library and Museum problems, as well as giving to the whole institution added dignity and seriousness of purpose.

Predictably, the Blisses were opposed at first to Thacher’s suggestion, although they eventually came to see the wisdom of his plan. On May 27, Mildred Bliss wrote Thacher:

. . . it will save on housekeeping expenses, of course, but lose an important imponderable: it is the Home of the Humanities and not merely a brick building holding books. Either it will be a Day Institution with no sleeping or eating and second-rate servants coming in from the rain to dust the first floor rooms and running out, ill-humoured, to meals. Or it can keep a few beds, a kitchen and a few (3 perhaps or 4) good servants.

Perhaps the Blisses’ opinion of altering the main house from a domicile to a research library was changed by a night letter sent to them on June 2 by their long-time friend, Beatrix Farrand, the designer of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens and a frequent resident at Dumbarton Oaks:

After talk with Thacher feel deeply happy as alterations suggested will give needed working library and study space and leave beauty of library [Study] and drawing room [Founders Room] and music room unimpaired. Heartily approve wisdom of making new library the heart of establishment. Hate to see our bedrooms go but believe solution farsighted and in Oakly spirit. Trix.

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75 Years Ago this Month: Mildred Bliss and the Maintenance of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

James N. Carder (April 2016)

Posted on Apr 05, 2016 03:10 PM by James N. Carder |
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75 Years Ago this Month: Mildred Bliss and the Maintenance of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens


Native rhododendrons in bloom at Dumbarton Oaks.

In early April 1941, Mildred Bliss received a letter from Elmer Drew Merrill (1876–1956), a member of the Dumbarton Oaks Administrative Committee and Harvard University Administrator of Botanical Collections and Arnold Professor of Botany. Writing to Mildred at Casa Dorinda, her home in Montecito, California, Merrill wanted to know whether his understanding was correct that the Blisses wanted Harvard to continue to maintain the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. If that understanding was incorrect, he wondered whether the gardens might be turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “experimental stations.” In the letter, he also offered her rhododendrons from the Arnold Arboretum to be planted at Dumbarton Oaks.

On April 10, 1941, Mildred sent her response in a letter that is preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. She dealt first with the rhododendrons:

In regard to the kind offer of rhododendrons, I submit that the only varieties we find desirable for planting at Dumbarton Oaks are the native species, since they are only needed as screens. The beautiful hybrids would only call attention to themselves and, frankly, I see no place for them at present.

She then went on to champion the continued maintenance of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens:

Yes, your understanding is correct, it is our wish that the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks be maintained, and that, where consistent with their present form and development, they should be useful and productive. This they have been for many years.

Finally, she strongly endorsed the university’s decision to employ the gardens’ designer, Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872–1959), as “Consulting Landscape Gardener”:

Mrs. Farrand, whom I am sure you know and admire—as all do who have come in touch with her and her remarkable accomplishments at Yale, Princeton, Chicago, etc.,—has been, as you know, appointed what she is called by her various universities “Consulting Landscape Gardener.” This is most fortunate as it is she who has given form to my daydreams and has laid out the gardens with such ingenious understanding of the grades and seasons that they are now of unusual and harmonious beauty. In fact, the bones are so good that the flower planting can be decreased for economy and yet not seriously interfere with the picture that we have tried to paint and, thanks to her, have succeeded in realizing. It is fortunate that she can continue to give her counsel for the benefit of Dumbarton Oaks as no one can ever be as familiar with its problems as those who have worked upon them since the beginning.

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75 Years Ago this Month: The Big Snow

James N. Carder (March 2016)

Posted on Mar 02, 2016 06:10 AM by James N. Carder |
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75 Years Ago this Month: The Big Snow


Shoveling in front of the White House, 1941.

On March 7th and 8th, 1941, the East Coast was blanketed by a late winter blizzard, much like the one that occurred this January. New York City received eighteen inches of snow and Washington, D.C., was covered with eleven inches, bringing transportation to a near standstill. The Byzantine historian Henri Grégoire, whom Dumbarton Oaks had engaged to deliver a public lecture on March 7th, travelled by train from New York City on the day he was to deliver his lecture, “On the Eve of the Crusades: the Chanson de Roland and Byzantium.”

In correspondence dated March 9th and preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives, librarian Barbara Sessions wrote the Blisses, who at the time were in California:

Friday came a great and beautiful snow. Traffic was completely disorganized, and poor Grégoire, who has himself, as you know, been ill, arrived just in time for his lecture after an hour and a half spent in getting across the city from the station. Only a hand full of people managed to get to the lecture [but] there was a small band of the faithful—who were richly rewarded!

