Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, December 31, 1937

December 31, 1937

Royall Tyler, Esq.,

Finance Ministry,

Budapest, Hungary.

Dear Royall:

Another attack of the flu, which put me out of the running for a week or so, has prevented my writing you at an earlier date to acknowledge your several letters which have accumulated with delightful rapidity.

Those I have not acknowledged are: November 20th, 23rd, December 13th, 14th, 16th, and 20th. With your last letter was included the long one to Mildred, which we read with the greatest interest, as regards your personal affairs.See letter of December 19, 1937.

Before starting on various matters which I want to go into, may I refer again to your letter of November 10th, regarding the accounts? In making the alteration you suggest, I bring it out as £51.9.3.For this credit, see letters of October 7, 1937; November 10, 1937; January 20, 1938 [2]; and February 1, 1938 [2]. I only mention this in passing, though the difference is so slight that it has no importance.

I have to confess that I did not think there was any chance of acquiring the spoonsBZ.1937.35–42. at the price you had offered for them, and I am naturally delighted that you were able to rake them in. We are intensely excited over your enthusiasm for the marriage belt,BZ.1937.33. and are keenly looking forward to their arrival next week.

At the time there seemed to be a strong probability that either Mildred or I would go over to Switzerland, I wrote Bill, suggesting that he hold the ringsBZ.1937.26, BZ.1937.27, and BZ.1937.28. and silks,BZ.1937.25 and BZ.1937.29. thinking that we would probably go home by way of England. Although I did suggest there might be a possibility of sending them over by some friend, they have not appeared; so I shall write Bill suggesting that if he does not know of anyone who is coming to this country now, they be sent in the ordinary way. I entirely agree with what you have written in your last letter about the GuilhouÉdouard Guilhou, a Parisian collector. See Catalogue of the Superb Collection of Rings Formed by the Late Monseiur E. Guilhou, of Paris, Comprising Rings of the Classical Period, Including Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Rings, Rings of the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Modern Times . . . Which will be Sold by Auction . . . on Tuesday, the 9th of November 1937, and Three Following Days (London: Sotheby and Co, 1937). ring No. 460.BZ.1947.15. At the price Dr. HirschJacob Hirsch (1874–1955), a German-Swiss numismatist, archaeologist, and antiquities dealer. paid for it, I imagine he will have it in his possession for some time to come, if he hopes to make a profit on it, though one never can tell when some crazy person may come along and want an object irrespective of the price asked.

Last Monday, I sent you a telegram to Sainte Claire, authorizing you to buy the Juritzky columns.BZ.1940.78–79. This is on the understanding of his letter to you, enclosed in yours of November 23rd, in which he agrees to pay the carriage up to a maximum of schl. 1500. If the carriage should not come to this sum, (I have no idea what it will cost), I suppose he would be willing to contribute the difference towards the insurance. Do you know whether this particular stone will stand exposure in the climate like this of Washington, where the thermometer sometimes goes as low as fifteen degrees below zero Fahrenheit, although that is an exception, and only lasts a very short time, but there are many times during the winter months when the thermometer goes well below zero. We are trying now to get as full information as to provenance, etc. of our objects, and therefore it would be interesting, if possible, to know where those columns came from originally. I remember that when you first told me of them, you wrote that they have been given by the EmperorFranz Joseph I (1830–1916), emperor of Austria and king of Hungary from 1848 to 1916. to one of his high officials, but where did the Emperor get them from?

I am writing under considerable stress, so this may be a very disjointed letter. Mildred is just beginning to emerge from an attack of bronchitis, and has been sitting up on a chaise longue the last two days. When one of us is “hors de combat”,“Knocked out.” the other one is more rushed than ever, and to add to it all, our superintendent, Gray,William James Gray (1882–1937), superintendent of the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks between 1922 and 1937. of whom, as you doubtless know, we were very fond, died this morning from a heart attack, after ten days’ illness. Tomorrow is a holiday, and I have to go to New York on Monday by the one o’clock train, in order to have a short talk with Max Farrand,Max Farrand (1869–1945), an American historian and university professor. Farrand was the husband of Beatrix Farrand and the first director of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, between 1926 and 1941. before he leaves for California by an evening train, so please forgive any incongruities in this letter. It will be typed Monday morning, and I shall take it on the train with me to go over, and perhaps add a p.s. or two before mailing it in New York.

