On Finding Inspiration in Small Things: The Story of a Pencil Portrait

My story begins six years ago when we inventoried Bert H. Hill’s collection of photos at the item level. Among the images were early portraits of Hill when he was a little boy, and later, a handsome young man. A graduate of the University of Vermont (B.A. 1895) and Columbia University (M.A. 1900), Hill subsequently attended the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA or the School hereafter) as a fellow for two years (1901-1903). He then secured a job as the Assistant Curator of Classical Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (1903-1905) and lecturer at Wellesley College where he taught classes in sculpture.  Bert Hodge Hill (1874-1958) was only 32 years old when he was appointed director of the ASCSA in 1906, a position he held until 1926.

Bert Hodge Hill, ca. 1910s. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

While processing the images my eye fell on a small portrait (12 x 9 cm) that was not a print but instead a well-executed drawing of Hill’s profile in pencil. On the back, Hill had scribbled “Huybers” and “BHH”.  An initial web search for “Huybers artist” produced four of his pencil sketches in the Harvard Art Museums, a gift from George Demetrios in 1933 (keep the name in mind); the artist was identified as John A. Huybers.

Portrait of Bert Hodge Hill by John A. Huybers, ca. 1915-1920. ASCSA Archives, Bert H. Hill Papers.

Pencil sketch of an old woman by John A. Huybers, Paris 1881. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of George Demetrios, 1933.

It would take multiple web searches and various combinations of his name before I could identify his middle name as Alfred. His name also appeared here and there as an illustrator of a number of books for children or works of historical fiction: Julia Augusta Schwartz’s Wilderness Babies (Boston 1905), George Barton’s Barry Wynn. The Adventures of a Page Boy in the United States Congress (Boston 1912), John McIntyre’s In Texas with Davy Crockett (Philadelphia 1914), and John P. Ritter’s The Crossroads of Destiny (New York 1901).  (Most of these books and their authors are now largely forgotten, perhaps because their genre –the adventures of young boys– is no longer popular or because their authors were not of the magnitude of Charles Dickens or Mark Twain.) Thus far, Huybers appeared to have made a living illustrating books on the East Coast in the early 1900s. From the Library of Congress entries, where he is listed as contributor to these books, I discovered his date of birth and death (1859-1920).

Subsequent efforts to learn more about Huybers failed to bear any fruit; however, over the years I have learned that one often has to be patient when doing archival research on the web. I know from experience that tons of new information is added to it daily, so it pays to conduct new searches every two or three months. My notebooks are filled with partially studied topics marked as “potential essays.” Moreover, as I have written elsewhere, archival research is really about “connecting the dots.” If you are lucky, once in a while, there is a breakthrough or a discovery and, suddenly, everything comes together.

Wandering Tasmanians

Another web search tracked Huybers’s name down in a collection of personal papers in the National Library of Australia: the Patricia Clarke Papers. Clarke (b. 1926) was an author and journalist, who wrote extensively about 19th century Australian women. One of her subjects was Jessie Couvreur (1848-1897), neé Huybers, also known as “Tasma,” after her pen name. According to Clarke, the Huybers were an English family of Dutch origin who migrated to Australia in 1852; most of their children, including John, were born in Hobart in Tasmania. In 1873, John’s mother, Charlotte, took five of her children on a tour of Europe that lasted several years. Perhaps as intended, it appears that very few of the Huybers children returned to Australia after the tour; most of them settled in Europe, earning their living as artists and foreign correspondents to English, Australian, and American newspapers.

In 1881 Jessie published (under the name Tasma) her first novel, Uncle Piper of Piper’s Hill, which earned her considerable success (although her reviewers presumed that the novel had been written by a man). In 1889 there is evidence that she was in Athens, either by herself or with her brother John, because she reported for the “Melbourne Argus” on the royal marriage of Prince Constantine of Greece and Sophia of Prussia.  Up to that point, my various web searches had revealed that John Huybers was an English Australian who had spent considerable time in Europe before he moved to the United States in the early 1900s.

A Memorial Fund

Huybers lay dormant in my notebook for another year until recently, when browsing Louis E. Lord’s History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (Cambridge, Mass., 1947), my eye landed on Huybers’s name in “Appendix V: Funds for General Purposes”: J. Huybers Fund; established 1921; $714.53 (which is the equivalent of about $18,000 today). There was, however, no additional information about why or how this fund was established. When studying the School’s institutional history, I find that the next best tool after the pair of “School Histories” is the collection of Annual Reports; and, sure enough, in the ASCSA Annual Report for 1920-21 (p. 21), Edward Capps, the School’s Chair of the Managing Committee, reported Huybers’s death, as well as some other biographical information:

“[He] was for many years a resident of Greece, whence he sent to the American press, and particularly to the Christian Science Monitor, admirable articles on Greek affairs. He died at Phalerum in 1919 [sic]. His writings showed such admirable sanity of judgement, good information, and genuine philhellenic sympathy and understanding that his friends in America, chiefly those of Hellenic descent, desired to perpetuate his memory in connection with the School, which they highly regard as the permanent symbol in Greece of American-Hellenic unity. We are indebted to Professor A. E. Phoutrides of Harvard University, for conceiving this idea and carrying it to completion, and to His Excellency Mr. Tsamados, then Minister Resident of Greece in Washington for generous assistance. A principal fund of $545 was contributed.”

