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Hans Peter L’Orange Remembers His Year at Dumbarton Oaks, 1950

Posted On June 15, 2017 | 14:03 pm | by Dumbarton Oaks Archives | Permalink

Hans Peter L’Orange (1903–1983), an art historian and classical archaeologist, was a visiting scholar in the Byzantine Studies program at Dumbarton Oaks in 1949–50, and he participated in the 1950 symposium, “The Emperor and the Palace.” After his return to Oslo, he wrote the Blisses on July 5, 1950, reminiscing on his year at Dumbarton Oaks. An excerpt from that letter follows:

Some part of my person is still staying with the friends and colleagues at the Dumbarton Oaks, “working in the library and meditating in the gardens”—and will not, in spite of my energetic efforts, acquiesce to the forms and principles of pre-Dumbartian life. The energies of this part of my person would naturally manifest themselves in some written records from the Dumbarton Oaks, its library, collections and gardens and, first of all, its scholarly life. I would prepare these records for some Scandinavian reviews and newspapers, but cannot begin before having the photographs from the Dumbarton Oaks, which I am eagerly waiting for.

At the Dumbarton Oaks it impressed me very much to see, how in a circle of specialized scholars who are supplementing each other, the true reality of knowledge (which was the fortune of earlier generations and modern specialized research has lost) in some way is reestablished. This was perhaps my greatest experience in that beautiful American Platonopolis of Washington which was more successful than that of Plotianus in Campania 17 centuries ago!

When I recall this experience—and my whole stay at the Dumbarton Oaks, not only as a place of study and scholarship, but also of art and beauty, and, last but not least, of what I think is true American friendliness,—I am full of thankfulness to the country, the institution and persons who offered it to me. My special thank is then addressed to you, Mr. and Mrs. Woods Bliss—also for all your kindness to me in your house in Washington.

Speakers at the 1950 Byzantine Studies symposium, left to right, Andreas Alföldi, Francis Dvornik, Albert Mathias Friend, Jr., Hans Peter L’Orange, Ernst Kantorowicz, Paul Underwood, André Grabar (seated) Speakers at the 1950 Byzantine Studies Symposium, left to right: Andreas Alföldi, Francis Dvornik, Albert Mathias Friend, Jr., Hans Peter L’Orange, Ernst Kantorowicz, Paul Underwood, André Grabar (seated)