The Forgotten Olympic Exhibition: Georg Alexander Mathéy’s Contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.Posted: August 2, 2022
BY ALEXANDRA KANKELEIT
Alexandra Kankeleit is a German-Greek archaeologist and historian. She has been researching German archaeology in Greece during the Nazi period for several years. Since July 2021 she has been working for the CeMoG (Centrum Modernes Griechenland) at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she will teach a seminar on the 1936 Summer Olympics in the upcoming winter semester. Here she contributes an essay about the German artist Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968), who lived in Greece in the 1930s and whose work was displayed in the Summer Olympics of 1936.
The Badische Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe (BLB) has held a large part of the estate of painter and writer Georg Alexander Mathéy (1884-1968) since 1993. In 2017, the BLB organized an exhibition, titled Sprachbilder – Bildersprache: Die Künstler Helene Marcarover und Georg Alexander Mathéy, to showcase the works of Mathéy together with those of another artist, the painter and poet Helene Markarova (1904-1992). Both artists, whose work was shaped by the two wars, by migration and alienation, were able through literature to transform images into words, and vice versa. A wonderful accompanying publication provides insights into Mathéy’s life and creative work (Axtmann – Stello 2017).
Trained as an architect in Budapest, Mathéy made his name as an illustrator of numerous books and magazines, achieving commercial success already at a young age. He also designed stamps, textiles, and a Rosenthal coffee service. Two of his stamp designs are still remembered today because of their intense colors and memorable motifs: the “bricklayer” (1919) and the “post horn” (1951). They can be described as classics of German stamp design.
In addition to this modern, highly reductivist formal language, Mathéy also mastered other, more traditional media, primarily in his large-scale watercolors and oil paintings.
I became interested in Mathéy’s largely forgotten contribution to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The starting point is material from the archives of the BLB, which provided new and important information about Mathéy. (I would like to thank the director of the BLB, Julia Hiller von Gaertringen, for her interest and active support in my project. A detailed German version of this article can be found on the BLBlog.) Further information can also be found in an unpublished research paper on Georg Alexander Mathéy, which the designer Ulrike Jänichen completed in 2003 under the direction of Professor Mechthild Lobisch at the Burg Giebichenstein Kunsthochschule in Halle. She kindly made her work available to me.
How did Mathéy come to be associated with Greece?
In 1926 Mathéy met in Leipzig his second wife, the piano soloist Polyxene Roussopoulos (1902-1999), daughter of chemist Othon Roussopoulos, who contributed to the conservation of the bronzes in the National Archaeological Museum (Moraitou 2020). Ιt was love at first sight (as claimed by their son Alexander Mathéy). Polyxene had a very close connection to Germany for family reasons. Her grandparents had lived in Leipzig for several years and German was the predominant language spoken at home. Mathéy, cosmopolitan by nature but also a Transylvanian Saxon of Greek descent (Ματθαίου) from Hermannstadt, in turn, felt a strong connection to Greece. Greek ancestry and Orthodox faith must have also played a role in his decision to move to Greece. He was not the only one. In the interwar period, several German artists who were particularly enthusiastic about the country’s landscape, culture, and extraordinary light came to Greece. These included, for example, painters Alexander Mohr and Conrad Westpfahl, and photographers Herbert List and Hermann Wagner (the last also worked in the Athenian Agora excavations).
In 1931 Georg and Polyxene moved to Greece. He was to remain there until December 1940. The Greco-Italian War, the invasion of the Wehrmacht, and the subsequent occupation of Greece from April 1941 to October 1944, ended his stay in Greece and also led to his separation from Polyxene, who did not want to leave her homeland under any circumstances.
What role did Greece play in Mathéy’s artistic work?
Mathéy’s love of Greece is evident in numerous paintings, sketches, drawings, and texts, most of which were printed in newspaper articles and books. He was well connected to the so-called German colony in Athens and was highly respected and supported by a number of influential people. These included representatives of the German legation, senior staff of the German Archaeological Institute and the German School of Athens (Deutsche Schule Athen), and several members of the German press. His pleasing, never polarizing style was obviously in demand, so he had no shortage of commissions. Light, almost floating compositions of bright, harmoniously flowing colors were characteristic of his work. His paintings from the 1930s appear serene and calming – far removed from the extreme political and social events in Germany and Greece.
In 1933 he had the opportunity to present his work to a larger audience. Under the patronage of the representative of the German legation in Athens, Ernst Eisenlohr, and following a laudatory opening speech by the director of the German Archaeological Institute in Athens, Georg Karo, Mathéy was admitted onto the Mt. Olympus of contemporary artists in Greece (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K3328D38,116; Reyle 1933).
