Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, March 31, 1939

March 31: 1939

Royall Tyler, Esquire

League of Nations

Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Royall,

Here goes a letter which has been many weeks in my mind and desire to write, but we go at such a pace here that I only seem to have time to dash off hurried notes in reply to matters requiring immediate answer.

Your letters and cablegrams that are staring me in the face for acknowledgment I will enumerate for the sake of record:

Cablegrams—December 27 and January 2.

Letter—January 3.

Postcard—January 12 (from Rome)

Cablegram—January 16.

Letters—January 16,There is not a letter from January 16, 1939. Robert Woods Bliss may mean the letter from January 17, which he does not list. 21, 28 and 30. February 8.

Cablegram—February 12.

Letters—February 12, 14, 20. March 9.!

All that you have written, especially in your letter of January 21st about the EmperorBZ.1937.23. and MAD,BZ.1938.62. is most interesting and I think that your suppositions regarding KummelOtto Kümmel (1874–1952), a German art historian and director of the Berlin State Museums between 1934 and 1945. would probably turn out to be correct if we could get at the real facts. They only confirm us in our determination to hang on to the two sculptures. I wrote Kummel (for it is Kummel and not KuhnelRoyall Tyler mistakenly believed that Otto Kümmel was named Kühnel. Ernst Kühnel (1882–1964) was a curator of the Islamic collection of the State Museum (Kaiser Friedrich Museum) in Berlin. who wrote me the famous letter, as I sent you word in my hurried note of February 2) after Mildred and I had talked over the matter many times and I enclose a copy of my letterThe whereabouts of this letter are unknown. to him.

Though we know perfectly well that in dealing with a Hun the best way is to start off with a swift kick, we thought it perhaps better to maintain the relationships of the past by writing him a letter merely saying that we had bought the two pieces of sculpture from a dealer in Switzerland. So far no answer has come to that letter. I am sorry that L, is in the jug and hope that he has or can extricate himself by hook or by gold. I fear that all this business has given you a lot of worry and unnecessary writing, but believe me I am glad to have all the information you have sent.

In your cablegram of January 16 you acknowledge receipt of my letter of the 24th, and then turn to other matters and suggest letting 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. simmer for awhile. Then you cabled again on the 12th that you had seen him and followed it up by your letter of the same date telling if your talk with him. Well, as you know from the cablegram I sent you yesterday,Cablegram of March 30, 1939 [1]. the ivoryBZ.1939.8. has come to the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. I enclose a copy of the letterThe whereabouts of this copy of a letter are not known. that was sent to Landau on the sixth of March. Yesterday came a cable from him saying that he had succeeded in persuading the owner to cede the ivory at the price offered in my letter. I am sure you are as delighted as we are. We wish very much that you would write a Dumbarton Oaks Paper on this ivory. How do you feel about that?

To return a moment to the sculptures.BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. It was through Marvin RossMarvin Chauncey Ross (1904–1977), an American art historian who studied at Harvard University (1928–1930), the Centro de Estudios Históricos in Madrid (1930), and New York University (1933–1934 and 1937). He was curator of medieval art at the Brooklyn Museum (1934) and curator of decorative arts at the Walters Art Gallery (now Walters Art Museum) beginning in 1937. of the Walters Gallery that it was learned at the Kaiser FriedrichNow Bode Museum, Berlin. that the sculptures were at Dumbarton Oaks. It seems that he was in the office of one of the curators one day last summer when photographs of the EmperorBZ.1937.23. and MAD,BZ.1938.62. and some other sculptures from the same source, were spread on the table before him and he involuntarily said: “Oh yes, I know those two” and then realized that he had made a break. He has been very contrite about it since returning to America. It was careless of him to have fallen into a trap that undoubtedly was set for him.

We are delighted you feel as we do about the EncolpionSee letter of December 24, 1938. offered by a London dealerHans Maximilian Calmann (1899–1982), a German-born art dealer in London who specialized in old master drawings. Originally a stockbroker in his family’s firm in Hamburg, Calmann moved to England in 1937 and opened an art dealership in Saint James's, which he re-opened in 1941 in Davies Street and relocated to Bruton Place in 1963. Calmann retired in 1973. and about which you wrote in your letter of January 17th. We do not care for it at all from the photograph as worthy of Dumbarton Oaks.

