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From the Archives

The Bliss Christmas Card of 1938

1938 was a momentous year for Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. On April 14, they celebrated their thirtieth wedding anniversary. Nearly a month later, on May 8, Nadia Boulanger conducted in their Music Room the world premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto, which the Blisses had commissioned in celebration of their anniversary. In June, their close friend Royall Tyler visited them at Dumbarton Oaks for the first time and saw the Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and other artworks that he had helped them collect. 1938 was also the year that the Blisses decided to give their home, gardens, and collections to Harvard University within their lifetimes rather than at the time of their deaths. To this end, they engaged the architect Thomas T. Waterman to design the Byzantine Collection pavilions, which were constructed the following year. For their 1938 Christmas card (seen at the right), they chose an informal image of themselves wistfully gazing at the flowering herbaceous border in the gardens. This image is all the more poignant as it records one of the very few times that the Blisses were photographed at Dumbarton Oaks. This Christmas card is retained in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives (AR.OB.Misc.021).

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