In 1934, he created a monumental wall mosaic for the German Protestant Church in Athens on Sina Street, which was intended to lend a colorful accent to the subdued style of the Bauhaus building.
The entrance portal is framed by two angels, who serve as a reminder of an important event in German-Greek history: the heroic struggle from 1821 to 1829 by German Philhellenes for the liberation of Greece from Turkish rule (according to the editorial in the Neue Athener Zeitung of April 21, 1935).
Mathéy and the Olympics of 1936
In the run-up to the 1936 Summer Olympics, numerous actions took place in Germany to express the cultural superiority of the German Reich, its progressiveness and modernity, but also its close relationship to ancient Greece. The torch relay, as well as several exhibitions about sports in ancient and modern times, were intended to highlight Germany’s outstanding role as the “guardian of the Holy Grail of the Olympic Idea” (source: the newspaper “Stettiner General-Anzeiger” of December 31, 1934, Carl and Liselott Diem Archive of the German Sport University Cologne). The Nazi regime spared no effort or expense to set in motion a gigantic propaganda machine. During the Olympic Games themselves, from August 1 to 16, 1936, at least eight exhibitions were held in Berlin alone (Führer 1936, 59-64).
One of the most important exhibitions, titled “Sport of the Hellenes” (Sport der Hellenen), took place on the Museum Island in Berlin. It was advertised in all media and would eventually count over 100,000 visitors. Little known and so far barely studied is Mathéy’s participation in this exhibition. In 1935, he had been commissioned by Theodor Lewald, the president of the German Organizing Committee (OC) of the Olympic Games, to produce four large-scale paintings of ancient sites in Greece (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 C 71 3 and K 3328 C 71 10). The “Greek Circle,” a series of romantic paintings of Greece by the Bavarian painter Carl Rottman (1797-1850), must have served as inspiration.
“Sport of the Hellenes”
On July 16, 1936, the exhibition “Sport of the Hellenes” was officially opened in the former German Museum, in the north wing of the Pergamon Museum (Führer 1936, 42). The catalogue and a few surviving photographs give us a glimpse of the selection and arrangement of the exhibits. Plaster casts of famous Greek sculptures were presented in the main hall of the German Museum (Lehmann 2003). These were exclusively representations of male athletes. In addition, there were smaller objects from various German museums, mainly vases, bronze figures, and marble fragments. The exhibition organizers were particularly proud of the fact that all objects (plaster casts and originals) were owned by Germans. However, it was not the German plaster casts that were illustrated in the catalog, but the originals in Greece (Blümel 1936).
Special importance was attached to a plaster-cast model of Olympia by the architect Hans Schleif. It was presented in the anteroom of the exhibition and was originally intended to be framed by Mathéy’s pictures of Greece. Shortly before the opening of the exhibition, those responsible – Theodor Lewald, Theodor Wiegand and Carl Blümel – rejected this plan. To Mathéy’s great displeasure, his paintings were moved to another part of the Museum Island (Axtmann – Stello 2017, 101).
The second part of the exhibition was held in the Neues Museum, which could be reached via an above-ground connecting passage from the Pergamon Museum (for the connecting corridors, see the YouTube film by Katrin und Hans Georg Hiller von Gaertringen, starting at 20:30). The corresponding exhibition space was renamed the “Olympia Hall” at short notice. Mathéy’s paintings with scenes from the Acropolis, Delphi, Epidauros and Olympia were presented together with other items in the skylight gallery of the Egyptian Court in the Neues Museum. Mathéy described the room as a “gloomy box that makes any contemplation impossible” (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 C 71 7). Previously inaccessible, the room had served for storage of plaster casts from Olympia since the 1920s.
About a hundred shots of Olympia by the photographer Walter Hege (1893-1955) were also exhibited in the same room, again to Matthey’s dissatisfaction. His correspondence reveals that he did not particularly appreciate Hege’s work, although a deeper conflict between the media of “painting” and “photography” may have been the underlying cause. In any case, Hege was courted by sports officials and art scholars during the Olympics in a way that certainly aroused envy among his colleagues. “The guy makes a fuss about his photos as if there were no other photographer in the world” Matthey scribbled in his diary (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 A 42,1 and K 3328 D 38,87; December 4, 1935).
Unfortunately, there is no documentation for this part of the exhibition. Only a few photos show the plaster casts of the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, which had already been placed in the skylight gallery of the Egyptian Court before 1936 (Berger 2018, 90-93). On the basis of Mathéy’s correspondence and several newspaper articles, however, it is possible to reconstruct how Mathéy’s pictures and Hege’s photographs were presented to visitors: Mathéy’s pictures were hung on the narrow sides of the room and Hege’s photographs were attached to the “superstructure in the middle gallery,” i.e., presumably on the balustrade of the skylight gallery (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 C 71 20).