At last, a real breakthrough in my search for Huybers: not just an illustrator but also a foreign correspondent stationed in Greece during the last years of his life, with strong connections to the School and possibly Harvard (where I found four of his pencil sketches), and a philhellene with ties to the Greek-American community in the U.S.

The Story of an Immigrant Boy

I ran another search, this time through the School’s website, because I wanted to see if his name appeared in any of our collections of personal papers. It did not, but I was pleasantly surprised to find him as an editor, as well as an illustrator, in a book titled: When I Was a Small Boy in Greece, by George Demetrios (Boston 1913). Huybers had edited and published the autobiographical story of Demetrios. At first, I thought that Demetrios was a fictional name that Huybers had invented in order to write a historical novel, but then I remembered that Demetrios was the donor of the four sketches by Huybers to the Harvard Art Museums in 1933.

George Demetrios (1896-1974) was a real person, who would become a sculptor and marry the novelist Virginia Lee Burton (1909-1968). Barbara Elleman, the biographer of Burton, recounted the encounter of Demetrios with Huybers as follows: “In 1911, George, a Greek immigrant, had arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15 with a nametag attached to his lapel… To earn money, George shined shoes on the street. During slow times he amused himself by drawing faces of people he saw. One day a man, illustrator and painter John Hybers [sic], saw George’s sketches, and, very impressed, arranged for him to receive a scholarship, funded by art enthusiast Charlotte Hallowell of West Medford, to the School of Fine Arts in Boston…” (Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art, Boston 2002, p. 15).

Huybers in the Editor’s Preface to When I was a Small Boy in Greece related a somewhat different story regarding his first encounter with Demetrios in 1911: “In the spring of last year, at the house of some Greek friends in Boston I heard a boy of sixteen, who had recently arrived from Southern Macedonia, tell in his own language, to some of his own people, the story of Xenophon’s ‘Retreat of the Ten Thousand’. The boy stood facing his audience. He spoke without a book… he knew the narrative well, and he put it in his own way in the beautiful modern language. I was seated behind the speaker and what impressed me strongly was the attitude and expression of the listeners… the look in their eyes showed their keen interest and the boy held the attention of all for an hour and a half, till he had finished… We spoke French, and he expressed his regret at having had to give up his studies and relinquish the promise of a university education… In leisure hours he told me the story of his boyhood in Macedonia. Then, too, he knew much story and verse by heart…In taking down all the boy had to tell me, I was a careful listener, and I tried to preserve –in the medium of translation—as far as possible, his thoughts expressions and words…”.

Marcia Gronblad: Finnish Girl, by George Demetrios. Cape Ann Museum (Gift of The George Demetrios Revocable Trust, 1990.)

As mentioned above, Demetrios became a well-known sculptor whose works are on display at the Cape Ann Museum in Massachusetts. On the Museum’s web page, one reads: “During his sixty year artistic career, Demetrios had a profound influence on an entire generation of artists who studied under him here on Cape Ann and in his Boston studio.”  In addition, in the possession of the Demetrios’s family is a fine watercolor of young Demetrios, dated 1913, by J[ohn] A[lfred] H[uybers] (B. Elleman, Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art, Boston 2002, p. 16). It’s the one that was used for the cover of Demetrios’s book.

Dispatches from Athens

We do not know exactly when Huybers left Boston for Athens but probably sometime shortly after 1914. By 1915 he was working as a foreign correspondent for The Nation. Through the historical archive of The UNZ Review: An Alternative Media Selection I was able to retrieve 16 of his essays in The Nation. Most of them describe the political situation in Greece in 1916, especially the rift between King Constantine and Eleutherios Venizelos, as to whether Greece should remain neutral during WW I or join the Entente. Of great interest to me (and the readers of this blog) is an essay by Huybers, published on February 1, 1917 and titled: “The American School of Classical Studies at Athens” because it provides a vivid picture of life at the School and in Athens at the time.

