- January - June 1956 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Paul Underwood was born on February 22, 1902, in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and died on September 22, 1968, in Knoxville, TN. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture with high honors from Princeton University in 1925. From 1929-1931, he practiced architecture in New York, but had to postpone his career in the field due to the Great Depression. During this time, Underwood traveled to Greece, where he stayed for approximately three years, and became interested in classical and medieval monuments. In 1935, Underwood pursued a graduate degree in the Department of Art and Archaeology at his alma mater and graduated in or before 1938. Afterwards, he took a teaching position at Cornell University, where he taught courses in the history of art. After completing his first publications in 1939-1940, Underwood successfully applied for a fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks.
As a junior fellow from 1943 to 1946, Underwood studied the Lateran Baptistery, the relationship of early Christian baptisteries to the tholoi, and the iconography of the “Fountain of Life,” as depicted in early Gospel manuscripts. This research resulted in an article, “The Fountain of Life in Manuscripts of the Gospels,” which was published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers (vol. 5, 1950). In February 11, 1946, the Trustees for Harvard University “voted to appoint Paul Atkins Underwood as Instructor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at [Dumbarton Oaks for one year],” but they immediately promoted him to Assistant Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology in the same year until 1951. He was subsequently appointed Associate Professor of Byzantine Architecture and Archaeology in 1951-1955 (and Field Director of the Byzantine Institute, Inc., starting in 1951) and Professor of Byzantine Architecture and Archaeology in July 1960.
During his junior fellowship, Underwood, an architectural historian, joined Albert M. Friend, an art historian, and Glanville Downey, a philologist, to work on the reconstruction of the lost monument of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. During the 1948 Dumbarton Oaks symposium, “The Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople,” Underwood presented two papers entitled “The Architecture of Justinian’s Church of the Holy Apostles, Parts I and II.”
After 1951, Underwood devoted the majority of his time to the Byzantine Institute, Inc., having been appointed Field Director after the death of Thomas Whittemore, the Institute’s founder and director, in 1950. He held this position until 1964. During the transition period, Underwood continued the restoration and conservation work in Istanbul, and published several reports in Dumbarton Oaks Papers on the Byzantine Institute’s work at Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii. Other endeavors under his directorship included: the uncovering of the 7th century pavement in the Church of the Pantocrator (also known as St. Savior Pantocrator or Molla Zeyrek Camii) that was carried out from 1954 to 1962; the restoration of mosaics in the Fethiye Camii (Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos) from 1949 to 1963; the conservation of a fresco discovered at the church of St. Euphemia in 1958; and the repair work in the Fenari Isa Camii (Lips Monastery) from 1960 to 1964. Also during this period, the Byzantine Institute’s conservators worked on the mosaic of the Transfiguration at the monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai in Egypt in 1959. All of these fieldwork projects led to extensive publications.
Name of creator
The Byzantine Institute (commonly known as the Byzantine Institute of America) was founded by Thomas Whittemore in 1930. On May 23, 1934, the Byzantine Institute officially became the Byzantine Institute, Inc. when it was issued a charter from the State of Massachusetts. Its mission was to conserve, restore, study, and document the Byzantine monuments, sites, architecture, and arts in the former Byzantine Empire. The first official project undertaken by the Institute was the examination and documentation of wall paintings at the Red Sea Monasteries in Egypt, which occurred between 1929 and 1931. By capturing select Byzantine iconography from the walls of St. Anthony and St. Paul, Vladimir Netchetailov produced oversize watercolor paintings of saints (Saints George, Mercurius, and Theodore Strateletes) and religious scenes (The Resurrection and Deësis).
In June 1931, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of the Republic of Turkey, permitted Whittemore and the Byzantine Institute to uncover and restore the original mosaics in Hagia Sophia, which had been covered in Islamic motifs when the church was converted into a mosque in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks. With approval from the Turkish government, the Institute began the conservation and restoration campaign in December 1931. While fieldwork primarily focused on sites within Istanbul, such as Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii, conservation efforts were also expanded to Cyprus and present-day Macedonia.
In June 1950, Thomas Whittemore, founder of the Byzantine Institute, died while en route to the State Department office of John Foster Dulles. Subsequently, Paul Atkins Underwood was appointed as the Fieldwork Director of the Byzantine Institute, a position he held until his death on September 22, 1968. While this marked a transition period for the Institute, Underwood assumed the oversight of repair and restoration in Hagia Sophia and Kariye Camii. These endeavors resulted in the uncovering of the 7th century pavement in the Church of the Pantocrator (Molla Zeyrek Camii), the restoration of mosaics in Fethiye Camii (Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos), and finally the repair work in Fenari Isa (Lips Monastery). The projects also led to several publications, such as The mosaics of Hagia Sophia at Istanbul, the portrait of the Emperor Alexander: a report on the work done by the Byzantine Institute in 1959 and 1960 by Paul A. Underwood and Ernest J. W. Hawkins. Because of insufficient funding, the Byzantine Institute officially terminated its administrative and fieldwork operations in 1962 and transferred its assets to Dumbarton Oaks. In January of 1963, Dumbarton Oaks and the trustees of Harvard University assumed all fieldwork activities formerly initiated by the Institute. Dumbarton Oaks directed and sponsored new fieldwork projects in Turkey (Church of St. Polyeuktos), Cyprus (Church of the Panagia Amasgou at Monagri), Syria (Dibsi Faraj), and present-day Macedonia (Bargala).