Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, December 17, 1938

17.XII.38

Dear Robert.

I had yours of the 1st Dec. just after writing you from Bâle last Sunday.See letter of December 11, 1938.

I chuckled long over the letter to Landau:Nicolas 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. just what the doctor ordered. Now, be a good boy and keep me informed of what happens. I shall en faire une maladie“Get a disease.” if you don’t get that ivory.BZ.1939.8. After all, the real fun in collecting is to back one’s own opinion against that of others, especially when one can do it at reduced cost, thanks to the others’ misapprehensions.Jean-Jacques Marquet de Vasselot considered the ivory a fake.

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. 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 with me! And I’ve written Mak., about it, a letter in which I’ve tried to reconcile the following conflicting considerations:

1) The ivory is a holy marvel (not for Mak’s ears, of course).

2) The price (£250), considering its quality, is absurdly cheap.

3) No conceivable doubt as to authenticity. (I think its mid X, but I want to go into the exact date further).

4) If I were to tell Makridy I had doubts as to its authenticity, and the object turned up at D.O., Makridy might suspect me of double-dealing, and never, never ask my advice about anything again, which would be a pity, as via him we may intercept some things on their way between source & Western market.

So I said to Makridy that I had examined the ivory & believed it to be genuine and of good style. That its fragmentary condition certainly detracts greatly from its value. (Then a big full stop, a gulp and) The price asked for it is surprising.

Well, may God forgive me. And may BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930. decide it’s not for him. Happily, Benaki knows nix about Byz., & Makridy, who knows a lot, has a poor eye for quality.

But, ah what a lovely thing it is! I hate to screw up your expectations, which I gather are high already on the strength of the photo., while the fate of the object is in the balance, but I cant forbear from saying that in quality of cutting, & every respect it’s as beautiful as any ivory I’ve ever seen—and not just another version of one of the known great ones, but with a character of its own—I must look again at that Const. Porph. oneChrist Blessing Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Byzantine, ca. 945, ivory, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, acc. no. Π-162. at Moscow, which keeps coming back to my mind in connexion with it.

If Mak. tells me Benaki passes, I’ll try to screw him down a bit on the price—but I tremble lest Benaki take it!

I understand Doro Levi has got his visa, 12 months, in order to obtain which he had to take an oath he’d return to Italy, & had to renew the lease of his flat there. I expect that can be settled later, though. He’s trying to get a passage on a wop boat (so as to pay in Lire), but without paying a return ticket, which the wops demand. Well, anyway, he is lucky to have had your helping hand held out to him, and I’m sure he won’t disappoint us.

Much love to you both

R. T.

P.S.

I suspect that Mak.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. and BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930. may have had doubts about 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. just because it’s in such a filthy condition: thinking that the grime may be a maquillage.“Makeup.” I’m perfectly certain that’s not the case. I’ve examined it for long periods, day after day all this last week.

The Juritzkys have just sent me word from Berne that they’ve returned from Vienna & brought with them some things, & are shortly coming here—Just as I wrote those words the ‘phone went & a friend of theirs told me they’ll be here this evening! We’ll see.

 
Associated People: Antonin Juritzky; Doro Levi
Associated Artworks: BZ.1939.8