Beginning in the Spring 2019 semester, a reading group will meet regularly to discuss some of the most influential works of Margarete Bieber (1879-1978), a scholar of the ancient world who produced pioneering research on ancient theater, Hellenistic sculpture, Greek and Roman dress, and copies. In 1927 she became just the second woman in Germany to obtain the title of Professor Extraordinarius, a position which she held at the University of Giessen. However, her rise to prominence as an eminent female scholar in Germany coincided with the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, forcing Dr. Bieber to abruptly retire due to her Jewish ancestry. After a brief stop in Oxford, Dr. Bieber arrived in America as a visiting lecturer for Barnard College in 1935. She went on to become an associate professor at Columbia’s Department of Fine Arts and Archaeology. Each semester will be dedicated to one of Dr. Bieber’s monographs. This semester, the group will focus on The History of the Greek and Roman Theatre (published first in 1939 and a second edition in 1961), and on related publications. The coming semesters will be devoted to The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (1955); Ancient Copies: Contributions to the History of Greek and Roman Art (1977); and to her work on ancient costume. The reading group is open to anybody interested. If you intend to participate, or if you would like more information, please contact Debbie Sokolowski or Maria Dimitropoulos.
Research Initiative: Margarete Bieber and Columbia University
The reading group is part of a larger CLST initiative on Margarete Bieber, initiated in the Fall of 2017 by Professors Francesco de Angelis and Annetta Alexandridis (Cornell University) in collaboration with Maria Dimitropoulos and Debbie Sokolowski, Ph.D. students of the Classical Studies graduate program. The initiative was conceived after Etruscologist Larissa Bonfante, Professor Emerita at NYU and one of Dr. Bieber’s students, donated several boxes of archival material belonging to her to Columbia University. The contents of these boxes include book manuscripts, drafts of articles, lecture notes, offprints, personal and private correspondence, and slides. Maria Dimitropoulos and Debbie Sokolowski have photographed and organized them under the auspices of Columbia’s Media Center for Art History (MCAH); these photographs are now housed digitally at the Media Center, where they are currently being catalogued. Maria and Debbie are also working in the Barnard Archives in order to research Dr. Bieber’s role in the Barnard Greek Games, for which she served as the Costume Chair during her career at Columbia. All these materials, along with other resources, will be studied in anticipation of a conference to be held at Columbia in 2021, dedicated the Dr. Bieber’s life and contributions to the study of Greek and Roman art. Further participants in the initiative are: Evan Allen (Cornell), Giulia Bertoni (Columbia), Larissa Bonfante (NYU, Emerita), Mary Danisi (Cornell), Helene Foley (Columbia).
For more information on the life and works of Margarete Bieber, please refer to the following:
● Larissa Bonfante and Matthias Recke, "Margarete Bieber (1879–1978). An Archaeologist in Two Worlds" (PDF).
● Evelyn B. Harrison, "Margarete Bieber, 1879–1978." American Journal of Archaeology 82 (1978), pp. 573–575.
● Hans Peter Obermayer: "Margarete Bieber im Exil," in: Id., Deutsche Altertumswissenschaftler im amerikanischen Exil. Eine Rekonstruktion, Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2014, pp. 35–107.
Bieber beyond Columbia
In 2011, Harvard University hosted the Ilse and Leo Mildenberg interdisciplinary symposium Sculpture in Coins to celebrate the acquisition of Margarete Bieber’s coin collection in the Harvard Art Museums. This was held in conjunction with a temporary exhibition entitled: The Scholar as Collector: Margarete Bieber (1879-1978). Its proceedings will be published in 2019 in the Harvard University Press monograph Sculpture and Coins: Margarete Bieber as Scholar and Collector, edited by Carmen Arnold-Biucchi and Martin Beckmann. In June 2019, the Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen will be hosting a conference in honor of the centennial of Bieber’s habilitationsschrift and her subsequent appointment to the faculty of Giessen in 1919.