In the Olympia Hall of the New Museum, where the completed casts of the pediment figures of the Temple of Zeus hang, are exhibited the four Greek landscapes painted by Professor A. Mathéy on behalf of the Organizing Committee for the XI Olympic Games. Mathéy has lived in Athens for several years. The attempt to create a cycle of decorative Greek landscapes was successful. Mathéy continues a tradition that had been torn off since Rottmann’s Munich frescoes. The views of the present-day Olympia and the Acropolis, the Delphic Stadium, and the theater at Epidauros have the “grand manner” trait essential to decorative painting. At the same time, however, they are painted loosely and lightly, with thin application, with delicate modulations. The technique of breaking the surface into shades and rebuilding it from delicate tones comes from Cézanne. It is treated summarily here. But the colorful atmosphere of the Greek landscape, covered with delicate veils, echoes in us, its grace and Arcadian character.
The impact of Olympic participation: Later success in Greece and Germany.
Although Mathéy strongly resented the banishment of his paintings from the German Museum in the north wing of the Pergamon Museum, he subsequently received great recognition both in Germany and in Greece. Two of his works – “The Acropolis of Athens” and “The Delphic Stadium” – were bought by the Reich Aviation Ministry in Berlin in 1936.
At the end of 1936, the German-Greek Society in Athens organized a special exhibition for Mathéy, presenting his works in Greece. It was very well received both by experts and interested laymen and was even visited by King George II. Reviews in German and Greek newspapers testify to his great success. On February, 4 1937, Mathéy was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of St. George: “H.M. King George II of Greece has awarded the German painter Prof. Georg A. Mathéy, artistic collaborator at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the Silver Cross of the Order of St. George in recognition of his services to German-Greek cultural cooperation. As is well known, Prof. Mathéy created four large paintings of Greek landscapes for the Olympic exhibition, two of which have since been purchased by the Reich Aviation Ministry.” (Extract from the newspaper Neue Athener Zeitung, February 6, 1937, BLB Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 D 38,32).
Eventually and inevitably Mathéy’s fame reached the leading circles of the Nazi state. In 1942 Albert Speer, Reich Minister for Armament and Ammunition, commissioned Mathéy to produce three more paintings with views of Greece. “I am working for Professor Speer on three large Greek landscapes, which will later be used to decorate public buildings,” wrote Mathéy to archaeologist Peter Goessler on October 19, 1942 (Wuppertal Municipal Archives, Nachlass Wilhelm Dörpfeld, NDS 23 No. 16).
Whether Mathéy carried out this commission is uncertain. In addition, his four paintings for the exhibition “Art of the Hellenes” were most likely destroyed during the bombing of Berlin: “How sad that all your beautiful works in Berlin have been destroyed” wrote Lewald to Mathéy on December 25, 1944 (BLB, Nachlass Georg Alexander Mathéy, K 3328 B 545 2). World War II ended the Greek chapter in Mathéy’s life and work. Divorced from Polyxene, he would marry again in 1945 and make a new start in Germany. He continued to visit Greece (and his son Alexander) as his museum pass from 1961 shows. Polyxene Mathéy (a cousin of Greek dancer, Koula Pratsika), an enlightened woman, made a career in Greece both as a music teacher and a choreographer, founding her own dance school and participating with her students in various performances of ancient drama.
Although Georg Alexander Mathéy is nearly forgotten today, he left behind works characteristic of his time, such as his stamp designs in Germany and the mosaic for the German Protestant Church in Athens. These invite reflection and further investigation by modern scholars. The fact that Mathéy and many other European artists, such as the ones mentioned above (Alexander Mohr, Conrad Westpfahl, Herbert List and Hermann Wagner) but also the likes of Piet de Jong and Georg von Peschke, chose to move to Athens in the 1930s, it is indicative of the city’s intellectual life that embraced modernism and avant-garde culture.
Axtmann A. and A. Stello (eds.) 2017. Sprachbilder – Bildersprache: Die Künstler Helene Marcarover und Georg Alexander Mathéy. Begleitpublikation zur Ausstellung in der Badischen Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe vom 12. Juli 2017 bis 30. September 2017, Karlsruhe.
Berger, F. 2018. “Apollon und Zeus in Berlin. Zur Aufstellungsgeschichte der Giebelgruppen vom olympischen Zeustempel,” in: M. Maischberger and B. Feller (eds.), Außenräume in Innenräumen. Die musealen Raumkonzeptionen von Walter Andrae und Theodor Wiegand im Pergamonmuseum, Berlin 2018, 75-102
Blümel, C. 1936. Sport der Hellenen, Berlin
Führer zur Feier der XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936. Herausgegeben vom Organisationskomitee für die XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936, Berlin 1936: digital copy
Hege, W. and G. Rodenwaldt, 1936. Olympia, Berlin.