She continued with news of what she termed “this fantastic blizzard,” allaying possible fears that the storm had caused harm to the gardens. She told the Blisses that head gardener, James Bryce

says the snow and ice have not done much damage. Tree buds were not far along; in fact, it will be one of the years, so he says, when everything comes out suddenly and all at once.

The inevitable “calm after the storm” was reported in the March 10th issue of the Underground Courier, the occasional newsletter that the Dumbarton Oaks staff sent to the Blisses in California:

Weather Report. After a week-end of magnificent storm, today it is as if nature had stopped all the wheels for a while to show how benign she can be. The sun is high and warm, the air still and limpid, with no wind. All about is a peculiarly gentle sound of quietly melting snow: little settlings and shiftings—a “noiseless noise.” The snow slips off the trees and bushes. The winter jasmine shows its bright yellow blossoms again, and the faint blur of coming buds softens the outline of most of the trees. (The snow and sleet, by the way, did no damage. At least, so far as one can see.)

The North Vista at Dumbarton Oaks under snowfall. The North Vista at Dumbarton Oaks under snowfall

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75 Years Ago this Month: The First Junior Fellows Arrive

James N. Carder (February 2016)

Posted on Feb 02, 2016 11:45 AM by James N. Carder |
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75 Years Ago this Month: The First Junior Fellows Arrive


Alison Frantz at the Athenian Agora Excavations, 1947.

Although the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection had transferred to Harvard in November 1940, the first Junior Fellows did not take up residency until early February 1941. They remained at Dumbarton Oaks through May. This first class of Junior Fellows was five in number. All but one had recently received a doctoral degree in a Byzantine or Byzantine-related field, unlike present-day Byzantine Studies Junior Fellows who come to Dumbarton Oaks as graduate students to research and write their doctoral theses.

In this first term, the stipends were $800 per semester for those Junior Fellows who did not reside at Dumbarton Oaks and $640 for those who were in residence. No meals were provided that first semester, although plans were underway to open a kitchen and dining room in the fall of 1941.

Describing the arrival of the first Junior Fellows to Mildred Barnes Bliss, who was then in California, Director John Thacher wrote on February 5, 1941:

Lester Houck, the first student in residence, arrived last Friday, and is apparently very happy in the quarters [Fellows Building, now Guest House]. Several members of the American Council of Learned Societies who were here last Saturday for tea and to see the collection spoke very highly of him and said that he was exactly the type of person who should be here and that if all of our students were of the same quality, Dumbarton Oaks would be setting a very high standard in scholarship. Then yesterday, Miss Florence Day, who is chiefly interested in Persian and Islamic art arrived. I put her into the room formerly used by Miss Godden as a sitting room, as Miss Godden assured me that she did not need the room at all. As it has its own bath and is separate from the other rooms on the third floor, it was most convenient to be able to use it. I did not want to put her down in the garage [now Refectory] all alone. Professor Morey is scheduled to arrive on Sunday with two of his pupils [Edward Capps Jr. and a Mr. Kendig; the latter never arrived]. Morey, of course, will be in the house, and the two students will be in the quarters with Houck. This will fill up one end of the quarters. I doubt whether there will be any more resident students this year. [Henri] Focillon is particularly happy about this as he, as well as [Wilhelm] Koehler, feel that for this year at least it is wise not to have too many. [There would be, in fact, two additional Junior Fellows that first semester: Alison Frantz and Virginia Grace Wylie.]

Who were these first Junior Fellows? The Fellows dossiers and related documents in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives provide the following information.

Lester Clarence Houck (1911–1980)

Lester Houck, the first Junior Fellow to arrive at Dumbarton Oaks, studied classical philology at the University of Michigan, receiving BA (1934) and PhD (1937) degrees. He came to Dumbarton Oaks to prepare his dissertation, “The History of Leo Diaconus, An Edition,” for publication. In 1937, Houck had received the Prix de Rome, and he was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome between 1937 and 1940. His work on the tenth-century Byzantine historian, Leo Diaconus, which consisted of translations and annotations, was intended for publication by the Société d’Édition Les Belles Lettres under the direction of Henri Grégoire. The Second World War, however, foiled this plan, and Houck never brought the work to press.

All of the following descriptions of the Junior Fellows are quoted from the Underworld Courier (Vol. 1, no. 17, June 5, 1941), the occasional newsletter that the staff of Dumbarton Oaks wrote for the Blisses in California. Houck is described thus:

As previously mentioned in an earlier issue of the Courier, he is six feet, six inches tall. He lowers his head when going through many a door; is lean—as so tall a person is apt to be—with a head which is distinguished in an intellectual way. The written word, the recorded thought, is his absorbing passion. Perhaps his selections from the research library are along certain definite lines, but from the general literature sections, he borrows, 4 or 5 at a time, books ranging from Dante and Gerard Hopkins to Harold Nicolson and Maurice Baring. His humor is plentiful, if pedagogic, and though his scholastic opinions appear to be quite firmly established, he has a pleasant receptivity to the potential usefulness of books with titles such as: - Mazes and Labyrinths . . . Origins of Applied Chemistry . . .