When we were in Rome in April 1936, Sangiorgi showed us his glass collection and I am delighted that you have seen it and evidently got as much pleasure from it as we did. At that time we did not know about the EnnionEnnion, a maker of mold-blown glass during the first half of the first century CE, probably in Sidon in Phoenicia (modern Lebanon). glass,See letter of January 17, 1939. but what you write regarding his idea of prices is most illuminating and helpful and confirms what we have learned by snooping here regarding the value of Ennion glass. The ewerGlass jug, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 17.194.226. illustrated in the catalogue of the Metropolitan Museum Show,Augustan Art, An Exhibition Commemorating the Bimillenium of the Birth of Augustus, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 4–February 19, 1939. which I sent you, is exactly the same design as the Kelek. piece and we entirely agree with you that the design of the glass is taken from silver vessels and that the glass is pressed and not blown. There were two small yellowish pieces of Ennion glass in the Metropolitan Show, which I think must be very much like the one you described in Sangiorgi’s collection. We are in entire agreement with you that a piece of Ennion glass is in no sense essential for the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. Really Kelek has a colossal amount of brass to ask such a fantastic price as he did for that blue piece; of course he will never be able to sell it unless he knocks off about thirty-two or thirty-three hundred per cent.

Speaking of Kelek: he wrote me about two months ago that he was very hard up and would be glad to make special prices for four or five different pieces which he knew I liked in his collection. Of course I wrote and told him that I would go in to see him shortly to see what he had to offer, but I have not been near the old fox as I think it is a good idea to let him simmer for awhile. The piece I would really like to have, if it could be obtained for a truly reasonable price, is that unusual ceramic mug.BZ.1939.31. I did make him an offer for it last autumn and am delighted now that he did not take me up on it!

Thanks for sending the accounts in your letter of January 21st. I am sure they are all right. It was a blow to read in your letter of January 28 that BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector and founder of the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930. had bought the Gabriel 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 had set our hearts on that piece as it really looked to be a very find object from the photograph you sent us. However, we console ourselves by having acquired the one from Landau.BZ.1939.8, the ivory offered by Nicolas Landau (1887–1979), an antiquities dealer known as “Le prince des antiquaires.” Born in Varsovia, Landau 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. By all means make the noble gesture and don’t ask him to refund you for the insurance.

Poor old Juritzky. If he has sold the fibulaeSee letter of December 18, 1938. I hope he was able to buy some first-class stuff in Germany and that it will fall within his rayon.“Beam.”

Poor old B. B. too; as far as I know he did not lift a finger for Doro. However, I hope he can get some kudos out of it! Loewi has arrived in this country and has talked with me on the telephone but I have not yet seen him. When I asked him if he had closed up his place in Venice and brought all his stuff over here, he replied: “Oh no, not at all. I fully expect to be able to go back and take up my business there later on though I do not know, of course, how long the delay will be.”

No doubt Mrs. Sessions has written you to acknowledge the receipt of the photographs of the St. Clamen’s sarcophagusSeason sarcophagus, third–fourth century, marble, Chapelle de Saint-Clamens, Belloc-Saint-Clamens, in the Midi-Pyrénées, France. The sarcophagus is iconographically similar to BZ.1936.65. and to tell you how grateful we are for your having secured it. No end of thanks. Your letter of the 14th brought notes regarding the sarcophagus for which we are also very grateful. These were copied at once and the originals sent back, as you requested, to Giraudon.Adolphe 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). In the letter (of February 8) in which you mention sending it, you ask if F. has sent receipts for the two pieces of sculpture.BZ.1937.23 and BZ.1938.62. No, they have not yet arrived and I think it would be adviseable for us to have those in our possession, each one dated at the time the respective sales were consummated.

Thanks for the clipping from the “Times” sent in yours of February 20th. I am endeavoring to get a copy of the bookLuise Sofie von Schleswig-Holstein’s autobiography, Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court (London: John Murray, 1939). to see whether it will throw any light on the former owner of the EmperorBZ.1937.23. and MAD.BZ.1938.62.

It is interesting what you write in that same letter about the Spanish works of art,After the fall of Catalonia in February 1939 during the Spanish Civil War, the recently created International Committee for the Rescue of Spanish Art Treasures wanted to avoid the risk of art being looted or destroyed. The Republican government committed itself to delivering the works of art to the care of the League of Nations with the provision that at the end of the war they would be returned to Spain. but it is a shame to think that those precious things have to be carted around to avoid the possibility of being destroyed by the stupidity of warring classes.

The photographs that Sestiery [sic]Ettore Sestieri, an art historian, dealer, and the director of the Galleria Barberini in Rome. sent of the mosaicsThirteenth-century mosaic fragments of Pope Innocent III, from the apse of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, and Pope Gregory IX, from the facade of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The mosaics are now in the Museo di Roma, Rome. left us perfectly cold and we were delighted to receive your letter (of March 2nd) sustaining us in our feeling about them. The photographs have gone back to Sestiery with great “regrets” to him that they were not for us. It will interest you to know that about two weeks ago I received word from René SeligmanRené Seligmann (ca. 1892–1940), the nephew of Jacques Seligmann who managed the New York office of Jacques Seligmann and Co., Inc. (of Jacques Seligman and Company) that he has something very important to show me and when I went in he produced the photographs of Innocent III and Gregory IX!Pope Innocent III, thirteenth-century mosaic fragment from the apse of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, and Pope Gregory IX, thirteenth-century mosaic fragment from the facade of the first basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. The mosaics are now in the Museo di Roma, Rome. See letter of March 2, 1939 [2]. The expression on his face when I told him I had already seen them some time ago and had turned them down, was fully worth the effort I had made to call on him.

