Royall Tyler to Robert Woods Bliss, February 20, 1939

20.II.39 Geneva

Dear Robert.

The enclosedA notice or review in the Times Literary Supplement of Luise Sofie von Schleswig-Holstein,Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court (London: John Murray, 1939). caught my eye just now, in the Times Lit. Sup. It is (sauf erreur“Unless I am mistaken.”) by the motherFriedrich Leopold’s mother, Luise Sofie von Schleswig-Holstein (1866–1952). of the former owner of Emp.BZ.1937.23. & Mad.BZ.1938.62. The good lady probably wastes a lot of words on matters of small interest to us, but it struck me as just conceivable that there might be something throwing light on the topic.The legality of Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia selling artworks. At the time of his father’s death in 1931, the family’s property, Schloss Glienicke in Potsdam-Berlin, passed to Friedrich Karl (1919–2006), the surviving son of the deceased eldest brother, for reasons of primogeniture. But according to Friedrich Leopold’s mother’s autobiography, Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court (London: John Murray, 1939), 247, her husband “had made a will in which he left all the works of art which he had inherited from his grandfather and from his mother to Friedrich Leopold who, as the youngest son, would not be left so very well off . . .” Perhaps you might get someone to run through it and see.In Behind the Scenes at the Prussian Court (London: John Murray, 1939), 248, Luise Sofie von Schleswig-Holstein wrote: “At a forced sale of a part of my son’s collection . . . higher prices were obtained than those originally paid . . . I do not know who pocketed the proceeds of the sale . . . Later, we traced with the utmost difficulty a priceless carved Madonna; Bode, the curator of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, had his eye upon it; but we finally managed to buy it back.”

Great excitement here over the arrival of the Spanish works of art.After the fall of Catalonia in February 1939 during the Spanish Civil War, the recently created International Committee for the Rescue of Spanish Art Treasures wanted to avoid the risk of art being looted or destroyed. The Republican government committed itself to delivering the works of art to the care of the League of Nations with the provision that at the end of the war they would be returned to Spain. The disc of TheodosiusThe Missorium of Theodosius I, a large ceremonial silver dish in the Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid. It was probably made in Constantinople to celebrate the tenth anniversary in 388 of the reign of the Emperor Theodosius I (347–395). and the great illuminated MS of Skilitzes,The Madrid Skylitzes (Biblioteca Nacional, vitr.26-2), a twelfth-century illustrated manuscript of John Skylitzes’ chronicle, Synopsis Historion, which covers the history of the Byzantine empire between 811 and 1057. It has 574 illuminations. the former from the Academia de la Historia & the latter from the Biblioteca Nacional, both Madrid, are said to be among them. Unpacking hasn’t started yet. I’m glad to say that FrancoFrancisco Franco y Bahamonde (1892–1975), a Spanish military leader who ruled as the dictator of Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. has sent a couple of people to be present at the taking of the inventory.

The devotion of the Republican museum officials, who watched over the 1800 cases’ security during the endless retreat, risking their lives both from friend & foe over & over again, will I hope be recognized. Had it not been for them, none of the stuff would have survived.

Much love to you both

R. T.

 
Associated Places: Geneva [Genève] (Switzerland)
Associated Artworks: BZ.1937.23; BZ.1938.62