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Morey, Charles Rufus

    Full Name: Morey, Charles Rufus

    Other Names:

    • Charles Rufus Morey

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1877

    Date Died: 1955

    Place Born: Hastings, Barry, MI, USA

    Place Died: Princeton, Mercer, NJ, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)

    Career(s): educators


    Princeton professor; medievalist; founder of Index to Christian Art. Morey graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan in 1899. He received his Master’s Degree there in Classics the following year followed by a three- year fellowship at the American School of Classical Studies in Rome. In 1905 he published his first article, “The Christian Sarcophagus in S. Maria Antiqua”. Morey joined Princeton University in 1903 as an instructor in Classics and a teacher at the Princeton Preparatory School for Boys. However, Allan Marquand, founder and Chair of the Department of Art and Archaeology, invited him to transfer to that department in 1906. Thus began a thirty-nine year career in art history at Princeton. Morey was a founding member of the College Art Association. His interest in medieval iconography led him to create an image collection in 1917 of late antique, early Christian-era and medieval works of art. This soon grew into the Index of Christian Art, a cataloged collection of photographs. In 1918 he was appointed Professor at Princeton. He never pursued a Ph.D. With the support of Marquand, who was largely classical and Renaissance-era focused, Morey began hiring his medievalist students into department positions to raise the profile of the division. The first was Albert M. Friend in 1921. Morey join the editorial board of the College Art Association, the first of two times he would sit on the board, in 1922 (through 1939) acting as a principal fundraiser for it. His groundbreaking study, Sources in Mediaeval Style appeared in 1924, a work which Erwin Panofsky described as startling art historians as Kepler’s work was to astronomers. Marquand’s death in 1924 resulted in Morey’s appointment as chair of the department the following year; he remained there for twenty years. He convinced Ernest DeWald, a former student, to return as associate professor in 1925. Another medievalist student, W. Frederick Stohlman, joined the department under Morey in 1929. The same year, Morey began a project cataloging the collection of the Museo Cristiano, part of the Vatican library, personally authoring the first section on ivories, and assigning other volumes to Stohlman and other Princeton colleagues. Morey was a dedicated researcher and spent much of his effort in building libraries and indexes for art historians. His 1932 pamphlet on scholarly library planning, called the “Laboratory-Library,” attempted to rethink research process all together by combining faculty offices and student space. Morey’s ideas were implemented in both the Firestone Library (Princeton’s main library) and the Department of Art and Archaeology’s own Marquand Library. He was also responsible in placing humanists at the private Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which had been founded in 1930 for mathematicians and theoretical physicists. In 1933, Morey turned the directorship of the Index over to his student, Helen M. Woodruff. Morey added another medievalist graduate student to the department, Donald Drew Egbert who had been lecturing since 1929, as assistant professor in 1935. The same year he appointed the German refugee Kurt Weitzmann, who, despite having written a book strongly disagreeing with an early Morey work, was warmly received. Morey’s first volume of the Vatican Library catalog, translated into Italian by the wife of the Museum of Modern Art’s director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Margaret S. Barr (1901-1986), appeared in 1936. In 1938 Morey was named Marquand Chair of Art and Archaeology. Throughout his career, he traveled to Rome to work with collections and catalogs at the Vatican. Morey was responsible for establishing the Antioch archaeological excavation of Daphne. Two important later books of Morey appeared the same year, 1942. The first, Early Christian Art and the second, Medieval Art, both underscored his tenet, that the development of medieval style was determined by three traditions: Hellenistic naturalism, Latin realism, and “Celto-Germanic dynamism.” In 1945, after the ravages of World War II, Morey resigned his Chair at Princeton to become the first Cultural Attaché to the American Embassy in Rome, assisted by Stohlman. Weitzmann succeeded him as department chair. He was active in repatriating looted works of art. Understanding the need to protect the spectacular scholarly libraries in Italy–which happened to be German–he formed a “holding company,” called the International Union of the Archaeological and Historical Institutes of Rome, to save the contents of both the Hertziana and the Deutsches Archëologisches Institut (DAI) in Rome. During this time he was also Acting Director of the American Academy 1945-1947. He was married to Sara Francis Tupper. Morey’s legacy to art history was two-fold: the establishment of the Index of Christian Art and his many students who became major scholars: Walter W. S. Cook, Glanville Downey, George H. Forsyth, Jr., William Forsyth, Harald Ingholt, Andrew S. Keck, Clark D. Lamberton, E. Parker Lesley, Jack Martin, Carl D. Sheppard, Jr. Joseph C. Sloane, Albert M. Friend, J. Carson Webster, and David Robbins Coffin. Morey’s appointments of DeWald, Stohlman, Weitzmann, and Egbert built Princeton into a powerhouse of medieval scholarship. Panofsky wrote that the history of art now holds an undisputed place in American institutions was particularly the due to Morey. His writings, though groundbreaking at the time, proved less enduring than others of his generation and his dating of medieval objects superseded by later scholarship.

    Selected Bibliography

    [extensive bibliography:] Martin, John Rupert. Art Bulletin 32 (1950): 345-359 (see additions, in the Panofsky obituary, p. 485); edited, Catalogo del Museo sacro della Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, pubblicato per ordine della Santità di Pio papa XI a cura della direzione. 3 vols. Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1936ff.; Early Christian Art: Outline of the Evolution of Style and Iconography in Sculpture and Painting from Antiquity to the Eighth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942. 2nd ed., 1953; Medieval Art. New York: W. W. Norton, 1942; and Jones, Leslie W. The Miniatures of the Manuscripts of Terence Prior to the Thirteenth Century. Illuminated Manuscripts of the Middle Ages, vols. 1-2. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1930-31. “Sources of Medieval Style.” Art Bulletin 7 (1924): 35-58. [This early piece shows his method development.] “The Byzantine Renaissance.” Speculum 14 (1939): 139-159.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, pp. 62-3; Woodruff, Helen. The Index of Christian Art at Princeton University. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942; Panofsky, Erwin. “The History of Art.” In The Cultural Migration: The European Scholar in America. Introduction by W. Rex Crawford, 82-111, p. 87 mentioned; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p.24 mentioned, 57, 81 mentioned; Hourihane, Colum. “They Stand on his Shoulders: Morey, Iconography, and the Index of Christian Art.” Insights and Interpretations: Studies in Celebrations of the Eighty-fifth Anniversary of the Index of Christian Art. Princeton, NJ: Index of Christian Art/Princeton University Press, 2002, pp. 3-16; [obituaries:] Panofsky, Erwin. “Charles Rufus Morey.” American Philosophical Society Year Book (1955): 482-91; Lee, Rensselaer. “Charles Rufus Morey: 1877-1955.” Art Bulletin 37 (December 1955): iii-vii; New York Times August 30, 1955, p. 27.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Morey, Charles Rufus." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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