Lehmann, S. 2003. ” ‘Sport der Hellenen’ – Die Berliner Ausstellung von 1936 und der jüdische Archäologe Alfred Schiff (1863-1939),” in: A. Höfer, M. Lämmer and K. Lennartz (eds.), Olympische Spiele. Olympic Games. Jeux Olympiques, special edition of the journal Stadion: Internationale Zeitschrift für Geschichte des Sports 29, 2003, 199-220.
Moraitou, G. 2020. Othon Rousopoulos and the Early History of Archaeological Conservation in Greece, Athens.
Oppeln-Bronikowski, F. 1935/36. “Die Olympia-Ausstellung ‘Sport der Hellenen’ im Deutschen Museum, Berlin,” in: Die Kunst für alle: Malerei, Plastik, Graphik, Architektur 51/12, 284-288 : digital copy
Reyle, R. 1933. Der Maler Georg Alexander Mathéy (Athens 1933) : digital copy
The story of Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks forms part of Charles Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop, published in 1841. Although Mrs. Jarley is a minor character in the plot, her story gained much popularity in British and American amateur theater and was performed widely at private parties in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Inspired by Madame Tussaud’s famous wax models, Dickens’s Mrs. Jarley was the proprietor of a collection of still wax figures which she displayed on a stage protected by a cord.
In 1873, George Bradford Bartlett (1832-1896), an American from Massachusetts, published Mrs. Jarley’s Far-Famed Collection of Waxworks. Enriched with more characters, real and fictitious, Bartlett’s book is essentially a guidebook for staging amateur performances with animated pantomimes, also known as tableaux vivants. Unlike Dickens, Bartlett’s waxworks were fitted with clockworks inside so that they could move and “go through the same motions they did when living.” Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), the author of Little Women, frequently participated in tableaux vivants, with Bartlett as her stage manager (Chapman 1992).
These kinds of performances were often used as a vehicle for local fund-raising. Socialites such as Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt often hosted tableaux vivants with young, unmarried women of high society performing in various roles (Chapman 1992).
One such performance took place at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), on Christmas in 1903. It is one of these rare instances, where an event described blow-by-blow in a private letter, has also its visual match. In the School’s large Archaeological Photographic Collection (APC), in addition to photos documenting excavation and other fieldwork, there is a small number of images capturing more private aspects of life at 54 Speusippou (now Souidias).
According to the author of the letter, Theodore Woolsey Heermance (1872-1905), the idea of a party inspired by Mrs. Jarley’s Waxworks belonged to Mrs. Fowler, “who had seen and participated in several such.” Heermance was the new director of the School, having started his term in the fall of 1903. Just a year over thirty, he had studied at Yale and was the grandson of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, President of Yale University from 1846 to 1871. Helen Bell Fowler (1848-1909) was the wife of Harold Fowler, the School’s Professor of Greek Language and Literature for the academic year 1903-1904.
If the original idea of a tableau vivant belonged to Mrs. Fowler, it was Edith Hall “who took the matter up with her usual energy and consented to be Mrs. Jarley. Between them and Miss Welch [Welsh] – a member of the British School, who lives at the same pension as Miss Hall- they planned for the different parts,” wrote Heermance to his mother and sister on December 27, 1903. He further described the costumes “as more or less burlesque, otherwise with a limited outfit they would have fallen rather flat.”
Edith Hayward Hall (1877-1943) was the Agnes Hoppin Memorial Fellow and the only female student at the School that year. Having earned a B.A. from Smith College, Hall had enrolled at Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. That Christmas “Miss Hall as Mrs. Jarley was capital and with a big hat on kept up a continuous stream of description of her automations and of banter with the audience” wrote Heermance and went on to describe the wax figures “in the order they were uncovered and set agoing.”
“Darrow was Xerxes in a golden crown and neck ornaments and red robes. His business was to rise from his throne three times as Xerxes is said by Herodotus to have done on one occasion in anger.” Heermance is referring to a passage from Book VII of Herodotus that describes the Battle of Thermopylae: “And during these onsets, it is said that the king, looking on, three times leaped up from his seat, struck with fear for his army” [7. 212].
