About the lecture

Dumbarton Oaks’s museum’s collections focus on Medieval, mostly Byzantine, and Pre-Colombian art. One could not think of two more disparate cultures. Therefore, any connection between our collections and areas of study depends on how one thinks about history and art history.

Creativity and imagination are sometimes hard to follow from entrenched disciplinary perspectives. But that is what is best about places like Dumbarton Oaks where the freedom to depart from the norm and to forge new perspectives and then to bring them to fruition can take place and be shared.

This talk will focus on two similar objects in our collection, one a Romanesque portable altar and the other an early colonial portable altar from the Purpuchea area of Mexico and the material connection between two disparate ancient mystical values, Early Christian and Aztec.




About the speaker

Thomas B. F. Cummins is the Dumbarton Oaks Professor of the History of Pre-Columbian and Colonial Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University and Director of Dumbarton Oaks. He received his PhD from UCLA. His research and teaching focuses on pre-Columbian and Latin American colonial art.  He was Professor of Art History at the University of Chicago 1991-2002. He was Professeur invite, L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales, Paris in 2016 and 2019. He has also taught in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.
He was the interim director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University.  He is a member of the Cisneros Institute Advisory Board, MoMA. He has lectured in 24 countries. He has published over a hundred essays and eleven books, the most recent being a co-edited Sacred Matters: Animism and Authority in the Pre-Columbian Americas with Steve Koisiba and John Janusek, Dumbarton Oaks: Washington DC, 2020; He is the Editor in Chief Grove Encyclopedia of Latin American Art Oxford University Press.  He was awarded The Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures, awarded by Modern Language Association, 2014, and The Bryce Wood Book Award to the outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English, awarded by The Latin American Studies Association, 2013. He received La Orden “Al Mérito por Servicios Distinguidos En el Grado de Gran Cruz” bestowed by the Republic of Peru 2011, and he is a Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Science.  He is the co-director of the Getty Foundation Connecting Art History Grant: Afro-Latin American Art: Building the Field 2022-2024.