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Kessler, Herbert L.

    Full Name: Kessler, Herbert L.

    Other Names:

    • Herbert Leon Kessler

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1941

    Place Born: Chicago, Cook, IL, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)


    Medievalist. Kessler was the son of Ben Kessler and Bertha Kessler. He attended the University of Chicago, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with an A. B. in 1961. He continued graduate work at Princeton University as a Woodrow Wilson fellow for the 1961-1962 receiving an M.F.A., in 1963. He pursued his dissertation as a Dumbarton Oaks junior fellow, 1964-1965. His Ph.D. was awarded in 1965 with a thesis on ninth-century Bible illustration written under the eminent Byzantinist, Kurt Weitzmann. Kessler returned to his alma mater, Chicago, in 1965 as an assistant professor, rising to associate professor in 1968. He studied at the Institute of Advanced Studies fellow, Princeton, for the 1969-1970 year and as a Guggenheim fellowship, 1972-1973, before an appointment as (full) professor of art history at Chicago in 1973 and chair of department of art. In 1976, Kessler moved to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,, as professor of art history and chairman of department. He married the writer Johanna Zacharias the same year. In 1977, he was a contributor to Weitzmann’s exhibition “The Age of Spirituality” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1984, Kessler became Charlotte Bloomberg Professor of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (to 1998). He was again at Dumbarton Oaks, this time as a senior fellow, for the academic year 1980-1986. Kessler was made a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 1991. He held a guest professorship at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Florence, for the 1996-1997 year. He returned to Hopkins as the first James Barclay Knapp Dean, 1998-1999 of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Kessler’s career was marred, however, when he was suddenly placed on sabbatical leave in 1999 at Johns Hopkins for a serious university infraction which was never disclosed. He assumed a visiting professorship at Harvard University for the 2000-2001 year, returning to Hopkins to teach the following year. His students included Robert Nelson. Kessler was Weitzmann’s outstanding student. He was selected to edit his master’s compilation of essays and collaborated with him on two important books, much the same as Weitzmann had been the outstanding student and collaborator of his mentor, Adolph Goldschmidt.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Sources and the Construction of the Genesis, Exodus, Majestas, and Apocalypse Frontispiece illustration in the Ninth-Century Touronian Bibles. Princeton University, 1965, revision, The Illustrated Bible from Tours. Studies in Manuscript Illumination, 7. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977; French and Flemish Illuminated Manuscripts in Chicago Collections. Chicago: Newberry Library, 1969; edited, Kurt Weitzmann. Studies in Classical and Byzantine Manuscript Illumination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971; edited, with Simpson, M. S. Pictorial Narrative in Antiquity and the Middle Ages [theme issue]. Studies in the History of Art 16 (1985); and Weitzmann, Kurt. The Cotton Genesis: British Library Codex Cotton Otho B. VI. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986; and Weitzmann, Kurt. The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1990; Studies in Pictorial Narrative. London: Pindar Press, 1994; and Dutton, Paul E. The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible of Charles the Bold. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997; and Zacharias, Johanna. Rome 1300: On the Path of the Pilgrim. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000; Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God’s Invisibility in Medieval Art. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, mentioned, p. 64; Hill, Michael. “Hopkins Dean Leaves School Post Abruptly.” The Sun (Baltimore, MD), December 1, 1999, p. 1B; “Herbert Leon Kessler Curriculum Vitae.”


    "Kessler, Herbert L.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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