According to Huybers one reached the School by taking Tram 15 which, however, brought you as far as the “Athens Normal School of Teachers” (a.k.a. Marasleion): “… taking the first corner on your right by the high wall enclosing the gardens of the Normal School, you come … to the gates of the American School, just beyond the tower of the British School adjoining. The name ΑΜΕΡΙΚΑΝΙΚΗ ΣΧΟΛΗ is carved in Greek letters on the stone pillar on one side of the high green gates of iron open-work, and in English on the other… To the left, pushed out on the hill, are a few small, one-story houses, tinted yellow and pink. In front of them stand some Australian eucalyptus trees, and seen above the tiled roofs a plantation of young pines on the hill gives a relieving note of green.”

He then proceeds to describe the School’s garden giving ample praise to “a great Judas tree, whose wealth of purple flowers is a springtime glory. Myrtles, laurels, and other native plants grow in the garden, and tall shrubs, with white and blood-red flowers.” The great condition of the garden must be credited to Carl W. Blegen who was the School’s Secretary at the time and a passionate gardener. Just a year before, the School had completed its first major expansion which had enlarged the library, added a women’s parlor as well as other space. I found it entertaining that Huybers made special mention of the three bathrooms added to the Director’s house during the expansion (hard to believe now, but until 1915 the Director’s house at the American School lacked an indoor bathroom).

“One of the most American features of the house is the three bathrooms, of the best quality and construction, American workmen and plumbers having come to Athens to carry out the work. The Queen of Greece recently visited the School, and repeated the visit the same week, accompanied by the King, pointing out to him the bathrooms, that were her special admiration. And both King and Queen admitted that the palace and royal summer home had no such faultless installations.”

The entrance to the School, ca. 1902. The Judas tree that Huybers is describing must be to the right. The gates (that have been replaced with simpler ones since then) were designed by Ernst Ziller. Photo: ASCSA Archives.

Huybers also praised the views from the library, when one tired from reading could “step out on the white marble balcony at the end of the library and rest his eyes on the great hill of Hymettus,” including a lyrical description of the mountain view: “The very bareness and barrenness if the mountain becomes a thing of beauty in the vaporous atmosphere—cool and warm grays, pinks, and neutral tints, with purple flying shadows from the clouds above…”. Hard to imagine any of this today, with the large and horrendous mass of Evangelismos Hospital blocking all such southward views.

The School had great views to Mount Hymettus until the 1930s. Here a photo taken from the Gennadius Library, ca. 1930. ASCSA, Archives.

Echoing most likely Hill and Blegen, Huybers could not refrain from adding a comment about the increasing excellence of the American School in comparison with the French School. “The American student may as a rule come less well prepared than the man of the French School, but they ‘make good’ by their initiative and originality, bringing with them the new breath and clear vision of the young Western world.” Hybers backed up this comment with a statement by Wilhelm Dӧrpfeld, an authority in the study of Classical architecture, who reported that in the study of Athenian buildings, the “newest and most original interpretations were the work of the American School.”

The French American rivalry was not limited to just scholarly matters. “The French Government considers the proper maintenance of the French School at Athens as one of the obligations of good government. The American Government leaves such work to the enterprise of its colleges and the practical devotion to ideals of private individuals among his citizens.” Huybers concluded his essay with a line from Plato’s Protagoras: τρέφεται δέ, ὤ Σώκρατης, ψυχὴ τίνι; μαθήμασιν δήπου, ἢν δ’ἐγώ (and what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? Surely, I said, knowledge.)

The Boston Connection

Aristeides E. Phoutrides

The short “obituary” on Huybers in the School’s Annual Report of 1920 also noted the creation of a fund through the initiative of Professor A. E. Phoutrides of Harvard University. The life of Aristeides Phoutrides (1887-1923) deserves an essay of its own (and is duly noted as such in my “Notebook”). I am not sure what to make of the connection between Huybers and Phoutrides, except that the latter, like Demetrios, had also immigrated to the U.S. at a young age. Born on the island of Icaria and having lived for a short time in Egypt, Aristeides arrived in America at the age of 19 without any knowledge of English. After attending Mount Hermon, a preparatory school for students who had interrupted their education, for two years, Phoutrides was accepted at Harvard College where he graduated in 1911 summa cum laude. Three years later he obtained his doctoral degree and an assistant professorship at Harvard.

A big proponent of Modern Greek Studies, Phoutrides, until his premature death in 1923 at the age of 36, travelled to Greece several times and launched several campaigns in the U.S. in order to support Greek national causes. His reputation was such that in 1919 he was offered the Chair of Greek Literature at the University of Athens by Eleutherios Venizelos, which in the end failed to materialize after Venizelos’s defeat in the elections of 1920. I suspect that Huybers must have met the young Phoutrides at one of the gatherings of the Greek American community in Boston about the same time that he “discovered” George Demetrios (ca. 1911).