We are delighted with your news of your bringing out volumes one, two and three in your volumeL’art byzantin. Neither volume three nor the combined volume would be published. and long to hear more about when it will appear, etc. The objects belonging to us we now want to have figure as of the “Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Washington”—our names not to appear.

In the last letter received from you (that of March 9th) you refer to having heard from Doro Levi that there is a possibility of excavations at Salamis. The situation is this: the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its VicinityThe Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and Its Vicinity, chaired by Charles Rufus Morey of Princeton University, oversaw the excavation of the ancient site of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, formerly in Syria and then in Turkey. does not know just how the Turkish régime will treat the work of the Committee of Antioch and whether it will be willing to abide by the old contract that provides for division of the spoils. The head of the expedition is now on his way to Antioch with the intention of resuming the work there. If all goes well in the relations with the Turkish authorities the work will be continued; if, however, we find that the new government is going to cause us difficulties and refuse to let us take anything out that is of interest, the Committee feels that we should then concentrate our activities elsewhere and in order that we may not lose time and be ready to continue work without interruption, investigations will be made at Salamis to see what the prospects there are. My guess is that the work will go on at Antioch for another yearExcavations at Antioch would end with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. and that, unless something very exceptional is unearthed in this year’s activities, the Committee will decide to try its luck elsewhere and the probabilities are that that “elsewhere” will be Salamis.There would not be an excavation at Salamis. In that case, I think it is very probable, judging from what MoreyAmerican art historian Charles Rufus Morey (1877–1955) was a professor and chairman of the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University between 1924 and 1945. He was best known for his expertise in medieval art and his Index of Christian Art. told me in a brief talk a few days ago, that we will make use of Doro’s unusual qualifications.

Doro Levi is getting along well at Princeton. I have heard very favourable comments on his lectures. He is to give three lectures at Harvard in MayDoro Levi's lectures on Etruscan art were delivered at Harvard University on May 1, 4, and 8, 1939. Levi was paid $50 per lecture. Paul Sachs to Doro Levi, February 10, 1939. Paul J. Sachs Papers, 1904–1953, Harvard Art Museums Archives. and also is to lecture, I think, at Brynmawr. At present I am trying to help him get his situation in such a state here that he can go to Canada to obtain a non-quota visa, which will then make it possible for him to ask for a visa for his wifeAnna 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. to join him; otherwise she will have to apply for a visa from Greece, which will mean a long delay.

It is a keen disappointment to have you confirm what Bill had already told us that there seemed to be no likelihood of your coming over this Spring. At the time you took up the present job you thought that it might necessitate your coming here once, or perhaps, twice, a year and now nearly a year has passed since you were in the United States, and naturally we were counting on having you here in May or June.

Our own plans are fairly definite. We expect to spend July, August and September at Santa Barbara. Beyond that we have no plans, though I think it unlikely that we can get away this autumn for our long deferred and eagerly looked forward to visit to Greece, Constantinople and Egypt. Naturally the European situation would determine in part whether we would go abroad or not. Up to now we have felt that the developments in Europe were not tending to lead to immediate war, but I confess that the news today rather shakes my confidence in that respect. If the reports are true that England, France, Poland and RoumaniaThe Anglo-Polish military alliance, an alliance formalized on March 31, 1939, whereby Great Britain and France guaranteed to support Polish independence against Nazi aggression. The guarantee was extended on April 13 to Greece and Romania following Italy’s invasion of Albania on April 7, 1939. have come to an agreement and if, as is to be expected, HitlerAdolf Hitler (1889–1945), a German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. will move forward with his intention of consolidating the Germans and MussoliniBenito Mussolini (1883–1945), an Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party, ruling the country as prime minister between 1922 and 1943. will feel that he must do something spectacular in order to hold his situation in Italy, the fat will be in the fire, and it will then be a fire such as we have never seen or heard of before.

