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Robert Woods Bliss to Royall Tyler, December 3, 1937

December 3, 1937.

Royall Tyler, Esq.,

Finance Ministry

Budapest, Hungary.

Dear Royall:

As usual, when an envelope from the Finance Ministry appears in the mail, or one bearing your well-known handwriting, there is excitement at Dumbarton Oaks. Your letter of November 16th reached us yesterday, and as always, I am grateful for your writing me about anything new.

Mildred and I have looked at the photograph of the Seldjuk silk,See letter of November 16, 1937. and although we like it, we both feel that it is a piece that we ought really to see before making a definite decision. As this is out of the question, I wonder just what we should do. Bill has written that he considers it “of considerable importance”, and that he likes it very much indeed. Ordinarily, that would be sufficient for us, but we have embarked day before yesterday on several pieces, and there are some others in the offing. We finally took the small Byzantine bronze statueBZ.1937.31. from Brummer, to which I referred in my letter to you of November 26th. We also bought from him a painting on wood of a man’s head,BZ.1937.32. used as a grave mask, which Brummer said was found at Antioch. It is on the order of the Fayum paintings,Fayum portraits, naturalistic painted portraits on wooden boards from ancient Egypt made during the Roman period. Most were found in the necropolises of Fayum. but far finer and entirely different in its characteristics. The piece of thin wood on which it is painted, unlike most of the Fayum pieces, is carved to fit the face. We also acquired a magnificent Attic vase.BZ.1937.30. I shall have shortly the name of the Greek who did the two medallions on the urn, and also photographs of all three pieces, which I shall send you as soon as possible.

Brummer tells me that he has a seated Christ in marblePossibly a fragment of a sarcophagus lent by the Brummer Gallery to the exhibition The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, Worcester Art Museum, February 20–March 21, 1937; see The Dark Ages: Loan Exhibition of Pagan and Christian Art in the Latin West and Byzantine East, February 20–March 21, 1937 (Worcester, Mass., 1937), cat. no. 39, p. 27. It is described as being “in marble with a representation of Christ, seated. Italy. III Century A.D.”—the Christ in high relief with apostles behind him in low relief, which was exposed at the Exposition Internationale d’Art Byzantin, and which he expects to have cleared through the customs in time to show me next week. This piece is No. 545Charles Diehl, Jean Ebersolt, and Royall Tyler, Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931), 154, no. 545. in the catalogue. I wonder if you remember it, and whether you think well of it for adding to the collection. I expect to receive word from Brummer giving me the catalogue number [sic], and shall send you a telegram about it.

Last Wednesday, on my way to the train, I stopped in to see Hirsch,Jacob Hirsch (1874–1955), a German-Swiss numismatist, archaeologist, and antiquities dealer. and was shown the famous No. 460.BZ.1947.15. It is certainly a very fine object, but I do not yet feel like giving Hirsch the price he paid for it, plus a reasonable percentage. Although he told me what he paid for it at the auction, I did not ask him what his selling price would be, but I did ask him how much he would ask for No. 455, and he calmly said $600 net; he paid £45 for it at the auction. For No. 457, for which he paid £52, he asked me $1300. However, all this is a matter of future discussion, and I hope I may be able to tap the old fellow into saying that he will take a reasonable percentage on what he paid.

I did not care a great deal for No. 528. The other rings you mention in your letter were purchased by others besides Hirsch:—No. 473 went to J. Hunt;J. Hunt has not been identified. No. 453 to Durlacher;Durlacher Brothers, an antiquities dealership based in London and New York. In 1843, Henry Durlacher founded the London firm that would later be known as Durlacher Brothers after his two sons, George and Alfred. The New York firm opened in the early 1920s and was managed by R. Kirk Askew. Askew became the owner of Durlacher Brothers in 1937 and ran the business from New York until ca. 1969. No. 538 to Goldschmidt;Julius Falk Goldschmidt (1882–1964), an owner of the jewelry and antiquities firm, J. and S. Goldschmidt, Frankfurt. and No. 548 to Stora.

DreyPaul Drey (1885–1953), was a senior partner of the Paul Drey Gallery, founded in 1920. The firm of A. S. Drey was founded in Munich in the 1860s by Aaron S. Drey; it later expanded to London and New York City. Paul Drey was Aaron Drey’s grandson. showed me last week a chessmanChess Tower, French, twelfth century. which is illustrated in Volume 4, Plate 63, 179 A-E, by Goldschmidt.Adolph Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen (Berlin: B. Cassirer, 1926), 4:49, no. 179a–e, pl. 63. It is a good piece, but he is asking a preposterous price for it. I do not feel at all that it is essential for us.

As for the spoonsBZ.1937.35–42. belonging to Géjou,Isaac Élias Géjou (d. 1939), an Armenian antiquities dealer in Paris. it seems to me that they would be worth purchasing at £500. Do you think there is the least possibility that he will let them go for such a reduced price? This is a foolish question, of course, because you don’t know until you try, which I think you might do. If he will take £600 for them I think they should come to us. I am returning his letter herewith.

To return to the Seldjuk textile,This Seldjuk textile has not been identified. I am sorry to be so indefinite. It is certainly a most unusual and interesting fragment, but it seems to me that the price is somewhat excessive. We shall have to think it over a little more.

I have received a letter from Princess Juritzka,Wife of Antonin Juritzky. telling me that her husband is reserving for us the two Labradorite columns.BZ.1940.78–79. Have you approached that quarter at all to see whether there is any disposition to sell them at a lower figure than originally asked.

I hope that you have been able to smoke out Bustros,Elias (Elie) Bustros, an antiquities dealer in Beirut, Lebanon. and that he has finally come across with the marriage belt.BZ.1937.33.

Lucie Schelling’sLucie Howe Draper Schelling, wife of Ernest Henry Schelling (1876–1939), an American pianist, composer, and conductor. condition continues about the same, thought [sic] there is a slight amelioration, but she remains unconscious most of the time. We were immensely relieved to receive a telegram yesterday, saying that ErnestErnest Henry Schelling (1876–1939), an American pianist, composer, and conductor. had had his operation the previous day. I think now that the possibility of Mildred or me going abroad to join them is postponed for some time.

Much love to you both,