Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, December 7, 1938

Finished and mailed Jan’y 18: 1939.

December 7: 1938

Dear Royall,

It has not been possible to write you regarding the Doro Levi affair, as I never seem to have time to sit down for fifteen consecutive minutes. Moreover, the situation in regard to him has been changing so frequently that I could not have presented a complete picture before now.

Enclosed you will find a copy of a letter I have just written to President ConantJames Bryant Conant (1893–1978), an American chemist and president of Harvard University in 1933–1953. of Harvard. I beg that you will consider this as most confidential and for your information only, and that when you have read it your will kindly destroy this copy. I think you can read between the lines as to what has taken place at Cambridge.

In addition to what I have put in my letter to President Conant,James Bryant Conant (1893–1978), an American chemist and president of Harvard University in 1933–1953. I want to add that after the cablegram to you of November 26th both Mildred and I thought that everything was fully arranged and were horrified to receive a letter from Dr. Flexner,Abraham Flexner (1866–1959), an American educator and, with Louis Bamberger, the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which he headed between 1930 and 1939. dated December first, showing that nothing at all had been done as to securing affidavits. For your enlightenment (!) I send a copy of his letter, which I also beg you to destroy after reading. Mildred then again talked with Dr. Flexner and was so severe with the poor man that she received a most apologetic letter, which I think will amuse you --- the enclosed copy also to be destroyed, please.

Two days ago Dr. FlexnerAbraham Flexner (1866–1959), an American educator and, with Louis Bamberger, the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which he headed between 1930 and 1939. telegraphed after he had received a reply from you conveying Doro Levi’s acceptance of the Princeton offer. Yesterday I had two more talks with Flexner on the telephone about the affidavits, after learning from the State Department that the only place where visa applications are received in Italy is at the Consulate General in Naples. I also learned that the Greek quota is filled and that there is a long waiting list which would necessitate a delay of three years to anyone making application now. I suggest, therefore, that Signora LeviAnna Cosadino (Kosadinou) Levi (1895–1981), wife of the art historian and archaeologist Teodoro (“Doro”) Davide Levi (1899–1991). She was born in the Greek section of Istanbul and married Levi in 1928. See Giovanna Bandini, Lettere dall’egeo: Archeologhe italiane tra 1900 e 1950 (Florence: Giunti, 2003), 92n29 and 122n3. make her application at Naples at the same time he applies for a visa. If you will then have me advised by cable that the applications have been made, I think that I can expedite matters here at the State Department.

…………………………

January 14: 1939

Rather than scrap the above I send it along, if only to let you know that I had started long ago to give you a somewhat chronological account of the progress at this end of the Doro Levi affair.

Doro Levi is now in this country and he is coming down here Friday, the 20th, to spend the week-end. We are looking forward with much pleasure to seeing him and will discuss many matters, especially regarding the arrangement of objects in the new roomThe Byzantine Collection gallery. In 1938, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss engaged the architect Thomas T. Waterman to design the two-pavilion museum wing at Dumbarton Oaks; the wing was completed in 1940.—the construction of which, by the way, is getting along well; the foundations are all laid and the brickwork is already commenced, though a heavy snow storm today has stopped it temporarily.

You know, I think, from my cablegram that your letters have all reached me but for the sake of your peace of mind I enumerate them as follows:—October 10; November 15 and 27; December 17, 18 and 20. Also letters concerning Doro Levi almost exclusively; one,The whereabouts of this letter is unknown. no date, but mailed October 28th; November 22nd, and December 11th.

I think I have already told you how impressed and delighted we are with the KhawamKhawam Brothers, an antiquities business that was founded in Cairo in 1862 by Sélim Khawam. large necklace.BZ.1938.69. It is stunning and has épaté’d“Wowed.” all who have seen it. Thank you for having a case made for it. By the way, now that we can arrange to display all these smaller objects in the new room it will not be necessary in the future to have cases made.