A Sketchy Life: Hobart, Boston, Athens

Except for the pencil profile of Bert Hodge Hill, the four sketches at the Harvard Art Museums and the one watercolor in the possession of the Demetrios family, I was not able to discover any other original artwork autographed by Huybers. Most likely his papers were not preserved, especially since he moved around so much. There are major gaps in his life, especially until the early 1900s, when we find him working as a book illustrator on the East Coast; by then he was in his early 40s.

Another one of Huybers’s pencil sketches, now at the Harvard Art Museums. It was executed the same year he painted “The Paris Soup Kitchen.” Perhaps it was a sketch for that painting.

A final search through old Australian newspapers produced a letter from Huybers to the Editor of Mercury (a Tasmanian newspaper), written from Boston and published on December 29, 1911. He was offering for sale to the Hobart Art Gallery one of his paintings, “The Paris Soup Kitchen,” from 1886, which was exhibited together with two more of his paintings in the new Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He identified himself as a painter who had been forced “to take book and newspaper work because ‘Art for art’s sake’ did not procure a living.” He wanted to sell because he needed the money for an operation. I have not been able to find what happened to Huybers’s “Paris Soup Kitchen” or any of his other paintings. To judge from his book illustrations, however, he must have been a gifted artist, and Hill must have treasured his little portrait by Huybers.

On September 23, 1920 an obituary appeared in Tasmanian Mail reporting Huybers’s death (as having taken place on May 27, 1920).  I was unable to obtain online access to this document, but it really didn’t matter so much because I had already achieved my real objective which was to draw a rough sketch of Huybers’s life and learn why the School came to own one of his drawings.

 


Schliemann’s Culinary Adventures in Italy

Heinrich Schliemann, a man of the world, ca. 1870. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

A day does not go by in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) without an inquiry about the Heinrich Schliemann Papers. More than one third of the collection has been digitized and made available for research online; still, these inquiries keep coming from all over the world, including destinations as remote as Japan and Cuba.  Though unquestionably a legendary figure, Schliemann’s popularity is largely due to the richness of his personal archive, which remains an inexhaustible source of information for a wide range of audiences: historians, archaeologists, fiction and non-fiction writers, even film producers. (I have written about Schliemann before [Schliemann of Troy: The Story of a Linguistic Genius] and have hosted two posts by Curtis Runnels [Who Went to Schliemann’s Wedding? and, “All Americans Must Be Trojans at Heart”: A Volunteer at Assos in 1881 Meets Heinrich Schliemann], the author of The Archaeology of Heinrich Schliemann: An Annotated Bibliographic Handlist [2007].)

To the rich list of books and articles that have been written about Schliemann I would like to add the recent publications by Umberto Pappalardo, who has been studying Schliemann’s activities in Napoli and on the island of Motya, and Massimo Cultraro’s new book with the sibylline title L’ ultimo sogno dello scopritore di Troia: Heinrich Schliemann e l’ Italia (1858-1890). Before them, in 2012, Elizabeth Shepherd published a comprehensive article about Schliemann’s wanderings in Italy in the fall/winter of 1875, especially his interest in the site of Populonia. Schliemann travelled to Italy seven times, first as a tourist (1858), and later, especially after the discovery of Troy (1871-1873), as a celebrity and potential excavator. He even drew his last breath in the streets of Naples one morning in December 1890. Yet, until recently, Schliemann’s Italian days remained understudied.

Schliemann, who was fluent in Italian (as he was in many other languages), kept detailed travel diaries during his tours of Italy.  In order to shed light on Schliemann’s time on the peninsula, both Pappalardo and Cultraro have conducted thorough research in the Schliemann papers, as well as in other archives in Italy, with great results.  For example, Pappalardo has discovered in Giuseppe Fiorelli’s archive (Fiorelli [1823-1896] excavated Pompei in 1865) that Schliemann in 1874 was negotiating with the Italian authorities for the sale of Priam’s Treasure that he had removed (i.e., stolen) from Troy without the permission of the Ottomans (Pappalardo 2018b). The sale did not take place because the new Italian kingdom did not have the means to buy the Treasure; however, two years later (1876), according to Pappalardo, Schliemann sent, as a gift, 196 stone tools from Troy to anthropologist and ethnologist Giustiniano Nicolucci (1819-1904). Nicolucci would sell them later to the Anthropology Museum of the University of Napoli where they remain today.

The Motya Charioteer, ca. 470-460 B.C. Giusepe Whitaker Museum, Mozia.

What is also little known, at least to the wider public, is that during his third Italian journey (1875), Schliemann was in search of a back-up dig (in case he was not allowed to return to Troy). In this effort he was encouraged by the Neapolitan authorities to look for sites in Italy. One of them was Motya. From 19-22 October 1875, he sank a number of test trenches on the island of Motya at the western tip of Sicily, but was discouraged by the results (Pappalardo 2018a). It is perhaps understandable that the excavator of Priam’s Treasure, who was also not known for his patience, would have bigger expectations. Had he stayed longer, however, he might have discovered the famous Motya Charioteer, which was excavated in 1979.

