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Myra Dickman Orth research papers, 1952-2003

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Orth (Myra Dickman) research papers

Biographical/Historical Note

American art historian Myra Orth (1934-2002) was a leading specialist on French Renaissance manuscripts. She studied art history at Cornell University (BA, 1956) and at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where she received both her MA (1964) and PhD (1976) under the direction of Colin Eisler. Her research focused at first on French Renaissance books of hours in connection with the printer Geofroy Tory and the artist known as Godefroy le Batave and the 1520s Hours Workshop. Orth's academic path was quite atypical in that she completed her advanced degrees by correspondence while raising two children and living in several countries, including Belgium, Australia, Japan, England and France. She wrote her PhD dissertation in London, while also attending seminars at the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.

She began her university career in Paris in 1976, teaching art history at the American College, where she also served as Head of the Humanities Division from 1980 to 1982. In 1982, she moved back to the United States where she taught Renaissance art history courses at the University of Virginia until the fall of 1983. In 1985, she accepted a position as Section Head of Northern Paintings for the Photo Archive at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, and shortly thereafter began a two-year tenure as Acting Head of the Photo Archive. Orth spearheaded the effort to photograph and microfilm manuscripts in the National Library and Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and in the National Museum and the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague in collaboration with the Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes (CNRS) in Paris. She also curated an exhibition on the archive of British art historian Ellis Waterhouse acquired by the Getty in 1986. After her retirement in July 1995, Orth continued to serve in an advisory capacity at the Getty.

With the exception of an essay on architecture in Australia, Orth's prolific research focused on the production of French Renaissance manuscripts, specifically books of hours of the first half of the sixteenth century. She continued her research on Godefroy le Batave, the 1520s Hours Workshop and other artists such as the Master of Claude de France and the Master of François de Rohan. She conducted research on printed devotional books, printers and printing production, and explored the artistic relationship between manuscripts and printed books. She examined the influence of Flemish and Italian art on the development of French art during the Renaissance. Women patrons and artists became one of her main fields of interest, and she researched female figures such as Marguerite de Navarre and Louise of Savoy. More generally, she was not only interested in artistic production but in all aspects of intellectual life during the Renaissance, including the Evangelical reform, which explains her prolonged work on humanists and scholars's writings in connection with artistic production. An industrious scholar, she was still working, months before her death in 2002, on her ambitious publication on sixteenth-century French manuscripts Renaissance Manuscripts. The Sixteenth Century: A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in France.

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