Fritz S. Darrow a recent graduate from Harvard and holder of the Charles Eliot Norton Fellowship, was writing his dissertation on the history of Corinth after its destruction in 146 B.C., “a work much needed in view of the School’s excavations there.” Recently married, he had also brought to Athens his wife, May Goodall, an English girl from Bristol, who, before her marriage, had taught calisthenics in Boston. In fact, their unconventional wedding in July of 1903 at Windsor Beach, White City, looking out on Lake Ontario, had occupied the columns of many newspapers. “Wedded under an Apple Tree,” Clergyman Not Present at this Marriage,” or “Bride and Groom take the Place of Book and Minister and Marry Themselves” were some of the headlines. The St.Louis Post-Dispatch of August 9, 1903, even ran a full-page with photos of the couple and Buddhist buildings in the background. The subheading clued in the reader that the unusual ceremony was due to the fact that both Fritz and May were Theosophists. Founded in the late 19th century by Russian immigrant Helena Blavatsky, theosophy is defined as a new religious movement that drew from Neoplatonism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
The next “wax figure” to appear in the show was Sappho enacted by Margery K. Welsh (1880-1960), a student from the British School of Archaeology. “Miss Welch was Sappho, all in a white Grecian costume (otherwise a sheet) with a lyre. She had to throw herself off a crag and then be set up on her crag again ready for next time.” With a B.A. from Newnham College, Welsh spent several months in Greece in 1903-04 studying portraits and honorific statues which she published as an article the following year.
Sappho’s act was followed by that of a famous couple, Lord Byron and the Maid of Athens, also known as Zoe, since the last line of each stanza in Byron’s famous poem “Maid of Athens” ends with “Ζωή μου σας αγαπώ” (My life, I love you). “Mrs. Darrow and Hastings were Ζώη μου and Lord Byron. She was in native Greek costume (borrowed for the occasion) and he in more or less Byronian attire. She had a heart of pasteboard covered with red paper which she was thrusting toward him repeatedly while he as often raised his arms to seize it.” Of Mrs. Darrow, the newlywed bride of Fritz Darrow, I have written above. Her real-life Byron was Harold Ripley Hastings, a second-year student at the School and a Fellow of the Archaeological Institute. Unknown to me was that Hastings was studying material from Harriet Boyd’s excavations in Kavousi in 1900. According to Heermance’s annual report, “Hastings […] was busy in the early part of the year on some original material contained in a Bronze Age deposit from Avgo (near Kavousi) in Crete” (AR 1903-04, 20).
“Then came Battle, really the most comical figure of the lot. He was the infant Heracles strangling the serpents. He is smooth-shaven and quite bald and was simply killing in his baby dress with pink ribbons at the neck. We rigged up a cradle with the library wood box and excavation comfortables and the fact that it was a snug fit made it all the funnier. The serpents were constructed by Mrs. Fowler and were very effective” scribbled Heermance. A professor of Classics at the University of Texas (UT), William James Battle (1870-1955) was one of the older members of the group.
Baby Herakles was followed by Columbus. “Caskey was Columbus and devised himself a most fetching costume with red bands on doublet and trousers and an ermine cloak –someone’s golf cape with canton flannel inside spotted with ink. He had an egg which was flattened below to stand alone on a table. His acting was the best of anybody’s.”
Lacey Davis Caskey (1880-1944), a graduate of Yale and a Fellow at the School, was working on a dictionary of technical words used in Greek architecture and building. He also completed an inventory of inscriptions found in the Corinth excavations until then (383 in number) and brought up to date the collection of squeezes (AR 1903-04, 25). (In the ASCSA Archives, there is a shoebox with more than 500 notecards, titled “Caskey – Heermance Catalogue of Architectural Terms, 1904.” I also wonder whether some of the Corinth squeezes housed in the ASCSA Archives form part of the collection that Caskey made in the early 1900s.)
“Next came Stevens as Miss Muffet. He is quite short and with a big hat, a white dress (it did not come together at the back, that didn’t show) and white stockings was a very pretty girl. A big spider was let down by a cord at the proper time.” Trained as an architect and apprenticed in McKim, Mead, and White, one of the best architectural firms in America, Gorham Philipps Stevens (1876-1963) was appointed as the School’s first Fellow in Architecture in 1903. Although the main reason for the creation of this new fellowship was the need to create plans for the Corinth Excavations, Heermance assigned Stevens the task of drawing the Erechtheum which was being restored by architect Nicholas Balanos. The scaffolding that had been erected about the building offered a unique opportunity for its detailed measurement and drawing in preparation of a much-desired new publication of the monument. “Everyone who has seen the drawings is loud in their praise…” Heermance reported (AR 1903-04, 22).
“The last was a group of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra. Agamemnon (Mr. Harold North Fowler) with royal pillow on head was discovered seated in a bath tub, covered with a sheet and holding in either hand, a sponge and a bar of soap. Klytaimnestra (Robert Cecil McMahon), in a Mycenaean skirt, stood behind with a raised double-headed axe ready to slay Agamemnon.”
A professor of Greek at Case Western University, in addition to being the School’s Annual Professor that year, Harold North Fowler (1859-1955) also carried the honor of being the first student at the American School in 1882-1883. (Thanks to Curtis Runnels and Priscilla Murray, Fowler’s notebook from his first year at the School is now part of the School’s Archives.) While in Athens he lectured in the museums twice a week on sculpture, “but deliberately curtailed his course because ‘there seemed to me to be too many lectures’-a belief with which Heermance heartily concurred. ‘The lecture-going habit of the American student is notorious in Athens.’ Heermance expressed himself as strongly in favor of ‘independent research’” (Lord 1947, 110-111). I suspect that there must have been more to these statements but I don’t know what. Perhaps another sculpture specialist from the English or German schools competing with Fowler? Fowler also assisted in the measurements of the Erechtheum, which also gave him the opportunity to study closely the fragments of the building’s frieze. Robert Cecil McMahon, with a B.A. from Wesleyan and an M.A. from Columbia University, was in Athens to study the development of portraiture in Archaic Greek Art.
Special mention is given to Mrs. Jarley’s assistant, who was no other than Heermance, to his slight disappointment. “Rather to my sorrow I was picked out as Mrs. Jarley’s assistant who would go up the figures, set them on their pins when they toppled over, and when not needed for anything else kept busy oiling or dusting them. I was supposed to be willing but stupid. I should have preferred to be a wax figure, but not having any valid objections took the part assigned me. My uniform I am proud of. I had a pink stripe sewed down each trouser seam, a white coat (my old standby) with pink frogs across the front and pink stripes on the collar and sleeves and on the back wJw (for ‘Jarley’s Wax Works’). I borrowed a yachting cap of Darrow and decorated that with pink also. All together it was most fetching […]. On the coat, on each side, were further three huge buttons as big as small saucers. A folding collar turned up made a collar as high as my ears” Heermance described himself with a touch of gusto.
Theodore Woolsey Heermance, a graduate of Yale (1893), had already spent two years at the School from 1894 to 1896. After finishing his doctorate in 1898, he was made Instructor in Classical Archaeology at Yale and was serving in that position at the time of his appointment to the School as Secretary in 1902-1903. In 1903 he had started his five-year term as director.
Although the performance was staged in the library, the photos were taken on the roof of the Director’s House, most likely before, in order to make use of the natural light. Amateur interior photography was notoriously difficult for the largest part of the 20th century.
When looking at old photos, one is tempted to fast forward and look into the lives of the people depicted. How did they fare in life? The most unfortunate person of the eleven people in the photo was Heermance, who died of typhoid fever two years later in Athens on September 29, 1905. He was just 32 years old.
Helen Fowler, who had the idea to organize a party inspired by Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, also died a few years later, in 1909. Her husband, Harold Fowler, continued to return to Athens for research and teaching, in addition to chairing the School’s publication committee, being the Editor of the Corinth Excavation series, and writing and revising the reports on the Erechtheum, which was not published until 1927. In 1925 he would marry the much younger painter and sculptor Mary Zay Blackford (1892-1982) and move with her to Washington D.C. where they both figured prominently in local society. Together they penned a children’s book Picture Book of Sculpture.
“In April 1962 Mrs. Harold North Fowler sent [to the School] the bronze relief head of her husband […] which she made in Cambridge in about 1925. It still hangs on the wall of the entrance hall where all who enter may be reminded not only of the distinguished career in classical studies and services to the School of its first student in 1882” wrote Lucy Shoe Meritt in the second volume of the School’s History (1984, 95).
Two months after the Christmas party, Edith Hall was invited to join Harriet Boyd’s excavations at Gournia. This was a defining moment in Hall’s academic career since she would carry on in Boyd’s steps, directing more excavations in East Crete (Sphoungaras in 1910 and Vrokastro in 1912) and pursuing a career in archaeology.
Upon her return to England in 1904, Margery Welsh married Augustus Moore Daniel and moved to Rome for a few years, while Daniel was the librarian at the British School at Rome. He later served as Director of the National Gallery in London (1929-1932) [Gill 2002].
Harold Hastings, who played Lord Byron, opted for a career in the insurance business after getting his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Lacey Caskey and Gorham Stevens, Columbus and Miss Muffet respectively in Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, would continue their association with the American School, especially Stevens who served as Director both of the American Academy in Rome (1912-1932) and of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (1939-1946), and whose drawings formed the core of the Erechtheum publication in 1927. Lacey Caskey’s son, John (Jack), became a famous field archaeologist excavating two major prehistoric sites, Lerna and Kea, and served as the School’s Director from 1949 to 1959.
Baby Heracles, William Battle, taught classical languages at the University of Texas for more than four decades. Battle Hall at UT was named for him. Robert Cecil McMahon, the funny Klytaimnestra, made a career as a book dealer and an authority on classical books before dying of mastoiditis in 1929 at the age of 49.
