Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, January 2, 1940

January 2, 1940

Royall Tyler, Esquire

c/o League of Nations

Geneva.

Dear Royall,

Since my return to Washington (where I arrived the end of October) matters have been too much for me to get off a real letter to you. Just for the sake of control I may enumerate the receipt in due time of your letters, as follows:—October 25, November 15, 17, 22 and 29; December 3 and a postcard of December 7 from Venice; also a letter to Mildred of October 27.

No doubt Kaleb has shown you my letter of November 17. If not, the enclosed copyThis copy was not retained with the carbon copy of the letter. explains itself. Personally I do not feel that there is any doubt about the authenticity of the thingsBZ.1939.14.1–25. we got from Kaleb, but several people were very dubious about their genuineness so we are having them put through all possible tests at Cambridge and at Columbia University. From Cambridge we have a preliminary report on the two objects sent there, which is on the whole entirely satisfactory. The examiner has asked for permission to take some filings from the objects and that we are giving him, so that he can go into the matter still more thoroughly, and we are also sending him some additional pieces for study. From Columbia University we have heard nothing as yet. The man there is rather slow and I do not expect any word from him for some weeks yet.

My letter of November 17 to Kaleb was sent to assure ourselves against any loss if the objects should, unfortunately, turn out to be spurious. Also I thought it might be well to let him know that we are very careful in all that we do in adding to the collection. On December 1st he acknowledged my letter with assurances that no-one could be more interested in having the objects subjected to careful examination!

On December 5 I wrote Kaleb saying that we were not interested in acquiring the additional pieces of bronzeThere were seven additional bronze pieces: a basin, two processional crosses, a candelabra, a base of a candelabra, a standing polycandelon, and an incense burner. Photographs of these pieces are retained by the Byzantine Collection, Kalebdjian Frères correspondence file. which had come from the same place where the other piecesBZ.1939.14.1–25. had been found, and also telling him that we do not want the front of the sarcophagus.Sarcophagus front. Measurements are given on the back of the photograph: 61 cm high x 210 cm wide. Byzantine Collection, Kalebdjian Frères correspondence file. Several days ago I wrote him telling him that we do not want that sarcophagus despite the reduction in the price which had been signalé“Reported.” to you in his letter of November 30 and which you were good enough to include in yours to me of the third ultimo. In this last letter I also told him that we did not want the small steatite animal,Animal, steatite. Measurements are given on the back of the photograph: 4 cm high x 7 cm wide x 2 1/2 cm deep. Byzantine Collection, Kalebdjian Frères correspondence file. of which he had sent us photos at your suggestion. The reason I advanced was that although it seemed to be of considerable interest for students, yet, it was not up to the aesthetic standard which we had set for Dumbarton Oaks!

Apropos of what I wrote you last September and your observation in your letter of October 25 in regard to the mugBZ.1939.31. belonging to Kelek, we have just annexed the mug! I finally made a deal with him for that mug, the antelope (Sassasian [sic]) textileBZ.1939.32. and another small Fostat textile,BZ.1939.33.1–2. which is a good example for us to have. The following is what he has written me on December 28: “I am very happy that these three pieces have been added to the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. They are all exceptionally fine and important pieces. My devotion to you is so deep that I did not offer the Egyptian vase to anyone for sale. I wished all the time to let you have it. This piece links two great arts: the Egyptian and the Perso-Arab. I hope you will enjoy it and be thoroughly satisfied with it. I am losing money in this instance but I do not mind it. The oriental proverb says: ‘Loss is the brother of profit’. One cannot make money all the time and he that cannot take losses cannot also make money.”! It has been a funny chapter with old Kaleb [sic]. There is nothing else added to the Collection.

No acknowledgment have I had from Mrs. Byne,Mildred Stapley Byne (1874–1941), wife of the dealer and art scholar Arthur Byne (1884–1935). Born in the United States, the Bynes had moved to Madrid in 1916. though I know the letter must have reached her as I sent it though the Embassy and had acknowledgment from the Ambassador. I do not know what she has done with the eagleIn an undated letter from Mildred Byne to Royall Tyler, she writes: “I believe I mentioned in Paris that we had acquired the finest that Spanish soil had yielded thus far. As you may have heard, eleven more pieces were disposed of here in Madrid in late January. Of the cache there now remains only a pair of birds similar to those you saw, but set with green and decorated with animal design. Being the handsomest of all I was saving them until I should go to N. Y. But conditions being what they unfortunately are here, it seems best to stay on the spot, and resign myself to selling at a lower price.” Byzantine Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Byne correspondence file. but I received a letter three or four weeks ago from a dealer in LondonTomás (Tommy) Harris (1908–1964) of the Spanish Art Gallery, 8 Chesterfield Gardens, Curzon Street, London. saying that he had a Visigothic eagleTomás Harris to Robert Woods Bliss, November 22, 1939. Byzantine Collection, Tomás Harris correspondence file. and asking if I would be interested in it. I have had no word from him in answer to my immediate reply by Clipper asking for full details. Before this is mailed I shall look up the dealer’s name and let you know, in case you go to London.

