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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, January 30, 1929

Ministry of Finance,
Budapest.
30.I.29Wednesday.

Your letter of Jan. 10 has just come, dearest Mildred, and I am most happy to have your news. I’m delighted you have got the ivory—it is probably the best Byz. ivory of its period in private hands, with the possible exception of Trivulzio’s great relief of Our Lord,Probably Christ Enthroned, Byzantine, second half of the tenth century, ivory. The ivory was formerly in the collection of Prince Luigi Alberico Trivulzio (1868–1938), Milan, and later in the collection of Robert von Hirsch, Basel, from which it was sold in 1978. See Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X–XIII Jahrhunderts, vol. 2 (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 41, no. 54n, pl. 22; Sotheby Parke Bernet, The Robert von Hirsch Collection, vol. 2 (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1978), sale June 22, 1978, lot 273; and Giovanni Seregni, Don Carlo Trivulzio e la cultura milanese dell’età sua MDCCXV–MDCLXXXIX (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1927), 203–4. which I finally succeeded in seeing the other day. But that, although it belongs to Pr. Trivulzio, would never come on the market. The Ital. Govt. knows all about it, and would immediately exercise its right of pre-emption if T. tried to sell it—and would heavily straff T. if he got it out of the country without permission. T. has a lot of other ivories, of the VI c, some of them of superb quality.When the Trivulzio Collection was dispersed in 1934–1935, the Blisses acquired a sixth-century ivory diptych (BZ.1935.4.a–b) through Raphaël Stora, the brother and partner of Maurice Stora (1879–1950). The Stora brothers operated branches in Paris, M. & R. Stora, and New York, Stora Art Galleries, Inc. See letter of August 11, 1934. And his library and other collections are marvels, and of huge interest as having been got together over 5 centuries.The manuscripts of this collection, founded and formed in the first half of the eighteenth century by Duke Alessandro Teodoro Trivulzio (1694–1763) and his brother Abbot Carlo Trivulzio (1715–1789), came mainly from private and ecclesiastical libraries in Milan. A large part of the Trivulzio collection was acquired in 1935 by the antiquarian Pietro Accorsi (1891–1982) on behalf of the Palazzo Madama Museum in Turin and with the backing of the Prince of Piedmont, Umberto of Savoy. But Mussolini prohibited the collection from leaving Milan, and the majority of the library, tapestries, paintings, and decorative objects entered the Castello Sforzesco Museum. It is rather chic to have presents from Charles VIII of France and François I with the Trivulzio arms on them. T. has the reputation of being difficult, but I found him very nice and spent a most enjoyable afternoon with him. When Italians are really nice, they are remarkably agreeable.

I’m very glad you’ve taken Kaleb’s jewels too. I now have photos. of the great Gans coll.,In 1909, a late Roman treasure came onto the market in Cairo and was purchased partly by Charles L. Freer of Detroit, Michigan, and partly by Friedrich Ludwig von Gans (1833–1920) of Frankfurt, who presented his collection to the so-called Antiquarium in Berlin (now part of the Antikensammlung Berlin and held in the Altes Museum) in 1912. now in the Berlin museum, and there’s nothing there that has quite the quality of those ear-rings. By the way, I hear from Kalebdjian that Aboucassem, dit Boubouc,“Called Boubouc.” has sold all his silver to a N.Y. dealer for £6,500.See letters of January 7, 1927 [2], and January 7, 1927 [3]. The New York and Paris antiquities dealer Joseph Brummer had acquired the treasure by 1928, when he sold it to Henry Walters of Baltimore. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, acquired the treasure by bequest in 1931. I wonder who it is. Brummer would know. Do see him and find out—and at the same time see his Sassanian things, which Hayford says are superb.

It is great news that you have got us $1000 for our photo. fund.Elisina Tyler established an archive of photographs of Byzantine objects; the project was partly funded by contributions solicited by Mildred Barnes Bliss. See also letters of May 7, 1927; November 20, 1927; May 10, 1928; February 28, 1929 [2]; March 11, 1929; and March 29, 1929 [1]. We shall be able to use it to great advantage. I’m longing to show you our collection.

We had a splendid month’s work at Antigny. The weather was very cold, but pleasant, and we succeeded in doing a great deal. I’m now trying to knock into shape what we got down, as it came along, without bothering about form or arrangement.

I’m writing to find out if Brummer got you that vaseThis vase has not been identified.—it had slipped my mind, I’m ashamed to say. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out, but I didn’t feel like waiting so long before writing to you, my lamb.

I’m greatly interested by the forecasts you give me. I take it your plans to be in London early March hold good. I suppose the Embassy there will know, so that I don’t lose any time. I shall probably be there from about March 1st c/o Hambro’s Bank, Ltd. 41 Bishopsgate, E. C. 2.

Bill is now a monitor, one of the 20 boys who rule the 675 at Harrow. He had a good holiday, as there was plenty of skating at Antigny. He seems to me very young for his 18 years, but that’s not a bad fault.

