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Royall Tyler to Mildred Barnes Bliss, October 4, 1930

29, rue d’Astorg
F Anjou 16–88

Dearest Mildred.

Perhaps by the time this reaches you, things will have quieted down in your part of the worldThe September 6, 1930, Argentine coup d'état, often known as the September Revolution by its supporters, involved the overthrow of the Argentine government of Hipólito Yrigoyen by forces loyal to General José Félix Uriburu. enough for you to care to have news from relatively peaceful Europe.

It was a very interesting time to be in Berlin,In the German federal election of September 14, 1930, Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party, increased its number of seats in parliament from 12 to 107, in large part due to voter unhappiness caused by the German financial crisis of the Great Depression. The party’s standing in the parliament changed from the ninth smallest to the second largest. and I am very glad to have been there just now, for if I had not been, I should probably be taking the unnecessarily gloomy view of the international position which, as it seems to me, is afflicting most people here. Not that things look good in Germany, or that the general tendency there is not disquieting, but rather that, out of a complex situation, foreign observers, especially those looking at Germany from here, are naturally inclined to fix their attention on points that are of direct significance to them, and to miss many other factors, without allowing for which the position as a whole cannot be rightly understood. It is extraordinarily instructive to compare the comments on some big National Socialist demonstration in the German press with those in the foreign press, for instance. The foreign journalist picks out everything that was said about reparations for the Peace Treaty, and the reader of his despatches gets the impression that these topics were foremost. In the German papers, one finds that what was chiefly talked about were internal questions, the budget, unemployment insurance, socialistic legislation, and that mentions of foreign affairs have to be sought out to be found and, when found, have an almost academic and conventional tone.

My impression is that the main cause of the Hitlerites’Followers of Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. success was dissatisfaction with the Government’s orientation in internal affairs, and that external questions played a secondary part. Also, that, largely on account of the political inexperience and helplessness of the Germans, the answer given by the electoral oracle was exceedingly obscure and that its real meaning is not becoming clearer as time goes by. Broadly speaking, however, I take it to be something as follows. Bourgeois Germany (by which I mean the mass of opinion of the middle and upper classes, including what remains of the old military and administrative aristocracy) got a shock from the collapse in 1918 and the following revolution from which it is only now beginning to recover. In the meantime, it has been lying low, asking nothing better than to leave the conduct of affairs to a great extent in the hands of the socialists, or of coalitions formed by socialists and more or less liberal factions. The fundamental purpose of this attitude on the part of the bourgeois opinions and its effect have been to offer German socialism a sufficiently good bribe to prevent it from going bolshevist. Another way of looking at it would be to say that bourgeois opinion has more or less consciously followed the line of least resistance. It has realized its own weakness, demoralization, loss of prestige. Also it has preferred to allow Governments depending mainly on socialist support to take the odium of putting Germany’s name to the successive reparation agreements. The result, from the internal point of view, has been to put the socialists in a position to carry out a great part of their legislative program, to saddle the budget with heavy items for unemployment insurance, increases in salary and pensions for the lower ranks of State officials, and social welfare purposes. More important still, the expenditure of the municipalities all over Germany has been swelled in the same way, and all this has set a precedent which private industry has been unable to resist. Now, Germany’s currency has been stable for six years, and her federal budget has been more or less balanced. Expenditure has been mounting, however, and at the same time the sources of foreign credit from which deficiencies were freely met in the first few years after stabilizations, have tended to dry up. Germany has come to realize that the country is living beyond its means, recklessly. The state of mind in which this happened was induced, no doubt, by the feeling that it would do no harm to show the world that the program laid down by Germany’s creditors was unworkable, but the chief factor has undoubtedly been the socialist ability to legislate on what they consider to be lines of social justice. For a time, the Germans apparently believed that if they incurred financial difficulties and were seen to have a budget too large for their capacity, their creditors, anxious to avoid another period of depreciation, would scale down the reparation debt. Lately, bourgeois opinion, at least, has made up its mind that Germany can only be saved from another period of financial chaos by a resolute departure from the habits of huge spending on social purposes, and that only when they have shown their creditors that they themselves are managing their affairs prudently will they stand any chance of persuading those creditors who helped them by further alleviation of the war debts.

This feeling, which one frequently comes up against in conversation with Germans, and in the press, has not yet determined a re-groupment of political parties, and I do not say that it is going to do so. However, I believe that realization on the part of bourgeois opinion that the socialists have had much more of a show than their real strength in the country warrants, and that the classes who wish to keep up a capitalist regime are strong enough to do it if they will shake off the inferiority complex which has been afflicting them since the war, are the real explanation of the present political position. Most of the six million who voted for HitlerAdolf Hitler (1889–1945), an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. were not converted from other parties, but had formerly not troubled to vote at all, being for the most part bourgeois who were not attracted by any of the existing parties. It is probable that a great many of them only voted for Hitler out of disgust with the other parties, and that if it came to taking power they would be divided by a good many radical differences of opinion among themselves. It is certain that many of the industrialists who contributed to the Hitler funds are embarrassed by the extent of Hitler’s success, and would have preferred to give the Government a shock by seeing Hitler’s partisans increase to 50 members of the Reichstag, rather than 107.

