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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, May 7, 1931

7.V.31Thursday.

The portable mosaicHayford Peirce acquired the icon from Géza Dános (1886–1990), a Jewish Hungarian collector, in Paris in 1931, and his widow, Polly, gave it to the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in his memory in October 1947. was brought here yesterday, dearest Mildred. It is very beautiful, and the bits missing, R. and L. top, do a minimum of harm. All the figures are perfectly preserved, except a couple of heads R. It is of course rather subdued in tone: flesh tints and light drapery without any strong colour except for some cobalt blue edging here and there, but it is infinitely varied and rich, really, and marvellous technically.

The courier who has it in hand said he couldn’t mention a price, but asserted that BenakiAntonis Benakis (1873–1954), a Greek collector in Alexandria who established the Benaki Museum in Athens in 1930 with a collection of more than 37,000 Islamic and Byzantine objects. had offered one million Drachmae for it (about £2660), and that the owner wanted more. Also that the Louvre was going to make an offer.

Now, I doubt whether Benaki has made any such offer. Cotton is very bad, and Benaki has had very heavy expenses of late in connexion with his Museum that was opened the other day.The Benaki Museum, Athens, officially opened on April 22, 1931. The Louvre people haven’t said anything to me about wanting the mosaic—but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

In view of the quality of the thing, I think £2500 would not be an excessive price—though perhaps it might be got cheaper, I don’t think poor Hayford stands much of a chance of getting it for £1200 which is the most he is prepared to give. Please let me know how much you would give—if you want to try.

These miniature mosaics are of exceeding rarity—much rarer than enamels, and the technique is of enormous difficulty. I don’t believe anyone is ever likely to attempt to fake one: it would require the training of many years to form the artist—and even then. Such attempts as I’ve seen at restoring damaged ones are lamentable.

If you really wanted to make sure of it you’d have to be prepared to go higher than £2500—for it really seems that Indjoudjian got £3000 for his,This miniature mosaic has not been identified. which was much more damaged than this one.

I’ve just seen that the new Spanish Ambassador here is to be Danvila,Alfonso Danvila (1879–1945), a Spanish novelist and diplomat who served as his country’s ambassador to Argentina and France. from B. A. Would you give me a line to him—if you like him and don’t mind? I want to keep in touch with the new bunch in Spain.

One splendid piece of news today—a cable from a friend in Boston saying that Jeremiah Smith is much better—this must mean that his sight is returning.See letter of May 1, 1931 [2]. I can’t tell you how happy I am about it.

Roman WisataRoman Wisata (b. 1909), a Czech violinist and the student and later assistant of Otakar Ševčík at the Innsbruck Konservatorium. has left for London today, with the Lily.Klothilde (“Lily”), Gräfin von Herberstein (1899–1975). They are marvelous together. Pse. de PolignacWinnaretta Singer, Princess Edmond de Polignac (1865–1943), an American patron of music in Paris and heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. came to hear them yesterday, and was beside herself, saying she’d never heard such a perfect ensemble of piano and violin. Tomorrow they are playing at the Austr. Legation in London, the other performers being Lotte Lehmann and Elisabeth Schumann.Charlotte (Lotte) Lehmann (1888–1976) and Elisabeth Schumann (1888–1952), German sopranos of the classical repertory.

Bless you, dearest Mildred

R. T.

 
Associated Things: Indjoudjian Frères
Associated Artworks: BZ.1947.24