Cultraro’s book about Schliemann’s journeys to the Italian peninsula is also of great interest because he is concerned with Schliemann the traveler and has looked to his diaries as a source of ethnographical information about Italy in the late 19th century. Even more interesting is the fact that Cultraro has dedicated a separate subchapter, titled “A tavola con Schliemann,” to Schliemann’s dining habits in Italy (2018, pp. 148-152). As expected, most of Schliemann’s culinary comments belong to his first trip in 1858, when he got his first true taste of Italian food. (To judge from his complaints, he wasn’t very impressed.) There are far fewer comments about food during his 1868 trip (I suspect that by then he knew what to expect or avoid). With Massimo’s permission, I am presenting here, in translation, excerpts from this subchapter concentrating on Schliemann’s first trip. (Many thanks to Cecilia Cozzi for the English translation and to Jack L. Davis for editing it.)

At Table with Schliemann
by
Massimo Cultraro*

The diaries that concern his travels and lengthy sojourns in different parts of the [Italian] peninsula are dominated by accurate descriptions of food and of the cost of meals. If we compare these descriptions with those of his travels in other parts of the world, for instance those in the Far East (China and Japan in 1866) or London in 1844, references there to food appear very infrequently or, in some cases, are totally absent. Italy seems to be the place for ethno-anthropological considerations of alimentation, with comments not only on the quality of local products, but also about dining customs (Cultraro 2018, 148-149).

Heinrich Schliemann in1861, three years after his first Italian journey. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

In his descriptions of visits to principal Italian cities, Schliemann, who was careful to maintain a very sober lifestyle and fearful of wasting time, rarely wanted to take breaks. Only once on a very cold and rainy day in November in Rome, did he go into a coffee shop for a hot chocolate, although his true motivation was that he wanted to spend time with a prelate, whom he had asked to help him with grammatical exercises [Diary A3, Nov. 28, 1858]. Schliemann often had meals alone, but it could happen that a lunch was more elaborate, as was the case in the restaurant of a hotel in Baia in spring 1868, when he was eating in a very beautiful landscape and had “maccaroni with two bottles of excellent wine,” the price of which he noted (Cultraro 2018, p. 149).

In Rome, he allowed himself to have a lavish breakfast at the Caffè Greco, frequented by foreigners; “coffee was served with finesse in glasses, prepared with sugar, and cost, without bread, only 2 baiocchi”; there he allowed himself the luxury of reading Il Giornale di Roma. [Diary A 3, Nov. 24, 1858]. He went there very often and his descriptions agree with the accounts of other foreigner travelers and artists who, in the same years, went to the same place. “The room seems to be enveloped in a thick fog,” said the American William Gillespie in 1845, “because everyone smokes and drinks coffee, conversing in a variety of languages with no attention to etiquette” (Cultraro 2018, p. 149).

Schliemann’s description of Caffé Greco, Nov. 24, 1858, Diary A3, page 4. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

Ludwig J. Passini, Artist in Caffè Greco in Rome, 1856. Public domain.

In his Italian diaries, a description of lunch is accompanied by an indication of prices, usually in French florins, according to a habit that he began to follow during his first years in Amsterdam (from 1842), when a lack of economic resources required him to keep strict control over his expenses.

Schliemann did not crave luxury, so long as the cuisine was good and a restaurant was clean. His frequent comings and goings in Rome were usually concluded by a dinner in the restaurant of the Hotel Minerva, where there was good balance between quality of the meals and price. One night, tired from too much walking around the city, he stopped at the restaurant of the hotel, and describes a dinner consisting of “pea soup, meat with legumes, and wine at one’s discretion. An abundant evening meal, to which Schliemann was not accustomed, forced him to retreat to his room, and “having eaten and drunk too much,” he fell into a very gloomy and troubled sleep, and then rose from bed at four in the morning. This was not the first time that an excess of food and wine in Italy compelled him to spend a very tormented night.  Also on Capri, after having drunk three bottles of wine in an unrestrained manner and having eaten excessively, he felt sick and suffered a sleepless night (Cultraro 2018, p. 150).

Hotel Minerva, next to the Pantheon, Rome.

During a trip from Rome to Naples, in December 1858, in Terracina, even though he complained about the excessive price of “six paoli” for a lunch in a “osteria”, he was satisfied with “broth, roasted fish with potatoes, meat, fruit, and bad wine!”