I am delighted that you have had a case made for the belt,BZ.1937.33. and also have had it photographed. You do quite right to have GiraudonAdolphe and Georges Giraudon founded a photographic library in 1877 in Paris that specialized in photographic reproductions for “artists and scholars.” See Monique Le Pelley Fonteny, Adolphe et Georges Giraudon: Une bibliothèque photographique (Paris: Somogy, 2005). send the negative here.

A propos of negatives, I shall hope to get from Brummer next week photographs of the latest three objects,BZ.1937.30, BZ.1937.31, and BZ.1937.32. about which I have already written you,See letter of December 3, 1937. and will send them on to you, perhaps with this letter. I have noted what you have said about the four Romanesque figures adossés,These sculptures have not been identified. in your letter of the 20th, and agree with you that we should not get them. In truth, as you know full well, both Mildred and I are entirely of your opinion that we should keep to our Byzantine field and its allied arts, but, also agreeing with you, there are occasions when one falls from grace! We have been tempted by two objects. You may have seen one which BykPaul M. Byk (1887–1946), an employee of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., New York. has brought over—a most unusual Gothic wooden Madonna seated;In correspondence from Paul M. Byk to Robert Woods Bliss, dated December 28, 1937, this sculpture is described as a “great French early Virgin.” Byzantine Collection, Seligmann correspondence file. In the letter of January 10, 1938 [1], it is described as Romanesque. a really very fine and unusual object. But we have resisted this one. The other is a Sassanian bronze horse,BZ.1938.12. unlike anything I have ever seen before. Of course, Brummer has it! It is fully three feet long, from rump to nostril. We are trying to resist it, and hope we shall succeed, but I do not know. I shall try to get a photograph and send you.

I cannot recall having seen at Brummer’s the silver vasePossibly a silver vase lent by the Brummer Gallery to the exhibition The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, Worcester Art Museum, February 20–March 21, 1937; see The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, February 20–March 21, 1937 (Worcester, Mass., 1937), cat. no. 66, p. 33. The vase is described as having “representations in repoussé, of various kinds of birds, fish and other animals. From Hungary, found in the Danube. Second half of the IV Century B.C. [sic]” referred to in the page of Hayford’s letter you sent me in yours of December 14th.

In my cablegram to you of last Monday, (December 27th), I replied to your letter of December 13th, in which you urged us to make an offer on the two Dresden ivories. For reasons which I shall not go into now, I sent you a figure somewhat lower than the one you mentioned. I hope it may pry the things loose, and if so, we shall feel very pleased. If not, it will at least start something.

Did I not write you many months ago about the Esstergom [sic] reliquaryThe Esztergom Staurotheke, Byzantine, ca. 1150–1200, silver gilt and enamel, Cathedral Treasury, Esztergom, Hungary, acc. no. 64.3.1. that Brummer was trying to get at? At one time, he told me that he had made an offer of a million francs, (that was before the last depression in Paris). But the last time I mentioned it, he said for the moment there was no possibility of buying it. You might check up and see what there is in it.

And lastly, thank you for your telegram in advice to Brummer’s fragment of a sarcophagus,Possibly a fragment of a sarcophagus lent by the Brummer Gallery to the exhibition The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, Worcester Art Museum, February 20–March 21, 1937; see The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, February 20–March 21, 1937 (Worcester, Mass., 1937), cat. no. 39, p. 27. It is described as being “in marble with a representation of Christ, seated. Italy. III Century A.D.” (No. 545 at your Paris Byzantine Exhibition). It does not break my heart to have you counsel against it. It goes almost without saying that I have noted carefully all you say in your letter of December 13th. I would like to see what happens about the two Dresden ivories, before taking any steps in regard to the Madonna reliefBZ.1938.62. of Prince L., but if there are any important developments, you will, of course, advise me.

This is all for this sitting.

RWB

On the train Jany 3. I shall have to post this before seeing Brummer but shall hope to send photos in a day or two.

Mildred is better, went out yesterday afternoon to Gray’sWilliam James Gray (1882–1937), the superintendent of the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks between 1922 and 1937. funeral & again this am. We eagerly await your news as to what job the F. Com.Financial Committee of the League of Nations. will offer you. What about your heading the Hung. Oil Corporation? You’ve done a grand job in H.Hungary. & those people should erect a monument to you.

Much love,

Affy

Robert

 
Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931