Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, January 3, 1939


Dear Robert.

I cabled you yesterday,Cable of January 2, 1939. after a talk with Fiedler:

Fied states both sculpturesBZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. were his property when sold to you Stop Advise you reply if at all bought from dealer in Switzerland Stop Makes no objection if you desire name him but considers preferable not at present Stop Neither of us know anything about other two objects.”

F. says that both your sculpturesBZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. as far as he knows, were L’s property. L. disposed of them at his pleasure for years subsequent to his father’sPrince Friedrich Leopold (1865–1931). death, & had them for a long time in his house at Lugano. The minor named by K.,Otto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. F. supposes, is the son of L’s elder brother,Prince Friedrich Sigismund of Prussia (1891–1927), the elder son of Prince Friedrich Leopold the Elder of Prussia (1865–1931). His son was Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia (1919–2006). At the time of Friedrich Leopold the Elder’s death in 1931, the family’s property, Schloss Glienicke in Potsdam-Berlin, passed to Friedrich Karl, the surviving son of the deceased eldest brother, for reasons of primogeniture. But according to Friedrich Leopold the Younger’s mother’s autobiography, Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court (London: John Murray, 1939), 247, her husband “had made a will in which he left all the works of art which he had inherited from his grandfather and from his mother to Friedrich Leopold who, as the youngest son, would not be left so very well off . . .” now deceased. F. has never, until now, heard of any claim being made on behalf of this boy. He thinks that if one were made now it would probably fall under prescription (tho’ he’s not sure about this.)

As I wrote you on Dec. 20th, L. is in jug, awaiting trial on a charge of exchange smuggling, and F. was called upon to give evidence, which he did before a G.German. consul. None of the questions put to him had anything to do with the sculptures.BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. None of them, in fact, had anything to do with L’s supposed crime, or with the proceedings referred to in K.’sOtto Kümmel. letter. They were aimed at finding out if L had talked politics to F., & if so what. (L had been unguarded enough to write articles, which I myself have seen, signed with his initials & title, in leading Swiss papers).

F. says that if KOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. or his colleagues or anyone else, want to pursue the line indicated in K’sOtto Kümmel. letter to you, they can only proceed against him. F. made no objection to his name being mentioned , on principle, but would prefer it shouldn’t be done while GothaSee letters of April 8, 1937April 8, 1937April 9, 1937April 9, 1937April 16, 1937April 16, 1937May 22, 1937June 3, 1937June 16, 1937June 26, 1937July 6, 1937July 25, 1937August 21, 1937September 4, 1937October 25, 1937November 23, 1937December 13, 1937February 28, 1938March 31, 1938July 10, 1938July 29, 1938August 10, 1938August 16, 1938; and December 20, 1938. etc are pending. He points out that it is none of K’sOtto Kümmel. business to take up this matter, & suspects that K.,Otto Kümmel. having heard that L. is pegged, thinks he sees an opportunity of acquiring merit by starting a new charge against him—a proceeding entirely typical of the times & the surroundings.

If you wish to answer KOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. and mention F., you can do it. I should have thought that K’sOtto Kümmel. letter was a piece of impertinence which deserved no reply at all, and that if you felt inclined to reply, it would be amply sufficient to give the answer suggested above.

As far as I could observe, F. was not in the least embarrassed by this question, when I put it to him (I had given him no intimation at all of what I wanted so urgently to see him about). My impression is that he is in good faith and that, as he said, the whole matter was completely new to him. The more I think the thing over, the more it looks to me like a piece of bluff. When I first heard about the sculpturesBZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. 8 years ago (early in 1931), they were described to me as belonging to L., and I heard about V’s attempts to buy them for his then institution.The Kaiser-Friedrich (now Bode) Museum, Berlin.

One must remember that at present the only source of law in L’s country is the national will as interpreted by the party. We have recently seen what things can take place there with the sanction of the authorities. In such conditions, and given that L has been unwise enough to write these articles, it would not be surprising if in some form he were to be declared to have forfeited his property which might then be claimed on behalf of his next of kin, i.e.the minor nephew.Friedrich Karl (1919–2006).

This of course is only a hypothesis, but perhaps not altogether improbable.

As you ask my opinion, I will say again that I am against answering KOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. at all. His initiative seems to me to be a piece of cold cheek. If you have answered, just saying you bought from a dealer in Switzerland, I don’t see that that can do any harm—but I feel that KOtto Kümmel. doesn’t deserve any answer at all. And I certainly would avoid saying anything to encourage him to continue correspondence on the subject.

I expect to see V. in a few days, but I shall not mention the matter to him. I’ll let you know if he says anything about it.

Love to both of you

R. T.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23; BZ.1938.62