Schliemann’s first contact with Sicily left negative impressions.  He disembarked on December 18, 1858, after a night inauspicious and not to be remembered.  While he was searching the streets of Messina for a restaurant, he found one where he ate “with great disgust and repugnance” because of its filthiness.  The situation seemed to improve some days later in Syracuse, where he had lunch in the restaurant of the Viceroy Hotel, dining on “broth, cabbage with meat, fried fish, sardines, and an omelette” to which he added a bottle and a half of wine.  Even though the meal was excellent and the food abundant, he felt compelled to fight with the owner of the hotel over their expensive prices, following the suggestion of a man from Syracuse who was sitting in the same restaurant. His anonymous dining partner, “a Danish man who spoke Swedish,” also was able to get a better price for full board by bargaining.

Sicily, dominated by the pervasive filthiness of people and things, was the setting for another unexpected experience: when he arrived in the village of Belvedere, near Syracuse, Schliemann took refreshments at the house of a shepherd where he ate “bread, four eggs, wine, and a fruit salad like our cucumbers and very nice.” (Cultraro 2018, p. 151).

His final judgment on the city and its food was very harsh: “…. foods are very bad, broth consisting only of water mingled with vermicelli and cheese, and the thought of the disgusting filthiness in which foods were prepared repeatedly increased my loathing and repugnance.” He repeated the same thoughts even more aggressively, in his account of the following day, when to his description of watery broths, he added that butter was unknown, noting that “everything is fried or roasted here with veal or pork fat and it is a delicacy if something is fried with lard.”

To his eyes, Sicilian cooking seemed to be very fatty and full of oil: “The butter is here sold at 9 tari to the roll of 2 1/2 pounds and it is terrible. Cream and fior di latte are unknown here. Coffee is drunk black because there is no cow milk; the goat milk is already very skim and mixed with still more water is very expensive.”  His complaints, however, end on a positive note: “The only good thing here in Syracuse is the wine which has the strength of a Madeira and the sweetness of muscato wine, although, if while drinking it, one remembers with how much filthiness it is produced, it cannot be drunk without disgust.”

Another unhappy Italian meal for Schliemann, Dec. 23, 1858, Diary A3, p. 59. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

His trip to Catania, nearly eleven hours by coach, brought further disappointment: while referring to the exhausting trip and to its frequent (and useless) stops, he could not help but conclude that “what is the most annoying thing is that in no place was there an opportunity to have something to eat and drink.” Luckily, the trip from Catania to Messina was somehow different and, in the railway station of Acireale, during an exchange of horses, Schliemann did manage to have “goat cheese and two glasses of wine.”

He reëvaluated Sicilian cooking in Messina, where he was invited by the commercial agent Saraceno to his home, together with other foreign guests, including the American consul.  “The lunch was very good,” Schliemann wrote, “broth with meatballs, then fish with butter sauce followed by pasticcio and focaccia, roast beef, sorbetto, roasted chicken, fruit, and more” [Diary A3, Dec. 23, 1858]. This lunch in Messina is his only truly positive comment on Sicilian cooking. Also, in the course of his second trip in 1868, he did not comment on the food, except to remark that, after a trip by boat to Aci Trezza under a burning sun,“ I returned to Catania ,” he noted in his diary, “with a feverish thirst, drank a bottle of beer with ice, and went to bed (Cultraro 2018, p. 152).

References

Pappalardo, U. 2018a. “Heinrich Schliemann a Mozia,” Sicilia Archeologica 110, pp. 109-138.

Pappalardo, U. 2018b. “Heinrich Schliemann a Napoli: note di viaggio e documenti,” Napoli Nobilissima 4:3, pp. 58-64.

Shepherd, E. J. 2012. “Schliemann a Populonia e altrove,” Rassegna di Archeologia 24, 2009-11, pp. 143-165.

Schliemann’s Diary A3 (1858) in the ASCSA Archives: https://www.ascsa.edu.gr/archives/schliemann-diary-a-3


*Massimo Cultraro is Senior Researcher at the National Research Council (CNR), Institute for Archaeological and Cultural Heritage, Catania (IBAM). His main research field is the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age, with reference to the long-term interconnections between Greece, the Southern Balkans and Italy. Since 2007 he has served as scientific director of the Iraq Virtual Museum, an international multimedia project promoted by the CNR and the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (www.virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it). As scientific head, he has also carried out many projects in Montenegro, Portugal and Georgia under the international agreements between the Italian CNR and its international counterparts.

In addition to L’ ultimo sogno dello scopritore di Troia, his publications include L’anello di Minosse. Archeologia della regalità nell’Egeo preistorico (Milan 2001), I Micenei. I Greci prima di Omero (Rome, 2006), and two publications in press: Troy in the Bronze Age (Genova 2019) and a monograph on Scholars at War. The Italian Archaeology during the First World War (Rome 2019).