Having heard nothing from you in regard to F, I suppose the old man is not agitating the question.German ivories.

Your letters of the 15th and 17th November, and 3rd December, were mostly regarding the Kaleb stuff. I feel sure from what you have written that you approve of our decision not to take this lot of things from him.

You no doubt heard from Betbil of Mildred’s and my visit to Boston in November and of our delight at seeing the new Baby.Matilda Eve Tyler (b. 1939). Matilde [sic] Eve is really quite pretty—coming from me about a baby that is saying a lot because I generally think they are perfectly hideous—and comports herself in a most seemly manner before gentlemen. The new house they have taken seems to me just right. It is at the end of a cul-de-sac, where they are quiet and seem quite contented. Bill spent thirty-six hours with us last week, after having had a grand two days in New York chez les antiquaires.“With the antique dealers.” He, of course, has sent you the article appearing in the Museum BulletinWilliam Royall Tyler, “Fragments of an Early Christian Tapestry,” Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum 9, no. 1 (November 1939): 2–13. and I hope you will feel as we did that for a start it is a very creditable performance. He certainly deserves great credit for having discovered that the Rockefeller textileTextile Fragments with Head, Fogg Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., acc. no. 1939.112. had remained all these years inside out. We both feel that Bill is developing well and he seems interested in his work. Of course he is inclined to work too hard and take less exercise than he should, but on the whole I think he seems pretty well. I shall be in Cambridge for a day next week and hope to see Betsy and the baby again, when I shall see what progress the latter has made in the last month.

In regard to what you wrote in your letter of December 3rd concerning Doro—it may be a bit discouraging for him that nothing worthwhile has turned up. However, Harvard is having him give a series of lectures next MarchThe lectures were given on March 20, 22, 25, and 27. Paul Sachs to Doro Levi, January 3, 1940. Paul J. Sachs Papers, 1904–1953, Harvard Art Museums Archives.—between you and me this is due to a letter from B.B. in which the latter expressed some concern about Doro’s situation and said that he would give $500.00 towards having Harvard call him there for some lectures. We matched this amount and hope to get a similar sum from several contributors. Anyway, I have arranged the matter with Sachs and a formal invitation has been given to Doro, which he has accepted, to deliver eight lectures in the month of March.Doro Levi delivered four lectures twice, once at Radcliffe College and once at Harvard University. In the meantime he went to the meeting of the American Archaeological Institute in Ann Arbor last weekIn December, Doro Levi delivered a paper on his past archaeological work, “Excavations and Restoration of the Roman Amphitheatre at Cagliari, Sardinia,” at the forty-first meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America in Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 27–29, 1939. and has gone on to Chicago to look around there. On his way back he will stop here and I shall then have, perhaps, something more of interest to report to you. The trouble in this swiftly moving American civilization is that we want to get results too quickly without pausing to work on the theories and causes; moreover, the Universities have taken little interest in archaeology per se—I don’t know why. They are perfectly delighted to have someone finance an archaeological expedition which brings them in some finds, but none of them gives much attention to the teaching of the theory and history of archaeology, and therefore there is difficulty in finding an opening for Doro Levi. He will have his chance, nevertheless, but he will have to bide his time. I hope with what Harvard will give him for his lectures in March that he can arrange to have 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. come over.

We are very much excited with the word dropped in your letter of December third to the effect that you might come over in February.—For heaven’s sake send us a cable just as soon as anything definite is determined, because our time is so filled up ahead that we must know as early as possible your dates so as to keep free time for you.

We are most grateful, dear Royall, for your diplomatic triumph in regard to the photographing at Venice and your having obtained consent to have the glass removed.See postcard of December 7, 1939. This is really something accomplished.

January 13, 1940.

Since dictating the above I have literally not had a moment to add to it, as I wanted to. I had thought that I would find an opportunity to write you something regarding the political situation here and the attitude of the great American republic towards the European situation, but that will have to be for another time as I have only a few minutes in which to add to this rather rambling letter and to get it into the mail in time to catch the next Clipper, which is scheduled to leave the day after to-morrow.