I was delighted to see that Arthur Salter had been awarded the Howland Memorial Prize at Yale.In 1929, Arthur Salter was awarded the Henry Howland Memorial Prize given by Yale University every other year for distinction in literature, fine arts, or government. I do hope you didn’t miss that bright-eyed, if dun-feathered little bird.

Yes, I’ve heard that the newly discovered Kahrie Djami mosaic is very good, but it appears to be more stuff in exactly the same style as the mosaics in the narthex of the same church, which have been freed from their white-wash now for 25 yrs. or more.In 1929, a partial restoration was undertaken at the Kariye Camii (Chora Monastery) in Istanbul by the Evkaf Administration, during which the mosaic of the Koimesis was uncovered in the naos. See Robert G. Ousterhout, The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1987), 9; and H. E. del Medico, “La mosaïque de la Koimesis à Kahrie Djami,” Byzantion 7 (1932): 123–41. It is XIVth cent. work, very pretty but without the true Byz. majesty. Your ivory is worth fifty Stoclet mosaics.Presumably the Byzantine wall mosaic fragment of Christ dated to the eleventh or twelfth centuries that Stoclet acquired at an unknown date. See Jules Pierre van Goidsenhoven, Adolphe Stoclet Collection (Brussels: Published under the direction of J. P. van Goidsenhoven, 1956), 154–57. In 2008, this mosaic was sold at auction by Pierre Bergé & Associés, Paris, on May 29, 2008, no. 560. That is a good object and no ruddy error.

Bless you, dearest Mildred, and do let me have a line when you can. Here till Feb. 25.

Yrs.
R. T.

Fettich told me he had been strongly advised to marry, but he didn’t want to. ‘Eine Frau,’ he said, ‘Was soll ich mit einer Frau anfangen? Das wäre, bitte schön, sehr ein grosses Hindernis bei der Arbeit.’“A wife? What should I do with a wife? That would be, if you please, a very big obstacle to my work.”

Elisina (kein Zusammenhang)“No connection.” is coming out to spend a fortnight here in Feb. and say good-bye to the Hunkies.

P. S. Fettich can’t get permission to go to Russia at present, because it is considered that conditions are too uncertain there. He hopes to be able to do so in the summer. In the meantime he has plenty to do here. There have been a lot of new finds: one wonderful tomb of an ambulant Avar goldsmith, with his horse and all his stock and tools, including a lot of bronze moulds used to make gold ornaments, some of which are Hun-Avar in style—and some straight Byzantine—showing that Byz. models were used by the Turanians who had their being here in the VIth and VIIth.In 1928, Dezsõ Csallány excavated the grave of an Avar goldsmith in Kunszentmárton, Hungary. Between 1880 and 1930, graves of Byzantine and/or Avar goldsmiths had been discovered in Hungary that contained sets of molds with Byzantine motifs and Byzantine-style tools, scales, and sets of weights. See Istvan Bóna, “Byzantium and the Avars: The Archaeology of the First Seventy Years of the Avar Era,” in From the Baltic to the Black Sea: Studies in Medieval Archaeology, edited by David Austin and Leslie Alcock (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 114; and J. Werner, “Zur Verbreitung frühgeschichtlicher Mettalarbeiten,” Antikvarist Arkiv 38 (1970): 71–73.

I propose to write to Mlle. MalyeThérèse Malye (1886–1951), Mildred Barnes Bliss’s social secretary in Paris. and tell her that I’m instructing 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 (Paris: Somogy, 2005). to call her up and ask when he can come and photograph the Byz. ivory. We must have a good photo. of it. Even with the poor reproduction of it in the Catalogue of the Burlington show,Catalogue of an Exhibition of Carvings in Ivory (London: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1923), pl. XVI, 54. Hayford and I, comparing it with all the other things of the period we know, felt convinced that it was one of the very great ivory carvings, and as I said, the best now in private hands. The only one that is really better is the Romanus and Eudoxia panel in the Cab. des Méd.Christ Crowning Romanos and Eudoxia, ca. 945–949, ivory, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Cabinet des Médailles, inv. 300. See Byzance: L’art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1992), 232–33.

What a time poor Marie BealeMrs. Truxton Beale (née Marie Chase Oge, 1880–1956), the wife of the diplomat Truxton Beale and a Washington, D.C., hostess, socialite, and philanthropist who was renowned for her historic home, Decatur House, on Lafayette Square and for the annual dinner she gave for the diplomatic corps. The nature of her “poor time” is unknown. has had! and what luck for her to be in your flat and not in a hotel!

The Danube is frozen over from bank to bank (about 400 yds.) and there are some sleighs to be seen in the streets of Budapest!

R. T.

 
Associated Things: Kalebdjian Frères
Associated Artworks: BZ.1928.8-17; BZ.1929.2