The people of the United States in large majority are determined that the United States shall not get into the war, although a proportion of them realize that if all of Europe begins fighting eventually we shall be drawn in. A great many people fear that RooseveltFranklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945), the thirty-second president of the United States (1933–1945). is shaping matters here so as to bring the United States into war and is doing this for his own selfish purposes. The result is that there is a strong opposition to anything he might do which would seem to favour aiding Great Britain and France. This does not mean that the sympathy of the country is with the other side; on the contrary. I think the vast majority of our countrymen would like to see us give every aid possible to England and France provided it did not involve our getting into the war. For that reason it is unfortunate that the President’s motives are so seriously and widely questioned, and for that same reason I fear that whatever change may be made by Congress in the Neutrality LawsThe Neutrality Acts were passed by the U.S. Congress in the 1930s in response to the growing turmoil in Europe that eventually led to the Second World War. They were spurred by the American population’s general desire for isolationism and non-interventionism following its costly involvement in the First World War. President Roosevelt and his secretary of state, Cordell Hull, were critical of the Neutrality Acts, fearing that they would restrict the administration's options to support friendly nations. will be influenced by a determination to take all authority in that respect away from the President, if possible.

Now that 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. ivoryBZ.1939.8. has come into the Collection, would you not like to write a Paper on it all by yourself, as I have already suggested, as well as giving us one on the EmperorBZ.1937.23. and MAD,BZ.1938.62. perhaps, if you so desire, in collaboration with Hayford.Hayford Peirce and Royall Tyler would publish the emperor roundel (BZ.1937.23) and the Landau ivory (BZ.1939.8) in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941). I think it might be well to have some written “release” from F. before publishing anything on those two sculptures. The two years’ limit which was put on the Emperor will expire in August, but nevertheless I think it might be adviseable to have for your own protection a letter from F. saying that he has no objection to the public being made acquainted with the presence in the Collection of the Emperor and MAD.

I shall add a postscript to this letter which will be self-explanatory (naturally!) asking your help in regard to a matter which I think must be handled with some delicacy in order to accomplish the desired end and so as not to have others try to compete.

Although Mildred has had a bad bronchial cold this winter and I think the grippe germ, which has been very active all over the country, she is pretty well again and just as active as ever.

I saw Bill in Cambridge and Boston last Saturday forenoon but had no time, unfortunately, to see Betsy. They both seem very pleased at the thought of an addition to the familyMatilda Eve Tyler (b. 1939). and Bill was looking forward to the arrival of his mother-in-lawEveleen Fisher-Rowe (1890–1968). the next day. I was sorry not to have met her.

In one of your recent letters you asked for the return of the photographs you sent with the PaperHayford Peirce and Royall Tyler, “Elephant Tamer Silk, VIIIth Century,” in Three Byzantine Works of Art, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 2 (1941): 19–26. on the Elephant textile.BZ.1927.1. We have not yet decided on whom we shall have undertake the printing of the Papers but expect to do so within the next few days and I beg, therefore, that you will be patient and allow us to keep the photographs for a short time. This, of course, is necessary in order to have them reproduced by whoever brings the Papers out.

RWB

Postscript.

Word has reached us that the German Air Ministry is going to take over the house in which Professor Robert ZahnRobert Zahn (1870–1945), a German classical archaeologist and the director of the Antikensammlung, Berlin. He was a specialist in ancient ceramics, glass, and jewelry. resides in Berlin,—in short, his whole private scientific apparatus. Since he is a very sensitive man this sudden move and the immense work involved will doubtless be a great shock to him. It might therefore be the psychological moment for him to think of depositing all of his equipment with some scientific institution,Many of Robert Zahn’s papers were given to the Archiv der Antikensammlung, Berlin (Rep. 2, Z912 Nachlass Robert Zahn), at the time of his retirement in 1935. which would offer a great opportunity for trying to secure it for Dumbarton Oaks.

The important of this rare material for the study of the minor arts in the Mediterranean and the Near East cannot be over-estimated. Inasmuch as Professor Zahn has published comparatively little, it is in his notes and photographs that his immense knowledge is buried and the institution which would be able to make this important material available to students would be placed in the foreground of the field.

Professor Zahn has always been most generous in lending parts of his material to other scholars. If he and his sisterRobert Zahn lived with his sister. See also Gerald Heres, “Robert Zahn. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Berliner Antiken-Sammlung,” Forschungen und Berichte 12 (1970): 7–20. were to arrange to come to this country he could then carry on his work here and his counsel would be a great stimulus to students here.

We first thought of cabling to Volbach suggesting that he, inasmuch as he is going to Germany shortly, try to see Professor Zahn and endeavor to arrange with him to consent to sending his material to this country. For fear that the matter might leak out or be communicated to others, I felt it more advisable to submit this to you to see whether you would have any confidential approach to the matter and, if so, you might be able to negotiate either the sale or the transfer to Dumbarton Oaks.

Apparently Professor Zahn is a very sensitive person and the matter would therefore require delicate handling. His library and material would be a great addition to Dumbarton Oaks and put us in possession of material which is unobtainable in this country. I hope this will not mean a great chore for you and if you find it irksome perhaps you could turn it over to someone in whom you have confidence.The Robert Zahn library and papers did not come to Dumbarton Oaks.

 
Associated Things: Jacques Seligmann & Cie