I note that I have made no reference above to the textileBZ.1939.13. which came from Kaleb. We only had it here for a short time before sending it to Miss TownsendGertrude Townsend, curator of textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. at the Boston Museum to have it cleaned and gone over for slight repairs, but I want to say that we are delighted with it and feel that it is a ripsnorter—a really lovely and exciting object. Besides, it is a thoroughly interesting piece for study.

Since starting the first part of this letter Doro Levi has spent a couple of days here after having attended the meeting of the Archaeological Society at Ann Arbor and making a visit to Chicago. His course of lectures for March is all arranged and he seems very pleased with that.In 1940, Doro Levi continued to lecture both to students and to the public at Princeton, Harvard, and Radcliffe. The year began with the lecture “Recent Explorations in Sardinia,” which was given to the Art and Archaeology Journal Club at Princeton on January 23. On March 20, 22, 25, and 27, he offered four lectures on Etruscan art to students at Harvard and Radcliffe, giving each lecture twice on the same morning. His public lectures were “The Minoan People and Its Civilization,” “Minoan Art: Architecture, Pottery, Painting,” “Minoan Art: Sculpture, Minor Arts, Crete and the Orient,” and “Crete and the Dawn of Greek Art.” Each lecture dealt with Levi’s own excavations on Crete. Harvard paid him a total compensation of $1,500 and treated him as a visiting professor, housing him at Eliot House. See Daily Princetonian Special Bulletin, January 23, 1940; and Paul Sachs to Doro Levi, December 12 and 18, 1939, January 3 and 4, 1940, and February 2, 1940. Paul J. Sachs Papers, 1904–1953, Harvard Art Museums Archives. The Committee for the Excavation at Antioch has not decided yet what it will do in 1940, but there is always the chance of employment with that Committee although the compensation is small.In May, 1939, Doro Levi had been appointed recorder for the Princeton excavations at Antioch-on-the-Orontes in Syria for the 1940 season. But the excavations, which had begun in 1932, were abruptly terminated at the end of the 1939 season, when the Second World War broke out and the area reverted to Turkish control. After the closure of the excavation site, Levi undertook his research exclusively from the photographs and field reports in the “Antioch Room” at Princeton. However, we are constantly not only on the lookout for a position for him but whenever I get the chance I agitate here and there in the hopes that something may materialize. I do not think you need worry lest your advice to him will mitigate per se against his finding a position.

In regard to Mrs. Byne’sMildred Stapley Byne (1874–1941), wife of the dealer and art scholar Arthur Byne (1884–1935). Born in the United States, the Bynes had moved to Madrid in 1916. eagle:In an undated letter from Mildred Byne to Royall Tyler, she writes: “I believe I mentioned in Paris that we had acquired the finest that Spanish soil had yielded thus far. As you may have heard, eleven more pieces were disposed of here in Madrid in late January. Of the cache there now remains only a pair of birds similar to those you saw, but set with green and decorated with animal design. Being the handsomest of all I was saving them until I should go to N. Y. But conditions being what they unfortunately are here, it seems best to stay on the spot, and resign myself to selling at a lower price.” Byzantine Collection, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Byne correspondence file. the dealer in London was Lionel Harris,Lionel Harris (1862–1943), director of the Spanish Art Gallery, 6 Chesterfield Gardens, Curzon Street, London. Director of the Spanish Art Gallery, 8 Chesterfield Gardens, Curzon Street. Two days ago photographs of the eaglesIn a letter to Robert Woods Bliss, dated December 22, 1939, Lionel Harris writes: “They are said to have formed part of the famous 6th and 7th Century Visigoth treasure of Torredonjimeno (Jaen). Similar objects, but in bronze, from this treasure of Castiltierra (Segovia) purchased by Don Damian Mateu, were illustrated in ‘La Vanguardia’ in June 1935. The eagles are set in red and green, and the centre of the large buckle is red.” Byzantine Collection, Tomás Harris correspondence file. arrived. Regarding these eagles, of which there is a pair, he says: “The eagles are set in red and green” which is a very poor description. They are very similar in form to one of your pairRoyall Tyler’s Visigothic eagle fibulae have not been identified and their whereabouts is unknown. and undoubtedly were found at the same place oursBZ.1936.1–15. These objects were said to have been found in a necropolis near Toledo. came from, as Harris in his letter states: “They are said to have formed part of the famous 6th and 7th century Visigothic treasures of Torredonjimeno (JAEN).The so-called Visigothic treasure of Torredonjimeno were discovered in 1926. The find consisted of hundreds fragments of gold objects and gems coming from several votive crowns and crosses, some of them belonging to an unidentified Visigothic king.  Similar objects, but in bronze, from this treasure of Castiltierra (Segovia) purchased by Don Damian Mateu,Damián Mateu Bisa (Damià Mateu I Bisa) (1864–1935), a Spanish businessman, politician, and collector. were illustrated in ‘La Vanguardia’ in June 1935.”Joaquin Folch y Torres, “Museos y Colecciones: Objetos de los tesoros visigodos de Castiltierra y Torredonjimeno en la colección Damián Mateu,” La vanguardia, July 6, 1935, with photographs of ten pieces of the Torredonjimeno and Castiltierra treasure in the collection of Damián Mateu. His collection is now mostly in the Archaeological Museum, Barcelona.