I eagerly await news from you—first about the MakridyTheodore Makridy (Macridy) (1872–1940), a Turkish archaeologist and curator who was the founding director of the Benaki Museum in Athens (1931–1940); he was the former keeper (1872–1931) of the Greek and Byzantine department and the assistant director (1925–1930) of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. ivory;Wing of a triptych with the Archangel Gabriel and the bust of Saint Paul, tenth century, ivory, Benaki Museum, Athens, inv. no. 10399. The ivory was donated to the Benaki Museum in 1939 by Stephanos and Penelope Delta. Reportedly, it was acquired from someone named Tozakoglu. See Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Benaki Museum, 2013), 158–59, no. 76. we offer daily prayers that it may come to Dumbarton Oaks. We were very keen about it merely on seeing the photographs and now that you have written us in detail regarding its beauty and interest, we are itching to have it join the Collection. I am also eager to hear what you have to suggest in answering LandauNicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, he studied law in Paris before becoming an antiquities dealer in New York and then in Paris, where he had a business on the rue de Duras. about his ivory;BZ.1939.8. I have not written him as yet and fear that he may begin to show impatience, though this is in no way a reflection on your not having written because I know that with the suppression of practically all fast steamers letters are much more retarded in reaching their destinations. I do hope that we can annex that ivory too.

Nothing has been received from Juritzky, so I am waiting for the photographs of the objects which you enumerated in your letter of the 18th ultimo. Do you suppose you could pick up for us a copy of the catalogue of the Ludwig Mark [sic]-Albert Sieck sale,Katalog der Sammlungen Ludwig Marx-Mainz, Albert Sieck-München (Munich: Weizinger, 1918). or sales, if those two collectors’ objects were sold separately.

The next thing, of course, is the communication from Kummel.Otto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. Thank you very much for your cablegram.December 27, 1938. I have not yet written Kummel,—preferring to wait a little longer until you have read the copy of his letter, which must be in your hands by this time, and can write me more in detail. I think that Kummel’s letter should be answered and when this is done I shall make no mention of the name of F. If, in reply, Kummel should ask to know the name of the dealer, then I take it, from your cablegram, that there is no objection to my revealing his name. By the way, I have no receipt or document of any kind from F. to show that I have acquired the two pieces of sculpture.BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. Don’t you think it might be well for him to send me formal receipts giving the respective dates of purchase?

I am not going to be hindered by interruptions and other matters from getting this letter off! Nor have I the time to wrote [sic] you about international or local politics, and will only mention again what a delight the visit of the BetbilThe Bliss abbreviation for Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler. family gave us. It will please you, I know, to hear that Bill has made a most favorable impression on Forbes and Sachs. They are very enthusiastic, in talking with me, about Bill’s work and think that he is an exceptional young man.

Much love,

Affectionately,

[unsigned]

Royall Tyler, Esquire

Geneva, Switzerland

P. S.

Since dictating the above a letter has come from Juritzky in which he states that on returning to Berne he found a letter from an important museum asking him to reserve the three pieces which might eventually interest me. Those are the ones to which you refer in your letter of the 18th ultimo.December 18, 1938 He adds that he feels obliged, for the moment, to reserve these things for the museum. He does send, however, an enlarged photograph of a cameoThis chalcedony cameo has not been identified. of grey calcedon which he says dates from the first centuries of the Christian church. Have you seen this cameo and do you think it is an object which we wish to acquire? I am writing before having had time to give any thought to it, or really examine the photograph closely. He asks 2,000 Swiss francs. By the way, his address he gives as:

c/o Baronne de Reding

rue des Alpes 19

BERNE.

As you seem very enthusiasticSee letter of December 18, 1938. about the two gold fibula,Katalog der Sammlungen Ludwig Marx-Mainz, Albert Sieck-München (Munich: Weizinger, 1918), 55, nos. 893 and 894. I hope you can get J. to send me photographs of them. In reading further in your letter I see that you refer to the cameo in detail and state that you think it is not of much importance for us. I feel as you do on causal examination of the fibula but will write further in regard to this.

RWB

3 ENC:Copies of these enclosures were not retained. Royall Tyler states that he destroyed the copies of the three letters in his letter of January 28, 1939. 2 Letters Dr. FlexnerAbraham Flexner (1866–1959), an American educator and, with Louis Bamberger, the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which he headed between 1930 and 1939.

1 Letter to Prof. ConantJames Bryant Conant (1893–1978), an American chemist and president of Harvard University in 1933 –1953. This letter may have formally declined Harvard University’s offer to name Levi university professor of classical archaeology at Harvard University and consultant to Dumbarton Oaks. Harvard’s requirement that Bliss contribute a substantial amount to Levi’s salary for a five-year period made the offer untenable. (Jan’y 14) from R.W.B

S.S. “Washington”—Jan. 18th/39

 
Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23; BZ.1938.62; BZ.1938.69; BZ.1939.8