Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, November 15, 1938 [1]

Geneva

15.XI.38

Dear Robert.

Makridy,Theodore 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. of the Benaki Museum,The Benaki Museum, Athens, a museum established and endowed in 1930 by the Greek collector Antonis Benakis (1873–1954) and housed in the Benakis family mansion in Athens. Athens, sent me the enclosed photos (actual size of object), asking me a) my opinion and b) how much I think the ivoryWing 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. is worth. This letter is now followed by another telling me that he has sent the ivory to Paris (to a friend—not a dealer: Ch. Picard,Charles Picard (1883–1965), a French archaeologist and historian of ancient Greek art. Picard was elected member of the Académie des inscriptions et belles letters in 1932. de l’Institut, a Greek scholar), and begging me to look at it and tell him if I’m quite satisfied as to its genuineness & whether it is worth the £250 asked for it by the Armenian dentist, established in Yugoslavia, to whom it belongs (no name or address given). He adds that he isn’t at all sure that Benaki will take the object, even if I give him a favourable opinion on it, & that if he doesn’t & I want it I can have it for £250.

I could not honestly avoid answering Makridy’s first letter with the statement that the ivory looked good to me, from the photo. I did not think it was incumbent upon me to express an opinion as to the price, or as to the quality (apart from authenticity) of the object. But I will tell you that it looks as one of the very highest quality (and of an individuality in treatment that marks the hand of a great artist. I’ll confess I have a sort of suspicion it may be by the same hand as the fragment in Moscow representing Constantine Porphyrogennitos!),Christ Crowing the Emperor Constantine VII, tenth century, ivory, Pushkin Museum, Moscow. of the X century, and that I think it would be a very good buy indeed for £250. This price no doubt includes a rake-off to Makridy, but that can’t be helped.

In fact, if you don’t want it, I think I’ll try to scrape the £250 together myself; it would be nice to have the two best GabrielsBZ.1972.21. I’ve ever seen—and the cross is a marvel. But I somehow think you’ll want it for D.O. It is worthy of D.O.: I have no scruple in saying so.

I say this, of course, subject to examination de visu,“With one’s own eyes.” but I can see the object so well through the photo that I have no doubt at all of its genuineness. I can’t go to Paris at once, but hope to shortly. I can’t avoid confirming to Makridy what I’ve already told him. I won’t say more. And I devoutly hope BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930. will turn down the object as too fragmentary.

Would you cable me whether or not you want it? Please return the photos. in any case, as soon as possible.

Bill’s letters are a joy. He’s as happy as the day is long at the Fogg, and its good to think that he is so happy fitting into a plan that you put through.

I’m anxious to know whether you’ve received the Elephant TamerBZ.1927.1. paper,Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, “Elephant Tamer Silk, VIIIth Century,” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941): 19–26. especially as I sent with it a dozen or so photos to illustrate it. I sent it, registered, from London on Sept. 26. Do reassure me—or break the news that it hasn’t arrived, so that I may try to get it traced. If you have it, you’ll let me have the photos back after reproduction, won’t you?

Elisina was lately here with me for ten days. She’s progressing—slowly but undoubtedly. She’s now at Hyères.

Much love to you both

R. T.

P.S.

Perhaps if you don’t want this ivory for D.O., the Fogg might like to have it? Or you might like to let the Fogg see it. If you do decide against it, & feel like sending the photos to the Fogg, do so by all means, but please ask them to return the photos to me, in any case. If the Fogg doesn’t want it, please don’t let them tell anyone else about it, so that I may try to get it.

I’m longing to know if Mrs. Sessions took over the 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. ivory,BZ.1939.8. & what you’ve done about it.

 
Associated Artworks: BZ.1927.1; BZ.1939.8; BZ.1972.21