He also sends a photograph of a buckleBuckle, in 1940 at the Spanish Art Gallery, London. very similar to the large buckleBZ.1936.10. of our Visigothic lot. This buckle has a large red glass piece, oval in shape, in the centre of the square part of the buckle and a square red glass piece in the base of the tongue of the buckle proper. The square part of the buckle, of course, is covered with gold with an interior square around the glass oval and in this interior square are four horse-like animals of Sithian [sic] influence. It looks like a fine piece. I wonder whether Mrs. ByneMildred Stapley Byne (1874–1941), wife of the dealer and art scholar Arthur Byne (1884–1935). Born in the United States, the Bynes had moved to Madrid in 1916. has sent these off to the Spanish Art Gallery to be sold. I should not be surprised, as she is somewhat eccentric now and one cannot depend on just what she may do.

Naturally the price asked ($7,000.00) is out of all proportion with the real value of these three pieces. If you happen to go to London, please look them up. You will probably have to mention my name as Mr. Harris says in his letter he will not offer them to others pending my reply.

In a few days I shall write Harris to see what I can do about changing his pretensions as to the price.In a letter to Lionel Harris, dated February 14, 1940, Robert Woods Bliss writes: “Inasmuch as the Dumbarton Oaks Collection has been made with a view to bringing together the objects of art for the ultimate use of students and has mainly been devoted to examples of early Christian and mediaeval art, the pieces which you have been kind enough to submit to me in photographic form are not essential to the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. Nevertheless, the addition of your pieces would increase the interest of that Collection to a considerable extent. Unfortunately, present economic conditions, together with the demands that are being made, and responded to, in this country for aid to the civilian populations of the Allies and of Finland, do not make it possible for me to acquire these objects at the figures named in your two letters. At this distance it is difficult to carry on a negotiation because of the loss of time in exchange of communications; moreover, it is difficult to make you a definite offer without having seen the objects, although I think I can visualize them in view of what is already in my possession of similar objects. A short time ago, therefore, I wrote to a friend, Mr. Royall Tyler, who lives in Geneva, to call at your Gallery and see these pieces should he happen to be in London. I have entire confidence in Mr. Tyler’s taste and knowledge and would be greatly guided by his advice in the matter. Nevertheless, it may be that he will not have occasion to go to London for some months to come and in the meantime it is not perhaps fair to you to hold up the matter of the visi-gothic objects for such a protracted period. I therefore suggest that you cable me (my cable address is MILROB, Washington) informing me what is the very lowest price you will take for (1) the two eagles with red and green glass settings, (2) the large buckle and (3) the collection submitted in your letter of January 12. I have always in adding to the Dumbarton Oaks Collection endeavoured to secure the best objects I can afford and in order to know where I stand it has been my custom to pay cash. During the last twelve months I have had to curtail considerably the acquisition of objects for the Collection because I am building an addition to the house, in which to show the Collection and to provide additional space for books on art. I am telling you all this in the hope that you may be able to quote me considerably lower figures than those mentioned in your two letters, as I should be glad were it possible for me to secure these pieces for the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.” Byzantine Collection, Tomás Harris correspondence file. He ends his letter by saying that he has a few other interesting pieces “though not in gold” of which we [sic] will send me photographs.These photographs are in the Byzantine Collection, Tomás Harris correspondence file.

Last Monday (the 9th) I had a brief little visit with Betbil,The Bliss abbreviation for Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler.. in Cambridge. The whole family is flourishing. Your grand-daughterMatilda Eve Tyler (b. 1939). is slowly and normally gaining weight and is a most attractive baby, to whom you will lose your heart when you see her. And when is that to be? Do let us know what the prospects are of your American visit.

And now, dear Royall Tyler, I must stop. Give Elisina much love from us both.

Affectionately,

R.W.B.

 
Associated Things: Kalebdjian Frères