Florence Eli Day (1908–1990)

Florence Day was an Islamic art specialist who had been born in Beirut, then part of Syria. She was educated at Vassar College (AB, 1930) and Radcliffe College (MA, 1931). She had worked on the 1936 Princeton Institute for Advanced Study’s excavation at the Islamic site of Gözlükule at Tarsus in Turkey before receiving her doctorate in Islamic art from the University of Michigan (1940). She came to Dumbarton Oaks to work on a paper, “The Islamic Finds at Tarsus,” which she published in Asia in 1941 (vol. 41, pp. 143–46). At the time of her fellowship, the male Junior Fellows inhabited the Fellows Quarters (later called the Fellows Building and now called the Guest House), and it was thought unseemly for both men and women to live in the same building. For that reason, Day occupied a bedroom in the servants’ quarters on the third floor of the Main House at Dumbarton Oaks. Florence Day was the only one of the first Junior Fellows to continue her fellowship into the 1941–42 academic year.

Called “Flossie” by her colleagues and “Florence, mon enfant” by Maître Focillon. Above average height. Square lines. Her long blond hair cascades over her shoulders and falls across her forehead in a heavy bang. Behind thick glasses is discoverable a pair of very blue and smiling eyes. Her teeth are white and even, and her voice, which is without any trace of harshness, carries, usually, in its flow an agreeable mixture of words and low laughter. She was born in Beirut, where her father was head of the American College, and where she lived till she was eighteen years of age. Her parents are now both dead, and one gathers that she is very much on her own and has, at times, had a hard time making two ends meet. Her clothes are simple and often delightful. For example, little straight coats of some Eastern cotton material, in beautiful colors, sometimes quilted in a free design.

Edward Capps Jr. (1902–1969)

Edward Capps received his AB (1924), MFA (1927), and PhD (1931) degrees from Princeton University and came to Dumbarton Oaks to prepare his dissertation on late antique and early Christian ivories for publication. At Princeton, Capps had been the student of Charles Rufus Morey. However, he had disagreed with Morey’s view that Byzantine art stemmed either from neo-Attic or Alexandrine models and declined to have Morey supervise his dissertation. After his fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks, Capps became a member of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies and continued to teach at Oberlin College, where he held a joint appointment in the classics and art history departments between 1927 and 1968. He never published his work on ivories.

Not tall. Round lines, ever a suggestion of a paunch. Looking rather like an accountant, or a clerk—a Dickensian clerk. He bounced a little. Apparently, a methodical and self-serving worker. (We cannot remember his ever asking for anything.) That his specialty and love should be Byzantine ivories is—at first glance—surprising. One might have surmised that he would have turned to coins, or counting threads in fabrics, or determining the alloy content of metals. His sister is married to an Englishman, a Mr. Hill, who was the British representative of the American Express Company in Athens, and also one of the distributors of the Vanderbilt supply fund. His story of their escape from Athens, not neglecting to dole out supplies as they fled, was heard over the radio and was printed in the newspapers. A cable was received from Cairo telling of their safe arrival there.

Alison Frantz (1903–1995)

Alison Frantz studied Latin at Smith College (AB, 1924) and Byzantine archaeology at Columbia University (PhD, 1937). Before and after becoming a Junior Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, she was an excavator and the staff photographer on the American School of Classical Studies’ excavations of the Agora in Athens, from 1933 to 1968. In the early 1940s, after her Junior Fellowship, Frantz worked closely with the Washington, D.C. Office of Strategic Services to keep them informed about the political and military situation in Greece. With the conclusion of the Second World War, she became a cultural attaché of the United States Embassy in Athens (1946–49), helping to establish the Fulbright program in Greece. At Dumbarton Oaks, Alison Frantz also resided in a bedroom in the Main House.

Dark and powerful. A short face with beetling brows and a small but determined chin. She drives her own car, a convertible roadster, and to see her drive up to the museum entrance, park her car, stop the engine, slam the door, walk swiftly across the sidewalk and up the steps is to be convinced once and for all of the coordination of her reactions and the economy of her movements. She has sufficient composure to be silent and unsmiling for long periods while in a group; on the other hand, she may be seen striding along with, for instance, the long-legged Dr. Houck, talking with apparent conviction and eagerness. She wears very good sport clothes; sweater and tweed skirts, low-heeled shoes.

