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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, July 17, 1929

The Bath Club,
34, Dover Street, W.1.

Dearest Mildred, I’ve had a pretty busy week away from London, in the course of which I:

I. lent the Budapest municipality half a million sterling, and

II. saw:

a) the Vienna things, again,
b) Regensburg
c) Bamberg
d) Limburg a.d. Lahn
e) Cologne
f) Aix-la-Chapelle.

I hadn’t seen Bamberg for 22 years, and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Byz. tapestry there.Gunther Tapestry, Constantinople, tenth century, Bamberg Diocesan Museum. The so-called Gunthertuch was either purchased or received as a gift by Bishop Gunther von Bamberg during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1064–1065. Gunther died on his return journey and was buried with it in the Bamberg Cathedral. The textile was rediscovered in 1830. See Günter Prinzing, “Das Bamberger Gunthertuch in neuer Sicht,” Byzantinoslavica 54 (1993): 218–31; and Paul Stephenson, The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 62–65. It is for the later period (XIe cent.) what your panel is for the age of Justinian. It is of silk, and of the same tapestry technique as the Coptic pieces—yours for instance. The silk is miraculously so treated as to divest it of all its flashyness, to discipline it as it is disciplined by weaving—a feat which the Byzantines alone of all people who have made tapestry of silk were capable. In colour it is incredibly beautiful, and, except where it is actually eaten away, marvellously fresh. 2 1/2 metres high by 2 metres broad. It represents, on a semis of flowers, an Emperor on horseback accompanied by two female figures symbolizing Rome and Constantinople. The reproductions of it published by Diehl and others (including even Falke) are often an infamous water-colour by Dr. Willi Schultze or words to that effect, which most impudently fakes the part eaten away (including the Emperor’s head, which is given beardless, when it must have been bearded) and converts Rome and Constantinople into flaccid Prussian Biermädchen.“Beer maidens.”

The Limburg reliquaryReliquary of the True Cross (Staurothek), Constantinople, ca. 960, Limburg an der Lahn, Diocesan Museum (Cathedral Treasury), inv. no. D 1/1-3. See Andreas Rhoby, Byzantinische Epigramme auf Ikonen und Objekten der Kleinkunst, vol. 2 of Byzantinische Epigramme in inschriftlicher Überlieferung, edited by Wolfram Hörandner (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010), 163–69. I had never seen before—and had a devil of a time getting to see it now, but eventually not only saw it but had it out in the sunlight. Its enamels are the most accomplished in existence, and they are dated by an inscription to (I forget exact year) some where about 968.

Grüneisen’s saleThe collection of Baron Wladimir de Grüneisen, sold at auction at Sotheby’s, London, July 2, 1929. See Wladimir de Grüneisen, Collection de Grüneisen: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: J. Schemit, 1930). here was a disappointment, (a) because there were few good things and a lot of fakes, and (b) because Mrs. Otto KahnAdelaide “Addie” Wolff Kahn, the wife of Otto Hermann Kahn (1867–1934), a German-born American investment banker, collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. They married in 1896. was in London, and ran everything up to fancy prices. There was one thing I hoped to buy for you, a big bloodstone gem with a fine head of John Baptist in bold high relief on one sideWladimir de Grüneisen, Collection de Grüneisen: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: J. Schemit, 1930), 81, no. 434.—I went to £325 and then let it go. I thought that was enough.

Bacri bought several objects, for pretty high prices, which I consider fakes—the most expensive of them a little gold reliquary with enamels and small ivory roundels, £625.Wladimir de Grüneisen, Collection de Grüneisen: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: J. Schemit, 1930), 90, no. 450 (reliquary encolpion). I think it’s Russian XVIII cent.—or perhaps even XIX.

I bought for myself a little Byz. ivory panel with just a jeweled cross on it, in very pure and fine Xe cent. style £64,Wladimir de Grüneisen, Collection de Grüneisen: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: J. Schemit, 1930), 74, no. 395. which I thought cheap, owing doubtless to the fact that there’s no human or divine figure on it—whereas Bacri gave £100 for a stinking fake of a tiny little plaque with a standing fig. of S. Demetrius.Wladimir de Grüneisen, Collection de Grüneisen: Catalogue raisonné (Paris: J. Schemit, 1930), 74, no. 394 (ivory plaque).

Brummer of N.Y. was there, and very kindly stood aside for the objects I was bidding for. I bought several things for the S. KensingtonThe only 1929 acquisitions from Sotheby’s are two The Story of Sorgheloos roundels, acc. nos. C.65-1929 and C.66-1929.—nothing you’d want.

Much love, dearest Mildred,
R. T.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1929.1; BZ.1972.22