As for the future, it is difficult to take seriously Hitler’s confidence that his party is going to develop into an actual majority of the Reichstag. His program is a very simpliste one, and has been expressed in plain terms which have cut him off from most of the fields which he might have hoped to conquer. He has been banned by the church, no practicing catholic is allowed to belong to his organization. He has declared himself the scourge of capitalism and the enemy of Jews. He is at daggers drawn with socialism. He might get some further recruits from the moderate parties whose membership has run low, but his program does not appeal to many of these people. There remains the bugaboo of an alliance between the National Socialists and the Communists, with which Hitler has tried to terrify the world, but that seems most unlikely: if it came to the scratch, most of Hitler’s present supporters would probably forsake him if he attempted it. Without counting the socialists, there is a big body of opinion in Germany, which is not likely to be tempted by a leader who is the sworn enemy of the catholic church, of Jews, and of bankers.

One often hears it said in Germany that the best way to deal with Hitler and his Nazis would be to let them form a Government, for then they would immediately realize what they could and could not do, and there would be no more nonsense about repudiating reparations or demanding immediate revision of the Treaty of Versailles.The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, concluding the negotiations of the Paris Peace Conference that followed the end of the First World War and the armistice declaration of November 11, 1918. A controversial provision of the treaty required Germany to accept sole responsibility for the war and to disarm, concede substantial territory, and pay reparations to countries of the Entente powers. In 1921, the cost of German reparations was assessed at 132 billion marks (then $31.4 billion), although many economists found the amount excessive, as it would have taken Germany until 1988 to complete repayment. That is probably true, but the experiment is not possible at present. Perhaps it will never be. In the meantime, the task of Government is exceedingly difficult, with the socialists by far the strongest numerical party in the Reichstag and a bourgeois public opinion increasingly determined to insist on a departure from the socialist tendency in legislation. The Government’s program of financial reform goes a long way towards meeting the demands of modern non-socialist opinion. The best measures in it are those which Parker GilbertSeymour Parker Gilbert (1892–1938), an American lawyer, banker, politician, and diplomat. He is chiefly known for being agent general for reparations to Germany from October 1924 to May 1930. urged on Germany in one after another of his reports, but which Germany is perhaps more likely to accept now that Parker Gilbert is no longer there. As to the Government’s chances of carrying out this program, opinions in Germany differ very widely. But one gets the impression that whether it is this program or another like it, and whether it is this Government or another in which bourgeois elements are strong enough to make the socialist realize that the time for moderation has arrived, the trend of the national will in Germany is now away from socialist legislation.

The international aspects of this changed state of affairs are not altogether agreeable. Everyone sensible in Germany—and a great many people who are otherwise not sensible—tells one that Stresemann’sGustav Stresemann (1878–1929), a German liberal politician who served as chancellor and foreign minister during the Weimar Republic. He was a staunch supporter of democracy and one of the first to advocate European economic integration. For his achievement of reconciliation between Germany and France in the post-First World War period, he received the Nobel Peace Prize with Aristide Briand in 1926. foreign policy is the only one for Germany, and that whatever Government is in power will pursue it. They add that while Stresemann was conciliatory towards the Western Powers and firm towards Poland, Stresemann’s successor, Curtius,Julius Curtius (1877–1948), German foreign minister in 1929–1931. He had worked to revise the Treaty of Versailles in Germany’s favor. while behaving towards the Western Powers as every German Foreign Minister must behave, has been weak towards Poland.Unlike Julius Curtius, Gustav Stresemann (1878–1929) had not been willing to conclude a treaty with Poland dealing with the eastern territories of Germany which had come under Polish control as a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles. See William G. Ratliff, “Julius Curtius, the Minorities Question of 1930–1931, and the ‘Primat der Innenpolitik,’” German Studies Review 12, no. 2 (May 1989): 271–88. Everyone there wants an energetic policy towards Poland, and the ugly side of the matter is that people seem inclined to disregard the effects that such policy would have on Germany’s relations with the Western Powers. However, the country seems to me to be far too weak and divided within itself, suffering still far too much from the effects of the war and the after war, for there to be any real international danger now or in the immediate future.