I left the Darrows for the end. They continued to make the headlines in newspapers with their unconventional lifestyle and their sensational divorce. In 1910, Fritz sued Drury College for having been fired because of his religious beliefs. “Prof. Darrow alleges that he was expelled from his professorship without cause and that he was slanderously accused in sermons and other public statements and was called an ‘atheist’ and ‘scatter-brained.’ He fixes the actual damages at $10,000 and demands $40,000 punitive damages” (St. Louis Post Dispatch, July 3, 1910). The case did not conclude until 1914 when the Missouri Supreme Court held that Darrow had not been slandered. Although Drury had become nonsectarian (in order to take advantage of the Carnegie Foundation teacher’s pension fund), the judge claimed that they were “yet unable to conceive of the avowal by a college teacher of devotion to a cult such as theosophy…”.
Meanwhile, Fritz and May had already moved to California where they joined a colony of theosophists run by Katherine Tingley at Point Loma (Lomaland). In early 1917, the local newspapers in California were occupied with the sensational Darrow divorce, running headings such as “Denials Mark Darrow Trial,” “The Correspondent Tells of Point Loma Affairs” and featuring photos of May Darrow and her “rival” Alice Pierce in a love triangle. Fritz was forced to depart from the community and also lose custody of his children after his divorce in 1918 ( Kirkley 1997; Ashcraft 2002).
I was able to track down Darrow again a year before his death in 1929. “Girl of Three Killed in Bed by Lightning. Daughter of Business School Head Shocked by Bolt at Summer Home” was reported in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), Aug. 29, 1928. Following his divorce Fritz moved back to the East Coast, remarried, not Alice Pierce from his Point Loma days, and started a new life heading the Darrow School of Business. Less than a year after his daughter’s death, Fritz Darrow, the mighty King Xerxes of Mrs. Jarley’s waxworks, died of heart failure at the age of 47.
Ashcraft, W. M. 2002. The Dawn of the New Cycle: Point Loma Theosophists and American Culture, Knoxville.
Chapman, M. M., 1992. “Living pictures”: Women and tableaux vivants in nineteenth-century American fiction and culture (Diss. University of Cornell).
Gill, D. W. J. 2002. “’The Passion of Hazard’: Women at the British School at Athens Before the First World War,” BSA 97, 491-510.
Kirkley, E. A. 1997. “Starved and Treated Like Convicts” San Diego Historical Society Quarterly 43:1 (https://sandiegohistory.org/journal/1997/january/theosophical/)
Lord, L. E. 1947. A History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1882-1942, Cambridge, Mass.
Meritt, L. S. 1984. History of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 1939-1980, Princeton.
BY CURTIS RUNNELS – PRISCILLA MURRAY
In February 2022, Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, contributed to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story (The Cretan Idyll of Harriet Boyd and Charles Henry Hawes) about their purchase of a sketchbook from the early 20th century with watercolors depicting places and people on Crete. At the time, they identified Charles Henry Hawes as the owner of the sketchbook. Soon after their essay was published, they received a communication that cast doubt on the identity of the owner. After doing more research, they felt that they should publish an addendum to their previous essay, in order to let people know that they were probably wrong in their identification, and also open the floor for further discussion concerning the ownership of this precious item.
At a dinner in London in the nineteenth century, the social scientist Herbert Spencer is reported to have said that he had once composed a tragedy, to which the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley quickly replied “I know what it was about: an elegant theory killed by a nasty, ugly little fact.” Our blog “The Cretan Idyll of Harriet Boyd and Charles Henry Hawes” is such a tragedy. From circumstantial evidence we had concluded that a sketchbook in our collection was once owned by Charles Henry Hawes. But now archaeologist Vasso Fotou, who has a copy of Henry’s diary for the spring of 1905, has informed us that the dates in our sketchbook for that time period and the ones in Henry’s diary do not match. That fact proves that the sketchbook was not owned by Henry.
On the dates of the paintings and other sketches of the Aegean islands between Siteia and Athens in the sketchbook, Henry was on Crete. He had been on Crete for a few days when a group of attendees of the First International Congress of Archaeology in Athens, including Harriet Boyd, Sir Arthur Evans, and twelve others arrived in Candia aboard the chartered yacht Astrapi on April 13. Henry visited Harriet at Gournia on April 20, however, and not on April 16 as we had thought, and he remained in Crete after the Astrapi returned to Athens.
