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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, July 21, 1926

Antigny-le-Château
par Arnay-le-Duc
(Côte d’Or)
21.VII.26Wednesday.

Dearest Mildred.

Your letter of July 8th has only this minute reached me, and I am hastening to reply in the hope of catching you before you sail.

I was in Paris for a couple of days last week, and now have a clear three weeks here, but unhappily have got to be back at Budapest on August 15th to prepare for the Sept. meeting at Geneva. Of course Elisina and Bill will be here when you are in Paris, and enchanted to see you if you could run down to have a look at Antigny.

I was very greatly relieved to hear of the “Amnesty Acquittal,” especially for M’s sake. I do hope H. pulls himself together now. It may really have been necessary for him to have this searching experience.The identity of “M” and “H” and the nature of the “amnesty acquittal” are not known. See also letters of June 25, 1925, and May 3, 1926 [3].

I have been asked to represent the Trustees of the Hung. Loan at Budapest, which means that I shall have to be there a good deal of the time, go to Geneva for every meeting of the Finan. Committee,The League of Nations Financial Committee consisted of officials approved by the British, French, and Belgian finance ministries, central bankers, prominent businessmen, and private bankers from Switzerland and Holland. and make frequent visits to Paris. There are some 26 million dollars of the Loan left, the spending of which I shall have to supervise, and there is also the control of the Pledged Revenues. It’s a job that can’t well be finished under a couple of years,Royall Tyler’s position as representative of the trustees of the League of Nations to Budapest ended in 1928. and it keeps me in touch with the Financial Committee, a connection I greatly value.

I was in Vienna the other day, and chanced to hear that the Austr. Govt. is authorising the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz to sell the Niceforus Botaniates Medallion.Nikephoros III Botaneiates (d. 1081) was emperor of Byzantium between 1078 and 1081. The green porphyry (serpentine) medallion that Royall Tyler refers to was acquired in early 1927 by the Victoria and Albert Museum (A1:1, 2-1927) from the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria. The medallion depicts the half-length figure of the Virgin represented in prayer with an inscription invoking her aid for Nikephoros Botaneiates. See M. H. Longhurst, “A Byzantine Disc for South Kensington,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 50, no. 287 (February 1927): 107–8. I’ve been in correspondence with the Abbott, who says he has an offer of £1,200.0.0 from a Vienna dealer. As I immediately afterwards had a long reply-prepaid wire from the dealer asking me to make an offer, I suspect that the dealer’s “offer” is really a bargaining point, and that the Medallion might be got cheaper. “Con paciencia y saliva . . .”“With patience and spit” from the Spanish expression “Con paciencia y saliva, un elefante se tiró a una hormiga” (With patience and spit, an elephant becomes an ant). It is one of the most beautiful objects of art I know. A serpentine medallion, 17 cm. in diameter, with the bust of the Virgin Orans, and an inscription in which the emperor Niceforus Bot. implores her help. This dates it between 1079 and 1081. It is reproduced and studied by de Mély in the Monuments Piot, Vol. VI, p. 195,Fernand de Mély, “Le camée byzantine de Nicéphore Botaniate,” Monuments et mémoires publiés par l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres / Fondation Eugène Piot 6 (Paris: E. Leroux, 1899): 195–200. and there’s a very poor reproduction in Schlumberger’s Epopée Byzantine III, 593.Gustave Léon Schlumberger, L’épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle (Paris: Hachette, 1896).

Characteristically, both Mély and Schlum. are wrong (a) about the material it is made of, and (b) where it is. They both think it is jasper, and in the Schatzkammer at Vienna, whereas it is serpentine and at Heiligenkreuz.

Do look at the reproduction in the Monuments Piot, and see if you don’t agree with me as to the superb character of the object. If you would like to have me try to get it for you, I’ll have a try on returning to the Danubian regions next month.

Bill comes next week. I spent a couple of days with Edith at St. Brice.Pavillon Colombe. She is in great form.

Smith did a magnificent job in Hungary, and his name will live long there. The U.S.A. couldn’t have had a better representative there—though of course he didn’t represent the U.S.A. except in a purely extra-official way.

Much love to you and Robert from us two.

Yours ever
R. T.

 

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