I have been wanting to write to you for some time about the plans for a Byzantine Exhibition, but have put off doing so because it still seemed uncertain whether we would be able to get enough financial support to proceed. The exhibition will be an expensive affair, not only because we shall have to pay the insurance on a great many valuable objects, but because the only terms on which most foreign museums will consent to lend are that the objects shall be conveyed to Paris and back again by an official from the museum in question. As we must, if the show is to be what we hope, get loans from a score of museums in Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other countries, you will readily imagine that a lot of money will be required. We shall of course have the gate money, and if the exhibition is a great success, it is possible that we may get a good deal from that source, but part of the gate money will have to go to the Arts Décoratifs,Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. and in any case no one can predict what it will bring in. Thus, it is necessary for us to have a substantial sum in hand to start with, and the most we can say to contributors is that we hope to be able to hand some of it back. The proportions in which the gate money is to be divided can only be settled when our Committee is formally constituted. Happily, we are now in a position to go ahead. A wealthy Greek, Argyropoulos,Alexander G. Argyropoulos (1883–1962), a Greek philatelic expert and dealer who served as Greek minister of foreign affairs and as director of the economic and commercial division of the Greek ministry of foreign affairs. He is listed in the exhibition’s “Comité d’Honneur.” See Exposition internationale d’art byzantin, 28 mai–9 juillet 1931 (Paris: Musée des arts décoratifs, 1931),7. who has several times been Minister of Foreign Affairs and who was my colleague when I sat on the Refugee Settlement Commission at Athens, has promised Georges Salles to put up 100.000,—Francs, also Duveen has promised De Lorey 60.000,—Francs. The Arts DécoratifsMusée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. will put up 20 to 30.000. Duveen’s generous contribution will mean that we shall have to exhibit as Byzantine some indifferent Italian paintings which belong to him, but one must not look a gift horse in the mouth. We shall certainly get some other contributions, from David Weill, for instance, and with what we have got we are assured of being able to make a show. However, the more we have the better, for we shall then be able to pay the expenses of very important objects from many different museums, instead of having to content ourselves with a few. I therefore am bold to ask you whether you will contribute, and beg you to let me know as soon as possible if you will do so, and how much. We expect to have a first meeting of a fully constituted Committee, presided over by Carnot,François Carnot (1872–1960), a French politician, art collector, and president of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs. He was a member of the Council of National Museums and the director of the Musée des Gobelins in Paris between 1932 and 1937. He also founded the Musée Fragonard in Grasse. by the middle of November, and we would like to be able to ‘faire état’“Make a report.” of as large as possible a sum by that time, in order to be the rich to whom more is so readily given.

Metman is giving us the Arts Décoratifs from the beginning of June for four months, if we want it for as long as that. The great difficulty we have at present is that when we approached the Bibliothèque Nationale with a request for their Byzantine manuscripts, they immediately said that they were very keen on the idea of a Byzantine Exhibition and would like to have it at the Bibliothèque Nationale. We told them that we were committed towards Metman, whereupon the Bibliothèque Nationale people began to talk about the difficulty of lending their things outside the building. I have an idea that we may end by having two exhibitions at the same time, one of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the other, of everything else, at the Arts Décoratifs.The exhibition was held at both sites. As a matter of fact, manuscripts do not look particularly well combined with other things, and I am rather in favour of the two exhibition idea.

I stopped the other day at Aix-la-Chapelle on the way back from Berlin, and in the Suermondt museumSuermondt Ludwig Museum, Aachen. there found a Byzantine ivory of the crucifixionSee Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann, Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 2:80–81, fig. 228. which is rather like yours,BZ.1929.2. Adolph Goldschmidt and Kurt Weitzmann saw the resemblance as well and placed the Bliss ivory after it in Die byzantinischen Elfenbeinskulpturen des X.–XIII. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1934), 2:81, fig. 229. though less well preserved and not so large.

I also stopped at Liège where the exhibitionExposition internationale de la grande industrie, sciences et applications, art wallon ancient, Liège, 1930. was still going on. I saw there some 15 or 20 very important pieces of Byzantine textile.

I am sending you enclosed the auctioneer’s receipt for the price of the Strigel, which you may want to keep.

Bill has gone back to Austria for 2 months. The doctors say he is now perfectly restored to health.

Much love to you and Robert

R. T.

P. S.

I am sending you photos, of the three tapestries representing ‘L’Expédition des Portugais aux Indes’, dated 1502 and woven at Arras, and, I believe, something like 8 metres long each.Probably from the Voyage to Calicut tapestry series. After Vasco da Gama’s voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to Calicut in India, King Manuel of Portugal ordered a series of twenty-six tapestries to commemorate the event from the Tournai tapestry-maker Gilles le Castre. The series was completed in 1504, and due to its popularity, many related pieces were made. They belong to the Marquise de Brézé,Aline, marquise de Dreux-Brézé, née des Granges de Grammony. at the Chau. de Brézé, near Saumur. I’ll go there to see them as soon as I can manage. They are perfectly delightful, but two of them are obviously restored (one very badly), and the third is in bad shape. However, the subjects are so enchanting that I think it’s worth while to see them. Mme. de Brézé is asking a million and a half francs for the three, but I’m told she’d come down.

Please return the photos, unless you want to have a try for the tapestries. They belong to Boutreux,Boutreux—who Royall Tyler, in the letter of January 26, 1930, suggests worked for Jacques Seligmann et Cie in Paris—has not been identified. through whom I heard of the tapestries.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy the unicorn being landed on a crane, the other live stock being brought up to be presented to the King of Portugal, and the triumphal procession with native musicians on camels.

Associated Artworks: BZ.1929.2; HC.P.1930.04.(O)