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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, January 6, 1931 [2]

6.I.31Tuesday.

I got myself into such a state of livery misery in Paris that I determined, dearest Mildred, that the one thing for me was to escape to Mrs. Stuart-Menteath, my old Scottish friend who lives near St. Jean-de-Luz, of whom you’ve often heard me speak.See letter of December 13, 1930. I’ve now been here a fortnight, and feel much better—though I admit I wish my stay could be 3 months instead of 3 weeks. However, when I leave here I’m going to take Bill to Madrid, and am going to have a little look at Spain, for the first time since the war (except for my visit to Barcelona last year). Although it will be business, I am looking forward to it.

Our Byz. exhibition promises much joy and also much trouble. England. You’ll remember that the Brit. Mus. is precluded by statute from lending, but not the S. Kensington. But in practice, the S. Ken. takes advantage of the position with regard to the B. M., and refuses to lend, or only lends trifles. Now, last year when the Ital. Exhib. was on, and plans for the Persian and French Exhibits were forming, it struck people that England’s attitude was paradoxical: refusing to lend herself while appealing to the rest of the world to lend to her. A Royal Commission was appointed, with D’AbernonEdgar Vincent, 1st Viscount D’Abernon (1857–1941), a British politician, diplomat, art collector, and author. as Chairman, to consider the whole position and recommend.

The Commission reported unanimously in favour of legislating so as to permit the B. M. and the Nat. Gal. to lend.

A Bill was accordingly drafted. It came up before the House of Lords while I was in London, just before Xmas.

In the meantime, however, something had happened. D’Abernon took to his heels—left London the day before his Bill came up. The Bill was previously attacked by the Archbishop of Canterbury,William Cosmo Gordon Lang, 1st Baron Lang of Lambeth (1864–1945), a Scottish Anglican prelate who served as archbishop of Canterbury between 1928 and 1942. Crawford and Balcarres,David Alexander Edward Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford and 10th Earl of Balcarres (1871–1940), a British Conservative politician and art conoisseur. and Lee of Fareham.Arthur Hamilton Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868–1947), a British diplomat, politician, and patron of the arts. With the financial backing of Samuel Courtauld and Joseph Duveen, he established the Courtauld Institute of Art with the University of London. Lee was a trustee of the Wallace Collection and of the National Gallery of London, where he served as chairman in 1931–1932, and a member of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 1926 until his death. No one defended it, and it was adjourned. It was intimated that it would be redrafted so as to give effect to the Lords’ criticisms: i.e. so as to restrict facility to lend British works of art not earlier than 1750.For a transcription of the re-presentation of the British Museum and National Gallery (Overseas Loans) Bill in the House of Lords on March 2, 1931, see http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1931/mar/02/british-museum-and-national-gallery.

And now Eric Maclagan, who loathes Internat. Exhibitions, is able to complain to the Board of Education (from which he depends) that it is absurd and unfair that he should be exposed where the B. M. and Nat. Gal. are protected, and to demand that in practice, no demands to lend important things abroad be entertained.

We aren’t giving up the fight, and are trying to undermine Eric through political channels, but I fear we won’t get much, if anything. He has told me flatly that he’ll do his damnedest to prevent our request from succeeding. I don’t blame him; if I were in his place I’d doubtless take the same line, but I’m going to do my best to beat him, all the same.

One other thing, which please mention only to Robert.

You have perhaps seen in the Philadelphia Museum, part of a cloister, Romanesque, from St. Genis-des-Fontaines (Pyrénées Orientales).Cloister with Elements from the Abbey of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines, Philadelphia Museum of Art, acc. no. 1928-57-1b. The other half of this cloister is at present in the grounds of a Château not far from Paris (Les Ménuls), belonging to the heirs of the late Jean Chrissoveloni,Zanni (Jean) Chrissoveloni (1881–1926), a Romanian banker. The cloister of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines had been decommissioned after the French Revolution and eventually was sold to the Parisian antiquities dealer Paul Gouvert. He had replications of architectural elements fabricated and sold parts of the cloister between 1924 and 1928 to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and to Chrissoveloni, who installed them at the Castle Mésnuls. See also letters of February 3, 1931; February 14, 1931; and March 17, 1931. a Roumanian banker. A year or so ago, the Philad. Mus. offered the Chrissoveloni family $200,000., which wasn’t accepted, and the Philad. Mus. then built up and completed their part. Now, the Chris. family want to sell, and the Philad. Mus. no longer wants to buy.

The cloister is built of a perfectly lovely Pyrenean peach-bloom marble, pink and white, and the masonry is exquisite. The capitals are not elaborate, not very fine even, but the colour of the whole thing is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. If you wanted to see photographs I could probably get them, but the family are very anxious not to have the matter brought to the notice of anyone except a serious prospective purchaser. I thought I’d let you know about it à toutes fins utiles,“For whatever purpose it may serve.” because Romanesque cloisters of this quality practically never turn up on the market, and as you know, St. Genis-des-Fontaines is one of the most illustrious of early S. French Romanesque abbeys. Please let me know whether or not you are interested.

Bill passed ModsMods or Honour Moderations, first year university examinations that are the first public examination for the degree of B.A. at Oxford, and will therefore be able to devote himself to preparing for his finals as soon as he goes up.

With much love to you and Robert, dearest Mildred.

Yrs
R. T.

Mrs. Stuart-Menteath is a marvel, as clear and sparkling as ever. A very good tonic for me.

 
Associated Things: Byzantine Exhibition of 1931