The Mystery Artist: In Search of François Perilla

The American School’s haphazard art collection continues to fascinate me. It lacks any thematic cohesion and at first glance often makes no sense, because most of the works have little to do with the institution itself. Yet, it remains a source of mystery because these same works are also associated with people who were once deeply involved in the School’s affairs. Before they ended up at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School hereafter), these objects decorated the walls of private houses and were part of those households’ life history. In Janet Hoskins’s Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives (1998), six women and men from Eastern Indonesia tell the history of their lives by talking about their possessions, thus creating an identity for themselves through objects they made, bought, were given, or collected. Our people are no longer alive but many of their possessions are with us, and they have a story to tell us (if we ask them…).

The Blegen-Hill house at Ploutarchou 9, ca. 1960s. ASCSA Archives.

Most of the artwork that hangs on the walls or decorates the mantels of the various buildings of the School comes from two households. One was the residence of two couples, Carl and Elizabeth Blegen (the Blegens) and Bert and Ida Hill (the Hills), who lived together at Ploutarchou 9 (Kolonaki) in the 1930s; the other belonged to the archaeologist George Mylonas and his wife Lela who lived in Saint Louis (Missouri) in the 1930s before they moved back to Greece in the early 1970s. Although both households were set up about the same time, the Blegens/Hills, because of Elizabeth’s personal wealth, began purchasing artwork immediately, while the Mylonases, both younger and refugees from Asia Minor, did not begin acquiring art until the early 1950s. (I have written about the nature of the Mylonas collection in a post titled “The Spirit of Saint Louis Lives in Athens”; on the two couples living at Ploutarchou Street read “The End of the Quartet: The Day the Music Stopped at Ploutarchou 9,” by Jack L. Davis; and Pounder 2015.)

Lately I have been trying to identify the items from the Blegen-Hill household, which came to school almost intact after the death of the house’s last occupant, Carl Blegen, in 1971. Although we have an inventory, the fact that the objects were not photographed or tagged before they were dispersed among the various buildings of the School (including Corinth) makes it difficult to identify their origin today.  Some of the art, such Giovani Battista Piranesi’s “Vedute di Roma,” is easily identifiable, but portions of the collection remain shrouded in mystery.

In addition, we also lack indoor photos of the house, except for the one that shows the so-called “Greek Room.” (Take for comparison the interior of John Gennadius’s house in London, which was professionally photographed, making it easier to identify the artworks from it that came to the Gennadius Library.) Still we are slowly putting together a picture of the life and art at the Blegen residence. In a recent conference about Carl and Elizabeth Blegen, Vivian Florou reconstructed through archival research some of the social life of the house at Ploutarchou 9 during its peak times, before and after WW II (Florou 2015).  In “Skyromania? American Archaeologists in 1930s Skyros,” I identified some of the embroideries and pottery that were once part of it.  In “The Grecian Landscapes of Anna Richards Brewster,” I suggested that an oil by Brewster might also have once been belonged to the Blegens.

Today’s post focuses on another large painting that once hung on the walls of Ploutarchou 9 (item no. 10 in the Blegen Collection), but is now adorning the walls of my new office: a watercolor depicting the temple of Hera at Olympia, signed “F. Perilla 1930”. A quick search on the internet produced a few brief references to auction catalogs that identified him as a French art historian and artist, born in 1874, as well as to two recent translations of books he wrote about Chios (1928) and Mount Pelion (1940). A search in “Ambrosia” (the ASCSA’s online book catalogue) proved more fruitful, with several entries to publications by Perilla.

Temple of Hera at Olympia, watercolor by F. Perilla. ASCSA Archives, Art Collection.

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Professors to the Rescue: Americans in the Aegean at the End of the Great War, 1918-1919.

Islands and coast Asia Minor still crowded with refugees. Stop. Number there still to be repatriated estimated three hundred thousand. Stop. We are maintaining three stations in Mytilene district clothing alone being available, but food urgently needed.  Stop. Above statements based on personal inspection this Commission. Stop. We recommend that work in Aegean be immediately extended to other islands like Chios, Samos and to opposite coast which can be reached by sea transport which can be secured by Greek governments. Stop.”

The text quoted above is a small portion of a long telegram (47 lines) that Colonel Edward Capps sent to Harvey D. Gibson, member of the American Red Cross War Council in Paris, on December 12, 1918 (NACP, Greece, ARC Commission to, 964.62/08). The telegram reported the activities of the American Red Cross (ARC hereafter) since arrival of its Greek Commission in Athens on October 23rd.