Virginia Grace Wylie (1912–1998)

Virginia Wylie was the last of the Junior Fellows to arrive at Dumbarton Oaks. As there was no accommodation available for her in the Main House, she took a boarding room in Georgetown. She attended graduate school at Princeton University but did not complete work for her doctorate. A student of Charles Rufus Morey at Princeton, Wylie came to Dumbarton Oaks to work on a late medieval Flemish shrine. She published her research in an article, “A Copper-Gilt Shrine in the Museo Sacro of the Vatican Library,” in the Art Bulletin 27, no. 1 (March 1945), 65–66. In 1946, Wylie married the medievalist art historian Donald Drew Egbert. She later became a member of the research staff of the Index of Christian Art at Princeton University.

Small: very pretty and dainty. Blue-gray eyes and dark hair which she wears low at the nape of her neck. Finally modeled profile and well-proportioned figure. She was born in Iowa, spent some early years in Philadelphia and the later ones in New York. Her voice has a surprising resonance and her speech rhythm is distinctly individual. Our only 1941 fellow who has not a doctorate, but one can sense that her eager eyes and fixed on that goal and that her energy and will are in service to transport her along the road.

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75 Years Ago this Month: The New Dumbarton Oaks Bookplate

James N. Carder (January 2016)

Posted on Jan 14, 2016 04:21 PM by James N. Carder |
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75 Years Ago this Month: The New Dumbarton Oaks Bookplate


Robert Woods Bliss’s drawing for the Dumbarton Oaks bookplate (left) and Rudolph Ruzicka’s 1941 bookplate proof (right). Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

After the legal transfer of Dumbarton Oaks to the President and Fellows of Harvard College on November 29, 1940, a variety of institutional changes needed to be made. One necessary change was the creation of a new institutional bookplate for the eleven thousand volumes, formerly part of the Blisses’ private library, that were now the property of the research institute. The commission for the new bookplate design went to Rudolph Ruzicka (1883–1978), a Czech-born American illustrator and engraver. Ruzicka previously had designed Robert Bliss’s bookplate. He also in 1935 had created for the Blisses an engraved plan of the Dumbarton Oaks estate, which included thirty-eight vignettes of the gardens. Robert Bliss spearheaded the new bookplate project and in late December 1940 sent Ruzicka a rough sketch having two shields at the center and oak-leaf and acorn clusters in the four corners. Ruzicka surrounded the two shields with laurel leaves for Harvard and oak leaves for Dumbarton Oaks and added the Harvard and Bliss mottos, Christo et Ecclesiae and Quod Severis Metes. When in January 1941 the newly-designed bookplate was sent to the Blisses in California, they wrote back saying they were very pleased and that the bookplate was “distinguished, interesting and unusual.”

The question arose, however, how to deal with the fact that most of the books that had transferred to the research library already had both Mildred Bliss’s and Robert Bliss’s bookplates in them. Director John Thacher wrote the Blisses in California suggesting two possibilities: (1) that the new bookplate accompany the Blisses’ personal bookplates, thus indicating that these were books that the Blisses had acquired for their own library and then conveyed to Harvard University and (2) that the bookplate be put only into those books acquired after the transfer. With the second solution, he recommended putting “a small, little bookplate with just the words ‘Dumbarton Oaks Harvard University’” into the Blisses’ former books. This was the solution that was adopted.

Book endpaper with the bookplates of Mildred Bliss, Robert Woods Bliss, and Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library. Book endpaper with the bookplates of Mildred Bliss, Robert Woods Bliss, and Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library.

The legal status of Dumbarton Oaks, however, would change again on June 9, 1941, when the property was deeded from the President and Fellows of Harvard College to the Trustees for Harvard University, Inc., a District of Columbia corporation. Eventually, to reflect this change, in 1955 Ruzicka was asked to redesign the bookplate to include the name of the Trustees for Harvard University and the year of the incorporation, 1941. Ruzicka’s new design was quickly approved.

Original bookplate (1941–1955) and re-designed bookplate prototype (1955). Dumbarton Oaks Archives. Original bookplate (1941–1955) and re-designed bookplate prototype (1955). Dumbarton Oaks Archives.

This new bookplate would be added to all existing books and to all books acquired in the future.

Book endpaper with bookplates of Mildred Bliss, Robert Woods Bliss, Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library, and Trustees for Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library. Book endpaper with bookplates of Mildred Bliss, Robert Woods Bliss, Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library, and Trustees for Harvard University – Dumbarton Oaks Library.

Rudolph Ruzicka plan and vignettes of the Gardens of Dumbarton Oaks, 1935. Dumbarton Oaks Archives, AR.AP.GG.SP.015. Rudolph Ruzicka plan and vignettes of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, 1935. Archives, AR.AP.GG.SP.015, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

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