Skip to content

Nye, Phila Calder

    Full Name: Nye, Phila Lazarus Calder

    Other Names:

    • Phila Lazarus Calder

    Gender: female

    Date Born: unknown

    Date Died: unknown

    Place Born: Wilmington, New Hanover, NC, USA

    Place Died: Wilmington, New Hanover, NC, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Christianity and Medieval (European)

    Career(s): educators

    Institution(s): Princeton University


    First woman to receive full university professor rank at Princeton University; second director of the Index of Christian Art at Princeton. Phila Lazarus Calder attended the Mount Vernon Seminary and College in Washington, D.C. from 1889 to 1891. In 1893, she married Joseph Keith Nye (b. 1858) from New Bedford, Massachusetts. Little is known about Nye’s earlier time at Mount Vernon Seminary, although she returned to teach there in 1899. Her first publication appeared in 1901, Art History in Outline, a 283-page textbook “for the art classes of Mount Vernon Seminary.” Nye’s publications on medieval Italian sculpture appeared in Art in America and Art & Archaeology marking her academic career at Princeton University, first as a graduate student in the Department of Art & Archaeology in 1905. During some of the most formative years of the Index, Nye worked alongside the Index’ founder Charles Rufus Morey. Morey and a staff of volunteers, recording their iconographic research on objects when the terminus date of the collection was still set at 700.

    She became director of the Index in 1920. During her tenure at the Index, the dates of art history coverage were extended twice, once to 1200 and then again to 1400. Archival records at the Index record that Nye traveled widely to study medieval works of art in European countries, doubtless for inclusion into the growing Index collection. It was during Nye’s directorship that the Index acquired funding that secured its institutional efforts for years to come. Her article, “The Romanesque Signs of the Zodiac,” was published in Art Bulletin in 1923. That same year, Nye was the subject of a pastel portrait by American artist Gertrude Magie (1862-1942), now in the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum (x1946-411). According to the 2001 alumni publication of the Mount Vernon Seminary and College, Nye was the first woman to receive full university rank at Princeton and have her name printed in the Princeton catalogue. She retired in 1933, succeeded by Helen M. Woodruff. Sometime after 1940, Nye retired to her hometown in North Carolina and dedicated the next several years of her life to the charitable and cultural efforts of the local women’s organization N.C. Sorosis. Records of that organization praise Nye for bringing numerous art exhibitions and lectures to the community.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Art History in Outline. Washington, D.C.: Press of W.F. Roberts, 1901;
    • “Cherub Frieze of the Pazzi Chapel in Florence.” Art and Archaeology, I (1914): 73-80;
    • “Two Italian Madonnas.” Art in America 5 (1917): 246-51;
    • “The Davis Madonna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Art in America 6 (1918): 82-87;
    • “The Oblong Caskets of the Byzantine Period,” American Journal of Archaeology 23 (1919): 401-12;
    • “The Romanesque Signs of the Zodiac,” Art Bulletin 5 (1923): 55-57.


    • Morey, Charles Rufus. “An Important Instrument of Research: Princeton’s Index of Christian Art, Covering 50,000 Subjects and Twelve Centuries of Time, Is Used by Scholars All Over the World.” Princeton Alumni Weekly 23 (1931): 236-37;
    • Woodruff, Helen. The Index of Christian Art at Princeton University. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1942;
    • Mikhalevsky, Nina. Dear Daughters: A History of Mount Vernon Seminary and College. Washington, D.C.: Mount Vernon Seminary and College Alumnae Association, 2001, 22-23;
    • Block, Susan Taylor, “N.C. Sorosis” in A History of St. John’s Museum,

    Contributors: Jessica Savage


    Jessica Savage. "Nye, Phila Calder." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: