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Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, January 4, 1913

8 rue de la Barouillère (6ème)

4 Jan. 1913Saturday.

Dear Robert

I have this morning seen the stylish Madonna,This painting of a “Madonna” (see also undated letter [3] [before April 19, 1912]) is unknown. It possibly is a “Gothic Virgin,” about which Mildred Barnes Bliss wrote her stepfather in 1913: “the little Gothic Virgin we bought five years ago has come on from Brussels and we have decided to our dismay that she is [an] unadulterated fake: the final judgment has yet to be passed, but I have a shrewd suspicion that she spells the price of our initiation.” Mildred Barnes Bliss to William Henry Bliss, February 11, 1913, Blissiana files, William Henry Bliss correspondence. The present location of this Madonna is unknown. and I fear you will be very cross with me when you hear that the restorations I told the man to carry out when I last saw it, and without which I don’t think you would care to hang the picture, have not yet been done. I last saw it shortly before going away in the summer, when it had been relined, and the many coats of coach-varnish were being removed. There are a very few places—very small ones—on the canvas, where absolutely no paint remained, and these I had told the man to fill up with the right color. However, when he had taken off all the varnish, the picture showed so many places where the paint is thin, that the man wished to know how expensive a restoration I was willing to go in for before starting. As a big restoration is expensive—and I think never really worth while—you and Mildred must decide what you want done. I therefore told Demotte to take the thing back to his place, where you can see it better and more conveniently than here.

What is the matter with the picture is this. It has got into a very bad condition, and the owners covered it with coat upon coat of coarse brown varnish in order to hide its thinness. As you see it now not a scrap of the original paint, but only the coats of varnish, has been removed. I would therefore advise you to have it looked at by any experts you wish to show it to before having anything further done to it. If it belonged to me I would not have any restoration done beyond what I told the man to do—fill up the places where there is no paint left. I would then have it varnished. The result would be a picture obviously in bad condition, but not falsed. A thorough restoration would be expensive—might easily run into 1500 fr. or so—and would not improve the picture for the seeing eye. On the other hand the unseeing eye of the general run of people would appreciate it better then.

As for the experts, the man who expertises big sales of the period of the Madonna is one Ferral,This Ferral has not been identified. who lives in the rue S. Georges, somewhere above No. 16. I believe him to be honest. You might also take it to the Louvre,Musée du Louvre, Paris. though they are always desperately afraid of compromising themselves there. A friend of mine called Maclagan is coming to Paris tonight, and will be here till Friday next. He is head of Sculpture and Architecture at the S. Kensington, but also knows a great deal about painting, and by travelling and seeing things with him I have been convinced that he is thoroughly competent. If you would like to have him see it, I am sure he would be delighted to tell you his opinion as a friend. It would also be a good thing to avoid delays by telling Demotte the picture is yours, as his place is convenient, and you could order him direct to send it wherever you want it shown—but of course it shall be as you wish.

Elisina and I called on a forlorn hope on New Year’s day and left a few flowers for Mildred.

With our best love to her and yourself

Yrs

Royall Tyler

 
Associated Places: Paris (France)

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