David Talbot-Rice was a British art historian and lecturer in Byzantine and early Islamic art. Born in Rugby in 1906, Talbot-Rice was educated at Eton then read Archaeology and Anthropology at Christ Church College, Oxford. At Oxford he was part of the circle of Evelyn Waugh and met his future wife, the renowned Byzantine scholar and lecturer at Columbia University, Tamara Talbot-Rice nee Abelson. This relationship introduced David Talbot-Rice to Byzantine history, which along with the art history of the east Mediterranean and Middle East, remained a lifelong passion.
Following his undergraduate degree Talbot-Rice undertook a tour of the east Mediterranean, visiting and participating in a series of excavations of major Byzantine sites, including of monuments in Istanbul and Trebizond. By 1932 Talbot-Rice’s expertise and prominence in Byzantine and early Islamic art was recognized by his appointment to one of the first positions at the newly-founded Courtauld Institute of Art. After two years in London he was appointed in 1934 to the Watson Gordon Chair of Art History at the University of Edinburgh, which he kept until his death in 1972. During his time in Edinburgh, Talbot-Rice expressed a desire to establish an art centre. It was an aim realized posthumously with the foundation of the Talbot-Rice Gallery.
Shortly after his death, Talbot-Rice’s widow donated his archive of photographs, slides and papers to Prof. Anthony Bryer at the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies (CBOMGS) at the University of Birmingham in recognition of Birmingham’s preeminent role in Byzantine studies. Prof. Bryer and Tamara Talbot-Rice placed the archive in the care of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts to foster links between the Centre and the Barber Institute and to ensure that the archive received appropriate public attention.
The David Talbot- Rice archive consists of photographs and slides, in particular related to his excavations and travel in the east Mediterranean, and a selection of personal papers. It contains unique records of a number of monuments and artefacts which no longer survive or which have been heavily and controversially restored since David Talbot-Rice’s preliminary surveys and photographs.
In addition to images, the archive also contains texts of around 100 of David Talbot-Rice’s private letters to colleagues and collaborators in art historical scholarship, the texts of lectures delivered during his research career and notes made during excavations. The former provide a unique insight into the personal relationships and discussions which underpinned and structured the published output of a generation of leading scholars of Byzantine art history at the point when the field was emerging as a separate discipline. The latter represent the only record of lectures which both expressed Talbot-Rice’s views on the subject and directly informed the development of the subsequent generation of Byzantine art historians.
With thanks to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which continues to hold the physical archive, the Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive is currently working to digitise the David Talbot-Rice Archive, including photographs, slides and papers. Work is on-going on this substantial resource, to digitise the images and to upload any additional information contained in the archive about the images, and it is hoped that the archive will, in turn, provide the resources for future scholarship.
All images currently available from the David Talbot-Rice Archive are arranged here into galleries related to content or divisions within the physical archive.
Images are made available under a Creative Commons licence permitting non-commercial, no derivatives reproduction with attribution. The attribution is:
Image [filename], by David Talbot-Rice, archive owned by the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, digitised by the Birmingham East Mediterranean Archive, Creative Commons 3.0.
David Talbot-Rice did groundbreaking work on brick stamps as a means of dating and grouping the materials used for buildings in Byzantine Constantinople. A total of 48 images are here reproduced from his research negatives. If you would like to see and download the whole set of images please access them here.
A total of 187 images from David Talbot-Rice’s travels in Trebizond have been scanned here from photographs held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Many preserve a record of wall-paintings now much deteriorated, as well as intimate images of the re-use and partial occupation of medieval buildings in the early twentieth century. Any information recorded on the photographs is provided in the captions. If you would like to see and download the whole set of images please access them here.
This album contains the scanned pages of David Talbot-Rice’s notebook from the excavation of the Myrelaion in the 1920s in Istanbul. This slide show provides a selection of images of the pages in a random order. To see the notebook in order, and to access and download the full set, please view them here. Please note, some of the final pages are loose and may not be in the original order in which they were written.
Nicaea – David Talbot-Rice and G. Berggren
Contained in the David Talbot-Rice archive at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts are a collection of photographs and notes relating to Nicaea, including work for publication or presentation by Talbot-Rice and some images by G. Berggren. It is not always clear whether images in the collection were taken by Talbot-Rice or by Berggren, or when the images were taken. As usual any notes on or with the individual images or notes have been preserved in the caption give here. Please note that the notes are in a disordered state. Where relationships between the pages are clear they have been noted. The full collection of 72 images can be viewed here.