DIETRICH VON BOTHMER
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von BOTHMER--Dr. Dietrich, 90, died peacefully in his sleep on Monday, October 12, in Manhattan. The Metropolitan Museum's of Art's legendary curator, archaeologist, and historian of classical art is survived by his devoted wife of 43 years, Joyce Blaffer von Bothmer; his son Bernard von Bothmer and his wife, Jane, of San Francisco; his daughter Maria Elizabeth Villalba and her husband, Jerome, of New York; and his five adoring grandchildren: Isabel, Victoria, and Charles Villalba, and Athena and Tatiana von Bothmer. Dr. von Bothmer was born on October 26, 1918, in Eisenach, Germany, and in 1938 was awarded the last of that year's two German Rhodes Scholarships before World War Two, allowing him to flee the Nazi dictatorship which he opposed and detested. At Oxford, he studied under Sir John Beazley, earning a diploma in 1939 in Classical Archaeology. Over the next thirty years, he worked closely with Beazley to build up the great works on Attic Black and Red-figure Vase-Painters that changed the way scholars thought about Greek art. And for the rest of his life, he was acknowledged as perhaps the finest connoisseur of Greek vase-painting in the world. While visiting museums in the United States in the summer of 1939 for what was meant to be but a three month stay, World War Two began, preventing Dietrich from returning to Europe. Through a network of generous scholarships and fellowships, he was able to continue his studies at the University of California, Berkeley (interrupted by a brief fellowship at the University of Chicago), where he earned his Ph.D. in 1944. Though not yet a citizen, Dietrich volunteered for the U.S. Army and fought heroically in the South Pacific. There he was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for carrying, while wounded, a fellow soldier back to safety five miles through heavily fortified Japanese lines. Subsequently, he received U.S. citizenship, and in 1946 was appointed a curatorial assistant in the department of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan, where he remained for 64 years until his death. He was named curator in 1959, department chairman in 1973, and in 1990 Distinguished Research Curator. In 1965 he began teaching at the Institute of Fine Arts, N.Y.U. Dietrich was the recipient of numerous awards and citations, including a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur; a member of the Academie Francaise (one of only two Americans to have this honor); an honorary fellow of Wadham College; and several honorary doctorates. The author of a number of standard monographs and hundreds of articles and reviews, he was a wonderful mentor to his students and a devoted teacher. We will all greatly miss his generosity of spirit, his piercing wit, his philanthropic ethos, his unparalleled intellect, his endless passion for Greek antiquities, his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Western Civilization, his zest for verbal sparring, and his enormous joie de vivre. His passing has left a gaping hole. A true lion has been lost: a polyglot, a patriarch, a patriot, an optimist, a genius. Family will receive friends on Thursday from 2-4 and 6-8pm at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Avenue. Funeral services will be held at 11am on Friday, October 16, at St. James' Episcopal Church, Madison Avenue at 71st Street.


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Published in New York Times on Oct. 14, 2009.
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Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Bernard von Bothmer
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4 entries
October 28, 2009
The eye of experience
I want to recall the achievements of Dietrich von Bothmer in the field of Attic vase-painting with a quotation from Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 1143 b):"Consequently the unproved assertions and opinions of experienced and elderly people, or of prudent men, are as much deserving of attention as those which they support by proof; for experience has given them an eye for things, and so they see correctly."
Heide Mommsen
October 18, 2009
When I first visited New York in June 1959, Dietrich welcomed me and proceeded to test me with fragments of Attic black-figure. They were by the Amasis Painter. He then offered me a job, and it is one of the greatest regrets of my life that I could not accept.

For me he typified so much that is good and great in your country, and he was a giant among scholars.
J. Richard Green
October 15, 2009
As a young exhibit designer, new to to the Metropolitan in 1962, Dietrich was an almost terrifying figure for me. At the morning coffee klatsches in the staff cafeteria, he dominated the discussions, always speaking with authority. After 17 years at the museum during which time I became the Director of Design, I came to understand what an extraordinary treasure of scholarship he personified, generously sharing his knowledge and experience with curious non-scholars--like me--and experts alike. He is missed.

Stuart Silver,
Scarsdale, NY
stuart silver
October 14, 2009
Dietrich was on my dissertation committee at Harvard and administered my examination in the connoisseurship of Attic vase-painting, an experience I shall never forget. He was a friend and mentor thereafter, helping me at key moments in my career. I admired him tremendously, and I am sincerely moved by his passing.
Michael Padgett
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