This is not the first time I am writing about the activities of the ARC in Greece. In 2011, together with Jack L. Davis, then Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), we organized and subsequently published the proceedings of a conference titled Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience: American Archaeology in Greece (Princeton 2013). Davis’s paper, “The American School of Classical Studies and the Politics of Volunteerism,” discussed the involvement of members of the ASCSA, through enlistment in the Greek Commission of the ARC, in humanitarian aid in eastern Macedonia, as well as in the repatriation of Greek citizens who had been taken as hostages to Bulgaria. Later in 2015, on the occasion of the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli, I was invited to participate in a conference about The First World War in the Mediterranean and the Role of Lemnos, with a paper that discussed the humanitarian activities of the ARC Greek Commission in the eastern Aegean at the end of the Great War. Read the rest of this entry »


“The haughty arrogance of the Nordic people”: A Scandal in the German Colony of Athens on the 20th of April 1935.

Posted by Alexandra Kankeleit

Alexandra Kankeleit here contributes an essay about an unknown episode, almost a scandal, which took place in 1935 in the German community of Athens and involved the local Catholic church and members of the German Archaeological Institute.  Alexandra, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of Roman mosaics, has also since 2016 been part of an extensive project of the German Archaeological Institute (Athens and Berlin), titled The History of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens during the National Socialist Era. As part of the project, she has examined a host of bibliographic and archival sources in both countries that document the activities of the German archaeologists in Greece from 1933 until 1944. A list of her most recent publications can be found on Alexandra’s own website.


A recently discovered episode from 1935 offers a striking picture of the predominant mood in the so-called “German Colony” in Athens following the National Socialist seizure of power in Germany. (“Deutsche Kolonie” was the official name of the German-speaking Community in Greece until the end of WWII.)  It illustrates in dramatic fashion what battlefronts were being drawn up at the time and what the representatives of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens (DAI Athen hereafter) saw as their role in this critical period.

I stumbled more or less by chance upon this incident while carrying out research at the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office). The relevant documents are to be found in a folder that deals with the “Schwarze Front” (“Black Front”) in Greece, an underground organisation that was opposed to Hitler and his policies, and which was founded in 1930 by Otto Strasser (1897-1974), brother of the infamous Gregor Strasser (1892-1934). From 1934-1937 members of the “Schwarze Front” were based in Greece publishing illegal flyers and articles, and encouraging Germans living in Greece to turn away from Hitler. Read the rest of this entry »


Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.

Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section.  And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.

The Elusive Mr. Darbishire

ASCSA Archives, Carl W. Blegen Papers

In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.”  The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:

Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.

Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.

There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age.  Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.

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“They returned… but stay I did”: Doreen Canaday’s Experience of Interwar Greece

I first encountered the name “Canaday” in the mid-1980s when I went to Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. Although we did most of our work in the seminar rooms above the Art and Archaeology Library (now the Rhys Carpenter Library), for books and periodicals about history or classics we had to go to the “big library,” which was none other than the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library.

A few years later when I returned to Greece to participate in the regular program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, or the School hereafter), I heard people referring to Canaday House.  One of the two marble houses flanking the Gennadius Library at 61 Souidias, it housed temporarily the family of the then Director of the School William (Willy) D. E. Coulson. (The big earthquake of 1986 in Kalamata had caused damages to the Director’s residence across the street.)

An ink drawing of the Canaday House at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. ASCSA Archives, Doreen Canaday Spitzer Photographic Collection.

Finally, in the summer of 1990, while digging at Mochlos on Crete, I met Doreen Spitzer on one of the “On-Site with The American School of Classical Studies at Athens” trips that she had been organizing for years, but without realizing that Doreen Spitzer’s maiden name was Canaday. It was only after I started working as the School’s Archivist that I became aware of Canaday Spitzer’s long legacy at the American School.  Doreen Canaday Spitzer (1914-2010) served as a Trustee 1978-1996, President of the Board of Trustees 1983-1988, Trustee Emerita from 1996 and President of the Friends from 1988 until her death in 2010.  (There is a thorough biographical essay about Doreen Spitzer by Catherine de Grazia Vanderpool in AKOUE 63, Fall 2010.) Her father, Ward Canaday (1885-1976), had also served as a Trustee of the School for almost four decades starting in 1937.

Doreen Canaday Spitzer listening to Manolis Andronikos, excavator of the royal tombs at Vergina, 1981. (Between them, barely visible, Machteld Mellink.) Source: ASCSA Archives.

Spitzer also cared deeply about preserving the School’s history and supported wholeheartedly the creation of an Archives Department during her term as President of the Board. Furthermore, she would contact School members, many of whom she knew personally from her time as a student of the School in 1936-1938, to solicit their personal papers.  No wonder why my formal title is the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Archivist. Needless to say that it would have pleased her immensely to see our new and enlarged facilities at the East Wing of the Gennadius Library. Read the rest of this entry »