The dates in the sketchbook for 1905 suggest a short trip to Crete, and we now believe that it belonged to one of the twelve passengers on the Astrapi. The yacht continued on to the Bay of Mirabello and Siteia, allowing some of the passengers to visit the excavations at Gournia and Palaikastro before the yacht returned to Athens via the islands. Who was in that party of travelers and who could have been the owner? And which of these people is also responsible for the paintings, pencil drawings, and other pictures in New England in 1915 and 1916? It should be noted that the artworks in the sketchbook for both periods are of highly variable quality, and two pencil drawings (one of a sculpture of Heracles in the Mykonos Museum dated to April 20, and one undated portrait of the head of a man who might be Henry) are pasted into the sketchbook and are possibly from a different book. Did more than one person paint or draw in the book?
While the sketchbook was not Henry’s, we nevertheless know that the conference visitors were acquainted with Harriet and probably also with Henry whom they would have met on the side trip to Palaikastro where he was excavating. The acquaintance of the sketchbook owner with the Hawes may have been renewed in New England in 1915/1916 and it is possible that some of the portraits in the book are of Henry, Harriet, and their children after all.
We have considered two “suspects,” perhaps Edith Hall or Gisela Richter, both of whom were in Harriet’s circle and both of whom were on Crete in 1905 and who subsequently lived in the U.S. on the east coast in 1915/1916. Unfortunately, in the absence of any evidence tying either one of them to the sketchbook we can only speculate that one of these women, both close friends with Harriet, could be the sketchbook owner.
BY ALEXANDRA KANKELEIT
Alexandra Kankeleit, an archaeologist who specializes in the study of Roman mosaics, has also 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 activities of German archaeologists in Greece from 1933 until 1944. Here she contributes an essay about the adventures of the Delphi Charioteer during the German Occupation in Greece.
The Charioteer of Delphi (Ο Ηνίοχος των Δελφών) is one of the best-preserved and most important bronze statues of ancient Greece. Since its discovery in 1896, it has been one of the main attractions of the Archaeological Museum in Delphi. As a symbol of ancient civilization and the eventful history of Greece, it is still a frequently recurring motif in the visual and performing arts (Figs. 1-2).
During the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the Charioteer was promoted together with the Discobolus of Myron and the Boxer of the Quirinal as the prototype of the Greek athlete in antiquity (see Olympia Zeitung 3, July 23, 1936, p. 46). Thus, his face adorned the covers of catalogs and propaganda material circulated in 1936 on the occasion of the Olympiad (Figs. 3-4).
German scholars also increasingly turned their focus on the Early Classical masterpiece. In his Habilitation “Der Wagenlenker von Delphi” (The Charioteer of Delphi), the archaeologist Roland Hampe (1908-1981) pursued his goal of reducing the many “ambiguities, misunderstandings, differences of opinion” concerning the monumental bronze group. His manuscript was completed in August 1939 and published as a monograph in 1941 (Hampe 1941).Read the rest of this entry »
BY CURTIS RUNNELS – PRISCILLA MURRAY
Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University and an expert in Palaeolithic archaeology in Greece, and his wife Priscilla Murray, an anthropologist and Classical archaeologist, here contribute to From the Archivist’s Notebook a story about their purchase of a sketchbook from the early 20th century with watercolors depicting places and people on Crete.
We visited an antiquarian bookfair in Concord, New Hampshire, about twelve years ago and a booth belonging to a dealer from Vermont, who specialized in original artwork, caught our eye. Sorting through piles of miscellaneous materials, we found a few things relating to Greece, and a small (8 by 4 inches; 20 x 10 cm) artist’s sketchbook grabbed our attention. It was displayed on a table opened to a watercolor view that seemed familiar. Surely it was the entrance to the harbor at Herakleion on Crete! And indeed, penciled in one corner was the inscription “Candia,” the older name for the city which both confirmed the identification and provided a clue that the sketchbook, as dealers in antiques like to say, “had some age.” There were other artworks in the sketchbook that are dated to April 1905, and still others with various dates in 1915, and one dated to 1916. The artwork from 1905 was the most interesting for us. Turning the pages of the sketchbook we saw line drawings of dancers at Knossos and a man drawing water from a well in Siteia, pastels of houses labeled Knossos and “Sitia, as well as watercolors and line drawings of Mykonos, Ios, and other Cycladic islands, Sounion, and Athens. The unknown artist was interested particularly in the new Minoan finds from Knossos as is evident from the line drawings of wall paintings and artifacts in the “Candia Museum.”
Although there is no artist’s signature, we guessed that the artist must be someone interesting, perhaps even someone we would recognize. After all, how many Americans or British travelers (the fact that the titles are in English is the reason for assuming the nationality of the artist) were sufficiently interested in Knossos and the Minoans to visit Crete in 1905 at a time when there was much unrest on the island? We bought the sketchbook and took it home to do more research.Read the rest of this entry »