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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, July 2, 1939

Duxbury, Mass


Here I am, dearest Mildred, enjoying the refreshing breezes from the sea. I find my grandsonRoyall Tyler (b. 1936), the first child of Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler, was born in London. After earning a BA in Far Eastern Languages from Harvard University and a PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia University, he became a scholar and translator of Japanese literature. He presently lives in Australia in New South Wales. a very engaging person. He isn’t afraid of me—this time I didn’t make the mistake I committed on a previous occasion, when I tried to be amiable and forthcoming, with Ogreish results. He is a wonderful colour—like a ripe Mirabelle, before being picked, and the place is perfect for him, and very good for his grandfather.

I saw the CloistersThe Cloisters, a museum which is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and located in Fort Tryon Park in New York City. The museum opened in 1938 and exhibits art and architecture from medieval Europe. before leaving N.Y. They made a painful impression on me. There are a few superb things there: the unicorn tapestries,The Hunt of the Unicorn (the Unicorn Tapestries), a series of eight wool tapestries from the Southern Netherlands, ca. 1495–1505, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, New York, acc. no. 37.80.1–6 and 38.51.1–2. the capitals from St. Guilhem du DésertCloister from Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, French Romanesque, late twelfth century, limestone, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, New York, acc. no. 25.120.1–.134. (which never should have been allowed to leave France), the doorway from Moutiers-St. JeanDoorway from Moutiers-Saint Jean, French Gothic, ca. 1250, limestone, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, New York, acc. no. 32.147. (do.), the headless XIVe MadonnaPossibly Virgin and Child, French Late Gothic, limestone, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, New York, acc. no. 25.120.197a–e. The Metropolitan Museum of Art did not acquire this sculpture from Joseph Brummer. It is possible that Royall Tyler has confused the two sculptures, as the Berlin sculpture was acquired from Joseph Brummer. (Jojo), the polychromed MadonnaVirgin and Child, French Late Gothic, ca. 1340–1350, limestone, polychromy, and gilding, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection, acc. no. 37.159. The sculpture formerly was in the Deutsches Museum, Berlin, and was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Joseph Brummer. from Berlin (fine, but not, to my eye, of the first quality). But what a dreary waste of fifteenth-rate sculpture! And the fuss made about those wretched cloister-caps. of St. Michel-de-Cuxa!Cloister from Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa, French Romanesque, ca. 1130–1140, marble, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters, New York, acc. no. 25.120.398 1–.954. And a lot of the architectural stuff very poor indeed. And it revolts me to see the few good things in such company, including all the fake architecture, which I understand cost $3 million!!!The museum buildings were designed in the 1930s by Charles Collens, who reconstructed elements salvaged from European cloisters by simplifying and merging the various medieval styles.

And the way the Unicorn tapestries are shown: with a perfectly good row of windows on the opposite wall, they have had to go and fill up those windows with late heraldic glass, thereby impeding the light, which they’ve supplemented by artificial light thrown from just under the roof, above the windows, so that the tapestries are seen in a horrible mixture of daylight and shrimp-sauce artificial light.

What they have of real quality at the Cloisters might all be shown in one room at the Metropolitan. To have to take that murderous journey by subway out to 200th Street, to see such a mess, is a depressing experience. Did RorimerJames J. Rorimer (1905–1966), an American art historian and curator of medieval art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. do that? It seems to me very bad indeed. Have you seen it since it moved from the old Barnard place?Much of the Cloisters’ art collection came from George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), an American sculptor and collector of medieval art who had previously established a medieval art museum in a church-like building near his home in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. John D. Rockefeller Jr. (1874–1960) purchased Barnard’s entire collection in 1925 and gave it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I’m still aching from the pain of parting from you. Love to you both

R. T.

BetbilThe Bliss abbreviation for Bettine Tyler and William Royall Tyler. send their love.

I’ve heard from SegallBerta Segall (1902–1976), a German art historian and museum curator. The Blisses employed Segall in 1939–1940 to advise them on the new library and collection. She authored “The Dumbarton Oaks Collection,” American Journal of Archaeology 45, no. 1 (January–March 1941): 7–17. about the MSBZ.1939.12. offered at Sotheby’s, and have ‘phoned and arranged to see the MorganPierpont Morgan Library, New York, founded in 1906 to house J. Pierpont Morgan’s private library, including manuscripts. Cat. on July 5th. I’ll then cable you.

Associated People: Joseph Brummer
Associated Artworks: BZ.1939.12